Standing at H-E-B’s corporate headquarters in San Antonio, and going head-to-head with some of the top entrepreneurs in Texas, Elizabeth Davis was undeterred.
The Reynosa native and former maquiladora worker started her Nuts and Cows business just three years ago with $89 and a belief that “success can come out of a crisis.” Davis spoke English sporadically growing up as a child of the border, but with a grit and a determination that is her calling card, the McAllen-based entrepreneur delivered a 15-minute presentation in her second language to seven judges in H-E-B’s Primo Picks Quest For Texas Best competition.
“As an entrepreneur, all you have is yourself,” she said. “You have your idea, your product, and then you have to make a connection to people.”
Davis’s Nuts and Cows was one of 25 finalists chosen out of more than 700 contestants in the grocer’s Texas Best, a yearly event hosted by H-E-B to honor some of the state’s brightest entrepreneurs for their ingenuity and creativity in devising their products. Another Rio Grande Valley contestant, Cappadona Ranch and its mesquite bean-based flour, was also among the finalists in H-E-B’s Texas Best.
Neither of the Valley entries would be among the top four winners chosen for prizes and higher recognition, but for Davis just getting there on the journey that is her American dream was a victory in its own right.
“I’m an immigrant,” she said. “To be at that level of corporate leadership and with a quality of company like H-E-B, the achievement of being in the final 25 is something I really felt being among so many great businesses.’’
Davis felt flush with success after the H-E-B event in early August when she recalls the reaction at the end of her presentation to the judges. Nuts and Cows features 15 pecan-based products, including a variety of pecan butter flavors, pecan brittles and pralines. Davis’s pitch and her products went over well with the judges.
“I was super happy to see their (judges) faces when I was making my presentation,” she said. “They enjoyed hearing the story of Nuts and Cows, and when I finished, they all stood up and clapped. It was very emotional to see their reaction.”
The story of Davis and her Nuts and Cows – a name suggested by her young son – started at farmers markets in the Valley, where she spread out her array of pecan-based products that also includes pies and pecans in chocolate, with other selections featuring a spicy edge. Davis has been mentored by the McAllen Chamber of Commerce in developing business plans and strategies in growing her business.
“Elizabeth is one of our superstars,” said Jorge Sanchez, the vice president of business development and start-ups. “I believe what makes Elizabeth great is that she is able to see a problem, own it, find a solution for it and implement it.”
Davis left her mark with H-E-B during their Texas Best competition. She is currently exploring possibilities with the grocer to shelve her Nuts and Cows products in some of their stores, be it along regional lines or demographic and category-based given the health qualities of her products.
“I’m very grateful to H-E-B,” Davis said. “It’s inspirational to me as an entrepreneur to meet and talk with some of their corporate leadership.”
She shares her own experiences with others in her community via monthly classes at the chamber where she advises women who aspire to launch their own businesses.
“Elizabeth has a real passion to help others to succeed,” Sanchez said. “That encourages a lot of local entrepreneurs to be like her.”