In an industry (event planning services) rocked to the core by Covid-19, Kim Gamez finds satisfaction in having an exit. After Mi Padrino downsized during the pandemic, the startup fell short of the exponential exit she and her investors hoped for. Nevertheless it had good enough. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The company’s values were its large Latina user base, social media following, and trusted reputation.
In 2015, Gamez and her husband were delighted when they were asked to be padrino for their niece Quinceanera. In Latin America, Padrino sponsors many aspects of the celebration, including the dress, venue, music, and cake.
Quinceañeras celebrate a girl’s 15th birthday and the transition from childhood to adulthood. “It’s not because of the family’s financial situation, but because the community honors him,” Gamez said.
Padrino may also play a role in organizing gifts, as in the case of Gamez. “It’s a beautiful part [her husband’s Mexican] I loved the culture, but I hated the process. At that time, nothing organized the process.
Gamez realized that organizing the gift-giving process online could fill a void in the market. PayPal, Venmo, and Facebook can be used to give cash, so she focused on alternatives.
There was an untapped opportunity to connect gift givers and gift makers. She used a dropship model that allows wholesalers and artists to sell their products without going through an agency. The seller was responsible for fulfilling the order. Mi Padrino and its business It was her 2019 when I wrote about her model for the first time.
Mi Padrino then enabled vendors such as DJs, musicians, photographers and venues to advertise their services.
Mi Padrino has grown from 50,000 users in its first year to millions before the pandemic. It also had quite a following on social media.
Events came to a halt when the pandemic hit. The company pivoted.
One of the manufacturers of Mi Padrino has started making masks. Mi Padrino has made them available for free to schools and the healthcare system. He then built a website to sell masks and generate revenue. Mask he supported them until the summer of 2020, after which they all participated in the mask game.
By the winter of 2021, Gamez laid off 17 of its 20 employees. But she knew she had something of value to companies that wanted to enter the Latina market. “Mi Padrino was seen as a trusted brand,” she said. “She had millions of users and a huge number of social followings.”
Gamez was featured on Queenly, a formalwear marketplace for women of all ages and sizes. Andreessen Horowitz is one of those investors. “That [Mi Padrino] is perfect for them,” said Gamez. “And it was great timing for us.”
“It wasn’t the exit everyone wanted, but it was the exit,” Gamez said.Mi Padrino’s investors include Astia Angels, Chloe Capital, Invest in Detroit, Invest in Michigan, Portfolia, Includes Texas HALO.
During the pandemic-induced recession, Gamez developed a reputation as a thought leader, which he combined with a job as head of digital marketing for David’s Bridal. She started out as a consultant and impressed them with her ideas on how to build organic traffic.
Gamez also draws on his entrepreneurial experience at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. Her advice to startup founders raising money during the current venture capital downturn:
- concentration: “Don’t let the sea boil,” she said. Mi Padrino did not use off-the-shelf software. Instead, we had to build and maintain separate systems for our three business units. It was tough for a small team.
- Grow slowly: Discover what your customers want instead of relying on assumptions. Test the concept, even if it’s built using an Excel spreadsheet.
- The proof is in the pudding: Show that your company can make money before raising venture capital.
What lessons have you learned from surviving the pandemic?