Mi Padrino Builds Event-Planning Hub for Latino Communities in U.S.

Kim Gamez, CEO and co-founder of the Ann Arbor, MI-based startup Mi Padrino, is a self-described “all-American Gringa” who grew up in farm country. She fell in love with Hispanic culture as she got to know her husband Hugo, a native of San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

One of her favorite traditions was that of the padrino, or patron. On her website, Gamez describes padrinos (and madrinas) as “essential members of their Hispanic community who act as patrons or sponsors for family events. Some of the most important celebrations in Hispanic culture only happen because of this very important aspect. Families host beautiful celebrations and they reach out to padrinos to make it happen.”

Even though she was fond of the padrino tradition, she didn’t enjoy the practice of creating a list of party needs and then making numerous phone calls to arrange sponsorship. “I loved it because everyone contributes, but I hated the process,” she explains. “I felt it needed to be updated and brought online.”

After launching Mi Padrino in 2017 as a hub where Hispanic families can create event pages and seek contributors, she soon realized her customers wanted more. She saw an opportunity to open the site up to small businesses as well as national brands seeking to capture the attention of the Latino community.

“Our users reached out and said, ‘Where can we get products for our party—what bakery makes a Tres Leches cake, or which venues host quinceaneras?’ If you’re not in a city with a large Latino population, they’re hard to find,” Gamez says. “Business owners can list their products and services on Mi Padrino. It’s a whole marketplace.”

The company has taken off since. Mi Padrino just completed a stint in the University of Michigan’s Desai Accelerator, winning a $10,000 prize for best pitch at a demo day event held last week. In the past year, Mi Padrino also scored a $100,000 award at the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition and $50,000 from Chloe Capital, a firm that backs women-led businesses. The company is currently seeking to raise a round of venture funding.

Gamez, a mother of five who for many years owned a popular restaurant in Jackson, MI, with her husband—who is also Mi Padrino’s co-founder—says there is a multi-billion-dollar, partially untapped opportunity in servicing the Hispanic community.

“American Latinos spend over $2 trillion per year,” she says. “If it was a stand-alone economy, it would be the seventh-largest in the world. It’s the fastest-growing consumer group in the U.S., but advertisers can have a hard time reaching them.”

The recent political turmoil surrounding the immigration issue has actually been good for business, Gamez says. “People are embracing their traditions,” she continues. “They’re proud of who they are and where they come from.” Ninety-five percent of Mi Padrino’s users are women, she adds, as are many of the vendors who advertise on the website.

In the coming year, the 10-person Mi Padrino team plans to continue growing its user base and corporate partnerships, utilizing the coaching and other resources the company received during its summer at Desai. Gamez plans to soon expand internationally—Mexican users contact her almost daily asking when the website will be live there, she says—and is in the process of forming a partnership with Quinceaneras Magazine.

“We’re working to partner with them and be their digital solution,” she says, adding that her company has trademarked the word “padrino.”

Long-term, Gamez would like to explore adding products and services for other cultural traditions, such as bar mitzvahs, to the website. “We’re built to connect friends and family anywhere in the world,” she says. “I don’t think we need to be in California or Texas to be successful. We have the talent and support right here in Ann Arbor.”

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