WeCreate Connections: How El Padrino Apparel and Soccer Nation Is Scaling Up
Raul Villegas isn’t shy about going after big goals, but he also knows you need a strong team to reach them.
A graduate of ScaleUP! Kansas City’s inaugural class and recently named 2015 Kansas City, Kansas Chamber’s Small Business of the Year, Villegas has leveraged the connections, community and confidence he’s gained from ScaleUP! to grow his business and make a difference in his community.
El Padrino, which means “godfather” in Spanish, is the name of the premier soccer league and apparel store he founded with his sister Miriam Villegas in 2007. Before ScaleUP!, business was booming, but the Villegases was at a crossroads. Their business had thrived on their personal touch with customers, many of whom are Hispanic families. That hands-on approach had to change given that the soccer league had grown to 200 youth and adult teams.
That’s exactly why Raul signed up to participate in ScaleUP! Kansas City.
His goals were to hire more staff and open a second indoor soccer facility. In fact, ScaleUP! immediately taught him the importance of adding key people to his staff. This year, Raul hired a general manager to run the day-to-day operations so he could concentrate on his plans to expand the business. It also allows him to better target his customer base and generate more sponsors.
Currently, the Villegases employ 10 full-time employees and 20 to 25 part-time employees, depending on the season. The soccer league is housed at Soccer Nation, a 40,000-square-foot indoor soccer facility that they opened last year.
Raul was first introduced to ScaleUP! KC through his banker, Sandra Olivas, vice president of the Hispanic Division of Brotherhood Bank & Trust. She was impressed with what he had accomplished on his own with hard work and great business instincts. However, she saw a lot of potential for his business to grow to another level with the right business training. She encouraged him to apply to ScaleUP! KC. He’s glad he did.
Through ScaleUP! KC, he met 14 other business owners who face similar challenges and was also introduced to one of his biggest competitors—a former rivalry that may soon turn into a partnership that will help him more efficiently run his soccer league.
“Before ScaleUP!, I really didn’t have a strategy for how to grow my business. I just learned as the day went,” Raul said. “ScaleUP! introduced me to Kansas City’s business resources, to other businesses like mine and to connections in the soccer industry. That network is one of the biggest rewards.”
Raul also benefitted from the financial sessions of the program.
“One of the biggest impacts on my company was learning how to create a business plan and projections that I can present to potential investors and developers,” Raul said. “Recently, we presented our idea to develop our own outdoor soccer facilities with five outdoor soccer fields and retail plaza to accommodate our families close to their homes to Mayor Mark Holland of Wyandotte County.”
“As a business owner, you focus on the work and either outsource the other things or let them go. As time passes by, you can get into trouble,” said Raul.
Because of the lessons learned through ScaleUP! KC, the Villegases now have more direct and disciplined control over their cash flow and financial projections. He’s hired a bookkeeper and an accountant to help manage his money—and because of that is now looking toward securing a loan to help him finance his expansion.
Other business owners in ScaleUP! KC have also encouraged him.
“They told me, don’t be afraid to get in debt,” he said.
Raul is using his experience and connections through ScaleUP! KC to improve his community and offer more opportunities to Hispanic youth in Kansas City. In September, he’ll partner with Univision and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to host the Copa Univision, the region’s largest Latino youth-adult soccer tournament. In addition, he’s helped the Mexican Consulate host a free tournament to promote health and fitness awareness for the Hispanic community and has donated field time to the Bethel Center, a neighborhood nonprofit that offers youth after school and summer programs, to help fund their capital campaign.
“ScaleUP! KC has taught me how to think about where we want to grow next and how I can use my business to help a community that’s been left out for many years,” he said. That includes building a facility with six to eight new soccer fields that will help more youth—and especially those in the critical, at-risk teenage years—use soccer to stay active and broaden their opportunities to attend college.
“ScaleUP! KC has given me the tools and the network to dream bigger.”
About ScaleUP! KC
The University of Missouri-Kansas City Innovation Center (UMKC IC) was awarded one of the first ScaleUP! America program contracts nationwide by the U.S. Small Business Administration. The program provides direct support for growth-oriented entrepreneurs and firms to include underserved and underrepresented communities/populations while strengthening the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The result is expected to be measurable economic impact and job growth in local communities.
The cornerstones of ScaleUP! Kansas City are FastTrac® Listening to Your Business™ and FastTrac® Growth Venture™, proven energizers for businesses positioned to scale.
Courses are supplemented with Kauffman Founders School, peer-to-peer roundtables and “collision” sessions that unite participants with subject matter experts.
The most meaningful part of ScaleUP! is the lifelong connections participants make with their peer cohort—other entrepreneurs who face the similar challenges in scaling their businesses.
Applications for ScaleUP! KC Open Now
Create your next success story. Applications for the third cohort of ScaleUP! KC are open until Nov. 23. Head over to www.scaleupkc.com to learn more about this free, select and transformative program and be sure to apply.
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