“I’d never thought I would import tortillas” – Let de Jong
For a long time, Let de Jong (46) worked as a concept developer and designer. But she always had a great passion for food as well. She took a year off, threw herself into Mexican cuisine and came up with Let’s Salsa. Natural, flavoursome and pure sauces that go well with a tasty quesadilla or carnita taco, but can also be paired with kimchi, ceviche and even a new pair of glasses… Glasses? Yes, Let developed a special carrot salsa for Ace & Tate.
Let, please tell us: Why salsas?
‘I used to go to California quite regularly and I always really enjoyed Mexican food when I was there. It turned into a thing that kept crossing my path, so eventually I began looking for the best ingredients like real Mexican cornmeal, tomatillos and peppers with which I started cooking and experimenting. In 2015, I bought a scooter that I turned into a taco truck for food festivals. At one point, I’d developed different sauces for every taco and I decided to bottle them. I make all the sauces and artwork myself. And I also import original soft corn tortillas.’
Where do you get the most inspiration or ideas from: flavours or design?
‘It’s a combination of both really. When I did a collab with Ace & Tate I thought: We need to do something with carrots, as they’re related to sight. So I drew a bunny wearing broken glasses. In this particular case things were based less on flavour but more on the brand, the things that would suit it and how I can get to the core of that. The great thing is that there’s a very well-known sauce in Yucatan in Mexico that has a carrot base, so it all clicked eventually.’
What other collaborations have you done with Let’s Salsa?
‘I have collabs with brands like G-Star, Adidas, Lot61, Lima and Chiapas Taco Cartel. I make Coffee Company’s signature ketchup: Saucesome. It’s not a Mexican salsa, but it does have a punch so it’s a typical Let’s Salsa sauce. These collaborations are often formed by coincidence: Coffee Company and I met through a catering job. In the case of Ace & Tate, its head office was located close to the Louie Louie restaurant for which I also made a sauce and who I got in contact with through Yvette van Boven. Such collabs are really instructive, because you emerge in a company and get the chance to look around. Ace & Tate for example, has a unique marketing strategy that I find really cool.’
Who are your main customers?
‘My main customers are stores such as Marqt and Crisp, which focus more on the Randstad and are interested in working with local parties. If you like tacos, there’s a good chance that you’re eating Let’s Salsa tortillas, because I supply to many food businesses and they’re for sale at stores such as Marqt.’
Do you like entrepreneurship and how did you approach it?
‘I always took very small steps and made very small investments. For example, I made my own simple device to label bottles, I researched how to preserve sauces through natural preservation and how to increase production. I am thrilled that I was able to prove that you can create a healthy and profitable business with real ingredients and natural preservation methods. Everyone always said: “That will never work!”’
Can you make a living out of it now?
‘I would be able to make a living out of it if I’d step on the gas more. But doing everything yourself is a lot and not all facets of entrepreneurship suit me equally well. So I’m looking for a party that wants to run the business – production, logistics, sales and marketing – and expand it so I would be able to focus more on the illustrations and flavours. Because that’s what I enjoy the most.
I spend about half the week on Let’s Salsa. And in the other half I’m a concept and campaign developer for, among others, the municipality of Amsterdam. This gives me a nice mix between my own kingdom called Let’s Salsa and being a small cog in a large organisation.’
Do you have any advice for creative entrepreneurs?
‘Above all, just do it and don’t hesitate because you have to start somewhere. When you start overthinking you’ll only see problems ahead instead of just getting started. You’ll find out what works and what doesn’t, and what suits you and what doesn’t along the way. When all you do is write business plans on your computer you’ll get stuck thinking: Oh, I need to go to the bank in order to start… But there are so many things you don’t need a loan for.
Which brings me to my next point: take small steps, do something that’s close to your heart and be flexible about what your goal should be. When something you hadn’t thought of beforehand crosses your path, it’s useful to have a flexible attitude and just move along with it. I, for example, never thought I would import tortillas. And I rent kitchen space so I didn’t have to invest in expensive kitchen appliances. It allows me to be flexible and I will easily be able to outsource the production of the sauces in the future, for example. I also work with a small group of people on an on-call basis and we always just try to make large batches in a single day, which works very well for me. Another great factor for my success is Jess, my girlfriend, who’s a strong woman who always supports me.’
What does success mean to you?
‘Staying close to who you are and having a good time, having fun and keeping it that way. Of course, I also like to sell a lot of products, because that’s also a raison d’être in this society we’re all part of. But if you’re doing less well on an economic level but are having a good time nonetheless, then you’re also successful in my opinion.’
What’s another dream for Let’s Salsa?
‘I think it would be really cool if the artwork of Let’s Salsa would be used on or for clothing items. Who knows, maybe one day there will be a collab with an Amsterdam clothing brand.’