Social Entrepreneur Live, Part 2, Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa

Señoras de Salsa makes bold, authentic Mexican salsa that generates income for Latina women.

Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa at Social Entrepreneur Live

Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa at Social Entrepreneur Live

Latina women suffer from the largest pay gap of any group. According to the latest report from the US Department of Labor, the average median weekly earnings for a white man is $1,004. In that same period, white women earned $825, or 82% of a white man’s earnings. Latino men earned $722, or 72%, while Latina women earned $612, or 62%.

Danielle Wojdyla, Founder of Señoras de Salsa, cares deeply about this issue. “We don’t all have the same opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” she says. “Women get messages all the time, direct and indirect, of not being enough. Not strong enough, not smart enough, not skinny enough, not pretty enough, not good enough, and on, and on.”

To help close the wage gap and empower Latina women, Danielle launched Señoras de Salsa in 2017. Señoras de Salsa generates profit through their fresh refrigerated salsas. According to Danielle, “We created a sustainable business model that can support fair wages for the work done.” But their impact goes beyond wages. Danielle says “We foster a positive and safe work environment. We use mindful leadership, positive reinforcement, and team building to support each other.”

Danielle’s Path to Purpose

Danielle’s family history shaped her sense of purpose. “My grandparents on my mom’s side moved to Minnesota after WWII. They came from Poland by way of Germany and concentration camps and forced labor camps. They survived some of the worst of humanity, only to come out with an amazing sense of compassion and love for their fellow

Department of Labor statistics on the wage gap, Q3, 2018

Department of Labor statistics on the wage gap, Q3, 2018

human.”

As a child, Danielle was immersed in a rich cultural experience. “I was born in Minneapolis. My dad joined the Navy after I was born, so we moved every three years. As a kid, I had the chance to live in Cuba, Texas, Chicago, and Puerto Rico. I learned to speak Spanish in Puerto Rico and certainly developed an affection for Latino culture.

“My neighborhood and friends were very diverse. I lived with black, Hispanic, Asian, East Indian people. Part of our parents’ jobs was being respectful to each person. If you or anyone in your family created problems, it could be directly reported to your parent’s job. It wasn’t until coming back to the civilian world for college, I slowly recognized with disillusionment that the world is not this way. I know that humanity has the potential to behave differently.”

Her experience in the Girl Scouts also influenced Danielle. “I am an only child. Without brothers or sisters to bond with and having to move every three years, Girl Scouts became a constant in my life. I think Girl Scouts strongly instilled in me a deep love for nature and the environment, respect for every living person, and a responsibility to make the world a better place than I found it.”

Food Finds a Way

As Danielle entered the University of Minnesota, her love of food led her to pursue an undergraduate degree in Agronomy and Food Science, followed by a master’s degree in Applied Plant Science.

Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa at Social Entrepreneur Live

Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa at Social Entrepreneur Live

After graduation, she went to work for General Mills. “For seven years, I was a food scientist,” Danielle explains. Though she learned a great deal, she says, “That didn’t fill me up. At the end of the day, I was working for the shareholder.”

She left her corporate job to go to work for a small nonprofit as their Director of Social Enterprise. “Being a new role, I had to help define what was in scope and out of scope. I developed some important relationships from my experience.” Danielle trained adults with barriers to employment. Through her work, she met Latina women who were struggling to make a living.

When Danielle was laid off from her non-profit job, she wanted to continue to work with three Latina women she had met. “I had heard about a new opportunity called Maker to Market,” Danielle recalls. Maker to Market is sponsored by Lakewinds Food Co-op and The Good Acre kitchen and wholesaler. “I told the other women about the opportunity and asked them if they were interested in giving a salsa business a chance. They said yes. We applied and were accepted!”

In the Maker to Market accelerator program, Danielle and her co-founders learned about the business of food from ingredient sourcing to sales forecasting. They learned from mentors and hands-on experience selling in stores.

