Los Angeles, CA
University of California, Berkeley, International Political Economy, 2008
Palladium Equity Partners; Barclays Capital
Section E president; co-chair, Harvard's Latino Law, Policy & Business Conference; co-founder, Camino Financial, participant of Rock Accelerator Program and i-lab Venture Incubation Program
“I may not be ready to start a business, but I am prepared to learn.”
Kenny Salas, MBA 2015, came to HBS with a clear goal: "To work for a big company and gain operational experience." Then a combination of unexpected events changed his mind. After a summer internship at General Mills' headquarters in Minneapolis, "I realized large corporations were not a good fit for me. It takes too much time to get approvals and execute your plans—to see the fruits of your labor."
The second factor came from a place closer to home—literally. Kenny's twin brother, Sean, who is also attending HBS, approached Kenny with a business plan. "I know I don't have all the skills I need," says Kenny. "I decided that I may not be ready to start a business, but I am prepared to learn. Once you find something you're passionate about, you realize life is too short not to do it."
Building a better road to small business financing
The Salas brothers' new venture, Camino Financial, provides alternative capital resources to underserved small businesses, particularly those in Latino communities, who might not qualify for traditional bank loans. “Banks have strict standards," Kenny observes. "They have a low approval rate around twenty percent. And it typically takes two to three months to get an answer. It discourages a lot of people from going through the process."
In addition to offering capital, Camino Financial provides education. "We want our clients to understand how lenders look at their businesses," Kenny says, “so they can take the necessary steps to make their businesses more attractive."
Kenny and Sean understand the dangers of lack of understanding about credit from firsthand experience. Their mother had successfully turned a taco stand into a string of twenty restaurants in Los Angeles. "But she didn’t manage growth well," says Kenny. "She didn’t have guidance; she didn’t have access to resources, capital, and expertise." When the recession hit in the 1990s, she struggled and eventually sold all her restaurants. "We always have that experience in mind."
"I didn't expect to take the leap so soon in my life," Kenny says about Camino Financial. "But I think HBS is a great place to start a company, not just because of the classes you can take, but for the opportunities to interact with other people starting their own businesses. You trade ideas. You share stories. It all helps accelerate the process of going from idea to business model to execution."