Are spouses good business partners? Although they have not tied the knot yet –coming up very soon! –, Ingrid M. Duran and Catherine M. Pino seem to think so, better yet, they know so. For more than eleven years, they have advocated for marriage equality in same sex-couples and anxiously waited for the recent SCOTUS ruling since last 2013, when they got engaged.
Moreover, Duran and Pino, co-founders of D&P Creative Strategies, have been together making headways in several areas of personal and political life, which might not be easy to handle for an average person.
First, these two talented Latinas are in an openly gay committed relationship, actively advocating for the GLBT community. In addition, they are women of Hispanic origin, seen by many as a downside if you are building a career in any corporate environment but.., what about building a business in the Mecca of politics, Washington DC?
“We founded D&P in 2004 to increase the role of corporate, legislative and philanthropic efforts in addressing the concerns of Latinos, women, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) communities,” said Duran, D&P CEO and founder to LIBizus. “We are passionate about the same issues, deeply committed to bring social justice and promote civil rights in the communities we represent.”
However, behind the business partnership, a love story for each other and for the causes they care about had left a trail of incredible individual achievements that came together that year of 2004. They had met briefly in 1992 at a lesbian event in Washington DC but timing was not on their side. Only ten years later the two women will reunite again.
At a young age, Duran was attracted to topics of social justice and civil rights. She recalls attending farm workers rights demonstrations and voter registration drives with her parents in Los Angeles at the early age of five.
She then went to serve one tour in the US Marine Corps only to return to Capitol Hill to work as Staff Assistant for the Banking Committee with Chairman Henry B. Gonzalez and a Legislative Assistant for Rep. Gene Green. She also was serving in the Washington DC office of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO). These two positions gave her necessary exposure to the connections, processes and particulars of working as a minority and openly gay activist in the political capital of the country.
She served on the President’s Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS under President Bill Clinton and was also appointed to the Minority Veterans Advisory Board. In 2000, she became the first gay Latina to serve on the Human Rights Campaign Board of Directors, and served on the Boards of the National Hispana Leadership Institute (NHLI) and The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
Originally from New Mexico, Pino, CEO and founder at D&P, was also attracted at a young age to volunteering activities and helping the disadvantaged in her native Albuquerque. After her first years in college, she moved to Washington DC to serve under Senator Jeff Bingaman, and then for National Council of La Raza’s President Raúl Yzaguirre.
Decided to pursue graduate school, Pino left DC and arrived in New York City where she worked for prominent national foundations including the Carnegie Corporation, serving as their Deputy Director of Urban School Reform. She managed their $60 million high school reform initiative, a multi-million dollar portfolio, and a $25 million Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant. She entered the foundation world at the DeWitt Wallace-Readers Digest Fund, where she managed a $48 million youth development and education portfolio.
Ten years had passed since their previous encounter, and they reconnected through the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Communications Director. “The three of us had dinner and it felt like reconnecting with an old friend. We picked up where we left off in 1992,” Duran said.
Pero la suerte estaba echada (alea jacta est).
Pino joined the CHCI as a Board member, where Duran was President and CEO. They fell in love and shortly after, in 2004, they decided they had an opportunity to become partners in life and business.
“We started our company with no money and just a few clients including Irma Maldonado, founder and CEO at HMA Associates, SODEXO, AARP and the Carnegie Corporation,” Pino shared. They were working from a virtual office with no location or funding but with a solid determination, to find ways to give back and bridge the two communities they represented, Latinos and GLBT.
At first, friends warned them about the perils of taking such an open stand. “Nobody would want to work with you in DC if you say you are a gay couple,” they told us. “There is still a great stigma in the Latino community about gay people,” they shared.
For Pino’s mother, it took a great deal of time to accept her daughter for who she was. “She blamed herself thinking she had done something wrong as a single mother,” Pino said. Duran also recalls her mom had the biggest resistance when she came out of the closet during her time in the Marine Corps. “My father, though, was always very supportive,” she said.
“Today, our moms are our biggest champions,” Duran shared. They never found resistance in their clients either, “Or at least we never knew about it,” they both laughed.
Duran and Pino’s accolades are too many to mention, including sitting at boards of the most prominent philanthropic and political national organizations that advocate for Latinos, businesses, and GLBT. In addition to their work as established lobbyists in DC, Duran and Pino have taken the road less traveled to fund and produce projects that advance several causes they deeply care for.
They established PODER PAC in 2008 as a political action committee by Latinas and for Latinas. “PODER PAC is the only national effort solely focused on increasing the number of Latinas elected to Congress. We have so far seven Latinas running for Congress in 2016 and we will support their efforts and encourage anyone who would choose to run as well,” Duran said.
Brown Beauty Productions was created by Duran and Pino to invite Latinos in the United States to tell their innovative and inspiring stories. They joined forces with Freemind Ventures and created a newco called Freemind Beauty where they have Executive Produced three documentaries for HBO, Latino List Volume 1&2 and The Out List, they also Executive Produced, The Boomer List and The Women’s List for PBS American Masters. These documentaries are part of a franchise called The Identity Project.
“We understand our calling goes beyond ourselves. We use the strength and love of our relationship in both business and as a couple to work on projects that promote positive images of our communities. We aim to achieve social justice, promote action, and inspire change through our example and our deeds,” they concluded.