To launch Señoras de Salsa, Danielle had to finance the business. “I sat down and had a discussion with my financial partner, my husband, about what starting a business could mean for us. He was very supportive of leaning on his income and benefits so that I could fund this opportunity.”

More Sales, More Impact

Señoras de Salsa has an impact by how they staff, empowering Latina women. They also create an impact by how they source ethical, organic, local, sustainable food.

Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa

Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa

Their impact is only limited by how much they sell. “Sales power reinvestment and growth, which is slowly built. This limits our team size,” Danielle explains.

“We are working on growing our sales to be able to both grow our hours in the kitchen as well as pave the way for the potential to scale to larger methods of distribution and manufacturing.”

Danielle sees another challenge to growth. She understands the importance of storytelling, especially in a social business. “The challenge is, how do you share the story of the business and the women in a way that is respectful of their lives and privacy?”

Despite these challenges, Señoras de Salsa continues to grow in volume and recognition. This year they received a grant from the UN Global Shapers.

Benefiting from the Ecosystem

“The food ecosystem in Minnesota is awesome,” Danielle says. She received mentoring from Kelly McManus of Dumpling & Strand; Brenda Langton of SpoonRiver; Jill Holter at Lakewinds Co-op; and Emily Fortener at The Good Acre. She has also received coaching from other social entrepreneurs such as Amanda LaGrange of TechDump.

Danielle has been inspired by social enterprises such as Women’s Bean Project, Homeboy Industries, and Two Betty’s Green Clean. She is also encouraged by the success of food companies such as Seven Sundays, Dumpling & Strand, Mazaah, and Sin Fronteras.

And now, with the investment from Global Shapers, Danielle has discovered a new network of support.

The Reward is in the Journey

“On the days that we are all in the kitchen, making salsa together, this is pure enjoyment,” Danielle says. “Sure, it can be tough work. Picking up fifty-pound boxes of tomatillos, stirring big pots of simmering tomatoes, standing on our feet for hours at a time is not easy. But we get the chance to talk about our lives, to laugh, to feel the camaraderie. And at the end of the day, we feel proud of ourselves because we did all the hard work, a group of strong Señoras.”

Social Entrepreneur Live!

This interview is one of four conducted on the evening of October 10, 2018. The event was called Social Entrepreneur Live! It was hosted by Acara, a program of the Institute on the Environment and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. The event was part of the Twin Cities Startup Week. Special thanks to our guests, Acara, the University of Minnesota, and those who came out to see us live.

Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Danielle Wojdyla:

“The pay gap for Latina women is the largest of any group.” Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa #paygap #EqualPay #women Click To Tweet “We don't all have the same opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa #equality #socialjustice #humanrights Click To Tweet “Women get messages all the time, direct and indirect, of not being enough.” Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa #genderequality #women #selflove Click To Tweet “I wanted to create a business model where we could make a product and it would be able to pay a fair income.” Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa #equalpay #SocEnt #startup Click To Tweet “I know that humanity has the potential to behave differently.” Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa #BeTheChange #SocEnt #kindness Click To Tweet “Girl Scouts became a constant in my life.” Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa @girlscouts #values #respect Click To Tweet “We are enough. It’s really important to have that reminder.” Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa #women #selfesteem #selflove Click To Tweet “It was a little bit of serendipity. The next week I heard about an incubator called Maker to Market.” Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa #incubator #MSP #food Click To Tweet “The salsa we make is awesome.” Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa #foodie #health #SocEnt Click To Tweet “Network, network, network.” Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa #social #business #startup Click To Tweet “I walk around with a lot of privilege.” Danielle Wojdyla, Señoras de Salsa #inequality #SDG10 #opportunity Click To Tweet

Social Entrepreneurship Resources:

 

About the Author
Tony Loyd is a TEDx speaker, podcast host and the author of Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs. He is a former Fortune 500 executive with extensive experience in strategic planning, talent management, and leadership development. Tony is the host of the podcast Social Entrepreneur where you can hear the stories of changemakers who are making an impact on the world.

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