From Salsa Kings to Restaurant Moguls: The Journey of Estella's Founders

Discover how Jerry Vasquez and Tyler Tiecke transformed a humble salsa business into a thriving restaurant empire, while balancing family and work life, and embracing NIL opportunities to connect with local athletes.

In a heartwarming episode of the “Leave Your Legacy” show, host Kenyon Murray sits down with Jerry Vasquez and Tyler Tiecke, the dynamic duo behind Estella’s Fresh Mex. Their journey from salsa kings to restaurant moguls is a testament to the power of hard work, dedication, and the importance of family and community connections.

Jerry Vasquez and Tyler Tiecke’s story begins in Muscatine, Iowa, where Jerry helped his mom open their first restaurant at the age of 20. Fast forward 20 years, and Estella’s Fresh Mex has become a staple in Iowa City, known for its fresh, delicious food and welcoming atmosphere. Jerry’s entrepreneurial spirit and Tyler’s keen business sense have been the driving forces behind their success.

The Power of Hard Work and Dedication

Jerry and Tyler’s journey is a prime example of how hard work and dedication can turn dreams into reality. Starting with a small salsa business, they expanded to selling their salsa in local stores and eventually opened their first restaurant in 2017. Their relentless effort and passion for what they do have been key to their success.

Jerry recalls working long hours and making sacrifices to ensure the success of their business. “We were bottling our own salsa, putting labels on the salsa, and taking them to the stores ourselves. It was a lot of hard work, but we loved every minute of it,” he shares.

Balancing Family and Business Responsibilities

For Jerry and Tyler, family is at the heart of everything they do. Both men have found ways to balance their demanding business responsibilities with their family lives. Jerry, who had his first child at 36, emphasizes the importance of spending quality time with family. “I built up all that time in the early years so that now I can spend more time with my family. It’s all about being intentional with the time you have,” he says.

Tyler echoes this sentiment, crediting Jerry for helping him find a balance between work and family. “Jerry always makes sure we take care of our families. He reminds me to take breaks and be present with my family. It’s about making sure you’re happy at home so you can be happy at work,” Tyler explains.

Embracing NIL Opportunities

One of the unique aspects of Jerry and Tyler’s business strategy is their embrace of NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) opportunities. By partnering with University of Iowa athletes, they have created a strong connection between their restaurant and the local community. This innovative approach has helped Estella’s Fresh Mex stand out and attract a loyal customer base.

“We always wanted to work with the athletes and give them a platform to express themselves. It’s been incredibly rewarding to see these young people grow and succeed,” Jerry says.

Jerry was inspired by his grandmother, Estella, and his mother, who opened the first restaurant. Tyler joined Jerry in 2011 after being impressed by his work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit.
Both men prioritize quality time with their families. Jerry built his business in the early years to now spend more time with his family, while Tyler has learned from Jerry to take breaks and be present with his loved ones.
Jerry and Tyler have embraced NIL opportunities by partnering with local University of Iowa athletes. This approach has helped them connect with the community and attract a loyal customer base.
They are currently building a new location in Coralville with a carry-out lane and plan to introduce churros to their menu. They also aim to expand to other markets in the future.
Both Jerry and Tyler come from entrepreneurial families. Jerry grew up working in his family’s restaurant, while Tyler managed a lawn care business from a young age. These experiences instilled a strong work ethic and business acumen in both of them.
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