Career Conversions – Todd and Sherry Martin


Todd and Sherry Martin

From Intuit to Tamales

He was executive director of website support for Intuit, she the company’s senior privacy manager. But while Todd and Sherry Martin helped the rest of us balance our books and prepare our taxes, they were restless for another kind of life, fueled by a different kind of creativity.

The Martins opened their first Tucson Tamale Company outlet in 2008, in the depths of the recession. Undeterred, they not only survived, but they’ve prospered. They’ve added two more restaurants and an 8,000-square-foot production facility, and as of April 2017 they had overseen the cooking, hand-rolling and steaming of 6 million tamales for their outlets and national distribution to more than 400 stores, including Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Revenue has grown 1,500 percent since the Martins’ first year in business, and by the end of this year their tamale distribution is projected to increase to 1,500 stores.

The shift from Intuit to tamales wasn’t spontaneous. Sherry had learned how to make tamales from her mother, who is of Mexican descent. Todd, a food lover, ran a catering company in Denver in the 1980s and a restaurant in San Diego in the mid-1990s.

“We had always dreamed about owning our own business,” Todd says. “We knew it was one of the only ways to really control our destiny, and we longed to be in the driver’s seat of our own lives. We sought work that was passionate, and we were driven by a desire to create something that really impacts people.”

Steaming-hot tamales do just that. The Martins fill the corn masa dough with traditional ingredients such as chilies, cheese, pork and beef, and also inventive additions including vegetables with yellow curry, roasted turkey for Thanksgiving and sweet ingredients for dessert.

While many entrepreneurs might start opening franchises, the Martins have chosen the wholesale route for their organically grown, non-GMO, gluten-free tamales. “Wholesale is a more efficient way to give health-conscious shoppers access to our tamales,” Todd says. “We’d much rather be a producer of product than a food purveyor.”

Tucson Tamale has a bright future, but the Martins haven’t forgotten the challenges of its early days. When the business was in its gestation period, Sherry kept her Intuit job while Todd worked on the concept and execution. Their business strategy was already in place when the 2008 recession arrived, but they stuck to their plan.

“That was the scariest thing in the world for me, because a move like that wasn’t in my nature,” Sherry says. “But my husband is an entrepreneur, so I guess it was just meant to be.”

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