Carlos Martin del Campo has a passion for marketing and was looking for an outlet for it when a chance encounter with a tamale maker led to an idea.
In December, Martin del Campo was trying to figure out what to eat when his cleaning lady mentioned a tamalero who delivered. For the 30-year-old, who was born in Mexico and moved to Washington in 1989 when his parents came to work at the World Bank (father) and Brookings Institution (mother), tamales — a traditional dish made of meat, chicken or vegetables wrapped in cornmeal dough and steamed in corn husks — evoked cherished memories of food and family.
“For me, they signify quality time around the table during Christmas in Mexico,” Martin del Campo said.
When his order arrived, Martin del Campo was impressed not just with the food, but with the man who made it. Ofelio Crespo has been making and delivering tamales for eight years and has a loyal customer base among the Latino community, but he was struggling to grow his business.
A month later, while Martin del Campo was meeting with friend, writer and producer Emiliano Ruprah, at Politics and Prose’s cafe, they came up with the idea for Capital Hustle. The plan was to provide small-business owners from low-income communities with business and marketing consulting. They persuaded Crespo to be their first client.
“We talked about a lot of projects the past year,” Martin del Campo said. “This one just made sense. I’m interested in entrepreneurship and Emi is interested in advertising. I know that we can make a big impact doing small things.”
They upgraded Crespo’s Web site, TheMexicanCowboy.com, and they created a social media strategy. Because Crespo would eventually like to open his own store — he makes the tamales out of his Columbia Heights kitchen — they even devised a business strategy to help him realize his dream.
But it was the video advertisement they produced that created the biggest buzz. When it came out, Dan Silverman of the Prince of Petworth blog posted it right away and called it one of the “best local ads I’ve ever seen.”
The video is inspired by trailers for Western movies. In Capital Hustle’s version, Crespo, the Mexican Cowboy, rides his horse (rented for the occasion) through the streets of Mount Pleasant and Cleveland Park to a snowy Rock Creek Park where he encounters Fast Food Bill, who tries to thwart his quest to deliver tamales to D.C. residents.
“He was excited” to do the video, Martin del Campo said. “He grew up in rural Mexico. He used to ride horses all the time. He said it was the first time in 30 years [he was on a horse]. I think it was more nerves about being on camera than the horse.”
After a successful first venture, Martin del Campo and Ruprah have already begun work on a campaign for another business. And they’d like to do more.
“We’re trying to find other entrepreneurs who fit the profile,” Martin del Campo said.
Martin del Campo and Ruprah receive no money for their work. They paid for the video out of their own pockets.
“In terms of compensation, I think it will pay off later,” Martin del Campo said. “I definitely got hooked up with a lot of tamales.”