Mexican American entrepreneur Sarah Zubiate has always been determined to have it all. She’s a wife and mother to four children, not to mention the founder, CEO, and owner of ZUBI’S, a small business that develops salsas and cremas with organic ingredients. Originally from the in-between area of Juarez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas, Zubiate prioritizes her love for her family in everything she does. Even with ZUBI’S products now available in stores all over the nation from Amazon to Sprouts and Whole Foods, and growing, she still makes time for her family and advocates for mothers just like her to find a similar balance in their lives.
“It’s ingrained in my DNA to have my family at the center of my life,” she tells HipLatina. “I have my priorities listed out and I’m really trying to bump myself to the top, which is hard. But that’s still placing my family first because I’m gonna be the best version of myself and still allowing me to be the best owner, founder, CEO to make the decisions on the fly with a clear mind.”
In fact, Zubiate originally started the company out of that inherent love and loyalty to family. For many in the Latinx community, food is a staple of the family unit and the home. From parties to everyday meals, food brings people together, infusing the rich flavors of traditional dishes with the conversations at the table. But that experience can often come at a price, what with the tendency in many Latin dishes to use heavy amounts of dairy, wheat, meat, and gluten. You know that really full feeling you get after a hearty Latin meal? For Zubiate and her family, that wasn’t realistic or sustainable.
“I had lots of stomach issues and my husband has a horrible dairy allergy,” she explains. She also had to create dishes that would be safe and healthy for her 80-year-old parents, given her mother’s Parkinson’s Disease and her father’s quadruple bypass surgery. It was a challenge she took on wholeheartedly.
Using her inherent talent as a chef in the kitchen, she thrived and found pleasure in creating what would become her three signature products for ZUBI’S: salsa, queso, and crema de jalapeño.
And again, her love for family and the knowledge they’d passed down to her over the years inspired her and drove her to create something entirely her own.
“The salsa is originally based on my grandmother’s recipe. It’s been around forever,” she says. “My mom would always give me a hard time because I would put so much extra lime or cayenne. I’d doctor it. Over time, I changed the recipe” to include ingredients that are better for our bodies and organically grown on the company’s Athens, Texas farm.
But for Zubiate, the true hallmarks of the line are her cremas and quesos, both dairy-free! For the crema de jalapeño, she used organic safflower oil to mimic the traditional creaminess without any dairy products, avoiding that heavy feeling we get in our stomachs after we eat a lot of milk or cheese. The same for the queso, which uses mini sweet peppers as the base rather than cheese. Not only are they both free of dairy products and keto-compliant, but there are also no allergens, soy, gluten, or nuts. She emphasizes that the benefits are in the small substitutions to create a healthier alternative without sacrificing those familiar rich flavors.
“I wanted to make sure it was heart-healthy and based on veggies,” she says. “I wanted it to be something for our systems that would be better all around.”
From there, Zubiate worked day and night to pitch and sell her products to the right customers, people who were also searching for those flavorful additions to their dishes without the fatty content or restrictions to dairy-free and plant-based diets.
While she “didn’t have this robust network coming out of undergraduate school,” she began with the network she did have: moms just like her. “I’d just had my twins so I was part of this mom group and I would sell it to them out of my car,” she explains. “Then I went to the Dallas Farmer’s Market. I’d be at home with the kids but then on Friday night until 2 in the morning, I’d go to this commissary kitchen and I’d make all the products. Then go sell them starting at 7 in the morning on Saturday and Sunday.”
In both arenas, she found near-instant success. She was learning a lot about her consumer base and the demographic of people she was serving. For example, while she sold a great deal at the Farmer’s Market, many patrons were out-of-towners who always asked if her products were available for purchase in local or chain retailers. Inspired by the demand for ZUBI’S outside of Texas, she then turned to other retailers, including Amazon, which turned out to be the game-changer. She was able to set up her page and find out so much more about her customers through their support for local businesses and around-the-clock customer service.
“Partnering with the right organizations [like Amazon] who support the small person, give you the knowledge and make it simple so you’re not starting from ground zero is so important when you’re starting out and trying to make your product accessible to the masses,” she says.
It’s also fully bilingual, offering both Spanish and English options to shop for products just like ZUBI’S, marking a rare but necessary commitment to making healthy food accessible to other Latinx families, no matter where they may come from or what their first language is.
Despite or maybe because of all her success, balancing the needs of motherhood and a small but growing business isn’t always easy. You’re expected to serve ten different roles at the same time, fulfilling obligations and promises to the family you’ve created, yet also make time for yourself somewhere in the mix. But is it possible? Zubiate says absolutely.
“I want to pursue my passion, I want to run a company that brings people together but that also allows for me to grow it at my own pace. It’s a balancing act for me,” she explains. “I run my own company and build my own schedule to place family time as my top priority. By staying organized, I’m able to have my priorities intact and yet grow my company. It might not be as fast as the next person but I made that decision. I’m accomplishing both but on my own terms.”
Zubiate offers the same advice to dual mothers and business owners that she does for herself: organization, clear outline of priorities, and awareness that she might not always get it right but to go easy on herself, because she’s trying anyway. She notes:
“Hire the right people, surround yourself with positive influences as much as possible, and be hungry for that knowledge…Surround yourself with people who advocate for you, your philosophies, your ideas. For me that had created a very successful outcome.”