(Kenny and Sean Salas. Image via Jamie Wilkie)
Sean and Kenny Salas grew up in an entrepreneurial household. As the youngest of six children, the two current Harvard Business School MBA candidates watched their mother open a Mexican restaurant that, in a little over 20 years, expanded into an additional 30 locations.
Supporting a small, albeit budding, business isn’t easy, however — particularly with six children to feed.
“Growth can be a real issue for a small business owner who doesn’t have the know-how or access to capital,” Sean said, referring to his own mother who, unfortunately, had to close the doors of her growing chain. “She lost her business fairly abruptly … and moved back to Mexico with her head down.”
Sean and Kenny still vividly remember that moment when, at age 12, they pulled out of their driveway and said goodbye to their home in Hidden Hills, California.
Fast forward to today, and the two are building what they call Camino Financial to ensure other small business owners can avoid feeling the same pain.
Sean and Kenny moved back to the United States to attend the University of California, Berkeley. Upon graduation, Sean took to Wall Street, working for three years as an analyst for UBS before jumping into an associate role at ICV Partners. Kenny then transitioned into private equity, soon serving as an investment analyst for one of the largest Hispanic-focused firms in the country: Palladium Equity Partners.
Although the two “only have the world to speak” about minority-focused firms and “the impact they’re driving,” said Sean: “Equity is not the right tool to help.”
Each applied to Harvard Business School with this feeling of frustration that they could be doing more to help underserved small business owners, particularly those in the Hispanic community. What that frustration turned into was Camino Financial, an advisory platform that targets small businesses unable to get loans through traditional channels, such as commercial banks.
“What Camino does is provide access to alternative sources of capital,” said Kenny simply.
The firm will work with owners just one year in business, who bring in $100,000 or more in annual gross sales and have a personal credit score of at least 500. Interested entrepreneurs can contact Camino, who will provide funding options tailored to their business’s credit profile, whether short- or long-term loans, SBA loans or merchant cash advances. The credit assessment form they give to small business owners is nine pages long and geared for a quick response.
“A normal loan application process takes two to three months,” Kenny said, “and can be resource prohibitive to small business owners.”
Loan selection criteria is based more on business performance than an owner’s credit score, and loans can get funded as soon as in four days. If a loan is funded, Camino makes a commission of 2 to 3 percent.
Sean acknowledged that other online marketplaces exist where small business owners can find capital, but that one of Camino’s core strengths lie in that the focus is on the Hispanic community. The pair is currently focused on Boston and Los Angeles, and said their pipeline — roughly a half a million dollars — is divided between the East and West Coast.
At the end of the day, however, it’s not the pipeline Sean and Kenny are concerned about.
“Camino Financial is really mission-based,” Sean said.
They never want to see a mom and pop shop close again.