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A Latin American Game’s Remarkable Journey to US Target Stores (2024)

by California Digital News

Founder Mike Alfaro played his cards just right. He started a side project called Millennial Lotería, designing modernized versions of a traditional card game played in Latin America.

At the time, Mike was still working a full-time job in advertising, but invested $20,000 of his savings into the first production run of 1,000 sets of the game. It sold out in four days. “I was like, ‘Whoa, OK, there’s a big demand for this out there,’” he says.

That’s when Mike decided to pursue Millennial Lotería full time. His journey as a business owner has opened the door for other opportunities as an influencer, advertising creative director, and children’s book author.

Learning on the job

Mike didn’t exactly set out to be an entrepreneur, but he was gaining all the skills he needed in his advertising career. He learned how to build a brand and shoot commercials—things he does regularly for Millennial Lotería. Even the designers and the first manufacturer he worked with came from his advertising connections.

A set of Millennial Loteria cards and coins fanned out on a pink background
Mike works with several artists that he met through advertising to help design Millennial Lotería. Millennial Lotería

As Millennial Lotería grew and started doing partnerships with McDonald’s, Disney, and other brands, Mike’s previous work experience came in handy. “Because I spoke that language of advertising and marketing, knowing how to deal with clients, meeting deadlines, I think it was an easy transition for me to work with studios and different agencies,” he says.

Focusing on his strengths

Mike has always been more interested in the creative aspects of the business, so when a publisher approached him to license Millennial Lotería, he jumped at the opportunity to delegate. “I don’t have to worry about when shipments are arriving from Colombia to the US and all that kind of stuff,” he says. The publisher also helps facilitate partnerships with retailers.

Mike has thought of the licensing agreement as a way to generate passive income from the game. It has also allowed him to focus on the aspects of the business that he enjoyed, like coming up with new versions of Millennial Lotería.

A Millenial Loteria card called La Student Debt
Because of his licensing agreement, Mike can focus on what he does best: designing characters for his game.

Representation matters

Mike created an exclusive family-friendly version of Millennial Lotería to sell at Target. He says working with the retail chain is a full-circle moment. 

Mike remembers feeling foreign when he first walked into Target, after arriving in the US for college from Guatemala. He hopes other Latino immigrants will see Millennial Lotería on the shelves and feel differently. “Maybe they’ll feel more like, ‘Hey, this is a place where I belong,’” he says.

Mike was so proud of the partnership with Target that he posted a TikTok about his journey getting there, which went viral. Soon, the game started selling out at Target stores across the nation.

Mike thinks social media engagement comes down to being authentic. “Brands pay millions of dollars to advertising agencies to make their brands feel more human online,” he says. “I think that for small business owners, it is just easy to just be human.”

Using business to fuel a career

The success of Millennial Lotería led to more freelance advertising work for Mike as well. “People started to also follow me as a creator, not just as the brand,” he says. 

His collaborations with different companies on Millennial Lotería have been such positive experiences that these brands invited him back to work on other projects, including advertising trailer concepts.

Mike also is now writing bilingual children’s books, which he sees as the next step in helping Latino children, like his own daughter, feel represented. “Hopefully that love translates to other people and their kids and seeing that excitement that these books will bring to bilingual Spanish-English education,” he says.

To learn more about Millennial Lotería and Mike’s multifaceted career, listen to the full interview on Shopify Masters.

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