ENTREPRENEUR OF THE MONTH
México / SF
Few entrepreneurs have the giddy smile that Kevin Madrigal does. Most founders these days are stressed out, serious, on the go and checking their phone every five minutes. Kevin is full of light, although busy, he shares his story and success with humility and gratitude. LatinSF selected Kevin Madrigal as our entrepreneur of the month because his work accomplishes many of the characteristics of LatinSF’s mission: job creation, community improvement and most importantly, he is addressing a very dire San Francisco problem: the homeless epidemic. Few founders in Silicon Valley that graduate from top tier schools like Stanford or UC Berkeley make the decision to create a non-profit. The vast majority of Silicon Valley founders often look towards creating technology B2B startups that hopefully scale quickly, become global enterprises, and go public. Kevin had that profile. He was a thriving, top, first generation student who attended Stanford on a scholarship and was originally set to major in Bio-Engineering. Despite coming from a family of limited means, Kevin, the youngest of three siblings, got significant support from his older brother Luis, and was set to be the “star”- the prodigy child that got into a top tier school and would surely graduate to an immediate job with a 6-figure salary. Kevin could have done that. His parents didn’t go to college. His brother went straight into the workforce as well. Kevin’s family, who migrated from Mexico and created a life in California with extremely limited means, could have pressured him to pursue a financially secure route. Kevin had earned different options and the successful employment paths in front of him. However, he chose to create a route of his own- one that involved growing urban organic crops, shedding light and returning humanity to individuals that for many, can be seen as lost causes.
In 2017, Kevin and his co-founder started Farming Hope, a non-profit organization dedicated to the therapy, skill training, and personal development for unhoused, low-income people, and segments of the population facing discrimination regarding employment acceptance. Farming Hope not only provides training for a more efficient farming and high-skilled cooking of meals, but also supports the transition of the “Apprentices” straight to employment through partnerships with restaurants, commercial caterings, and small cafes across San Francisco.
Madrigal, 25, grew up in South San Francisco, and derives Mexican heritage through both of his parents. He graduated from El Camino High School and attended Stanford University. During his time at the renowned institution in Palo Alto, Madrigal did an internship in the pharmaceutical industry. However, he realized that “The true motive wasn’t to help people, but to make money”, and decided that there was something else that he could be contributing to. Instead, he became involved in learning about food production and opted to revolutionize the food world. According to Madrigal, “The food system default is to make you be overweight”. We discussed at length how in this day and age most of our nutritional consumption comes from food that is processed or coming from grains that have been genetically modified. We have forgotten to eat the ways our ancestors did and cook the simple meals that truly nourish our bodies and minds.
Madrigal’s social enterprise that has been running for 3 years now with the purpose of creating opportunities and empowering marginalized communities by providing an immersive farming and/or culinary job training. The organization partners with local shelters in order to pick the right candidates for part-time training. Apprentices not only acquire labor skills, but they also earn a salary, since they “must feel valued for their time”. In the words of Madrigal, “There are two bottom lines in the operation of the enterprise: how much money we make, and how much social good are we doing”. Chef trainers and Apprentices are the business bottom line and the social bottom line, respectively. The organization must be run “As a business but creating non-profit results”. The non-profit acquires revenue by selling the food to farmers markets and through catering events.
In order to afford the costs, Farming Hope covers the expenses through their revenue stream and donations. It is calculated that the cost for each Apprentice is around $11,000 USD, estimated in terms of operating costs, part-time training, supports, and salary, among others.
Farming Hope looks with good eyes the near future. For the next year, the non-profit goals are to secure more funding through private grants and employ at least 16 Apprentices per year. Furthermore, Farming Hope aims to acquire contracted services, as it brings more certainty and stability to the development of the project.
Finally, as if Madrigal hasn’t already given back enough, he will be stepping down from his role as Culinary Director to provide opportunities for others to run Farming Hope. While Madrigal’s background and expertise qualify him for countless opportunities within the corporate world, his next steps will include designing and teaching a food justice curriculum for the SMASH program at Stanford University – a program he is an alum of. SMASH is a college prep summer program founded in California targeting high school students with strong mathematics skills from groups traditionally underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, first-generation college students, and from low-income families. Later, his long-term plan is to move down to Guadalajara, Mexico and spend time with his abuela Guadalupe, who helped raise him, his siblings, and many of his cousins. Madrigal wants to spend time cooking with her and document the recipes and stories from her childhood before the opportunity goes away.
To learn more about Farming Hope, please visit their website: https://farminghope.org/