March 6, 2023
Episode 4

Sandra Velasquez from Nopalera

In this episode, we meet Sandra Velasquez, the founder, and CEO of Nopalera.

Nopalera is a Mexican botanical for bath & body. In this episode, we learn how Sandra built her brand from scratch, why she turned down two offers in Shark Tank, and the mission behind her successful brand.

In this episode, we meet Sandra Velasquez, the founder, and CEO of Nopalera.Nopalera is a Mexican botanical for bath & body. 

In this episode, we learn how Sandra built her brand from scratch, why she turned down two offers in Shark Tank, and the mission behind her successful brand.

What is the story behind Nopalera?

I wasn’t planning on becoming an entrepreneur. I was the lead singer of a Latin alternative band called Pistolera and thought being a professional musician was what I was supposed to do in life. As a performer, I learned to celebrate my culture and how to tell stories. This became the mission behind Nopalera.

How did you prepare to launch the brand?

I listened to podcasts, read a lot of books, learned the skills that were needed and most importantly I started by beginning with the end in mind. I’m a big fan of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. When you begin with the end in mind, you can work backward to achieve the goal. I wanted to build a high-end Latina brand that will be sold through premium retailers. I specifically focused on what the brand would look like, ingredient panel, price point, and packaging and worked backward to achieve that. 

How did selecting Bath & Body create opportunity for the brand?

There is less competition in bath & body. Everyone wants to build a skincare brand. Skincare targets the face, and bath & body target everything below the neck. This provided the opportunity and I like being practical. I wanted to focus on daily use items such as soaps, scrubs, and lotions. 

 Tell us more about Nopalera brand and your mission

I wanted to build a Latina brand from the beginning. When you look at the packaging you can say that it’s a Latina brand. I put the name in Spanish because I wanted to disrupt a historically Eurocentric category. So many brands have French and Italian names and even American brands give themselves French names. 

I asked why there aren’t more brands with Spanish names. It felt like a calling when I got the idea and I knew that I had to do it. Nopal, in English, is called the prickly pear cactus and is not a new ingredient. It is even on the Mexican flag and has been around for thousands of years. Mexicans have historically eaten it as a fruit. I wanted to bring it to the forefront and ensure that it is owned by a Latina.

How do you share the Nopalera brand point of view?

Core values and messaging are a critical foundation a brand. I spent a lot of time pre-launch defining the brand voice and what we stand for. Like what we would say or what we wouldn’t say. It’s all documented and everyone at Nopalera knows. Anyone on our team can post on social media because they know the brand voice. 

Define your core values and what you stand for. This foundation is important for any brand. What is the brand voice, and what does it say and not say? When you are clear about your core values anyone in your company can make a post on social media in line with your brand voice.

What was the your launch process like?

I launched DTC on our website. We immediately got wholesale orders. My foundational work which included running advertisements, building an email list, and studying the customers helped our customers to find us. 

On the day that we launched, Beauty Independent ran a feature article announcing the launch of Nopalera. During the first week of launching, I was approached by a sales manager, with 18 years of sales experience in luxury goods. Her taking over the wholesale inquiries resulted in us collaborating with 300 boutiques that year. In addition to applications, our manager contacted other brands. The stores actually came to us, because we built the foundation first which resulted in us being a brand magnet to these stores.

What does distribution look like now?

Our business is 50% wholesale and 50% DTC. 75% of wholesale businesses come from boutiques. You need to be very clear about how and why you use your wholesalers.  Why do you want to use a particular wholesaler, for credibility, name recognition, or revenue? You need to know the purpose behind that relationship.

What is the strategy behind the current channels that you use?

With DTC we want to build the community and we do that by getting the email addresses. The boutique is for brand awareness. We are very selective about the boutiques we choose. Amazon as a channel is incredibly useful, and we got in because of Shark Tank and had over 3000 orders from Amazon because of Shark Tank. We use bigger retailers like Nordstrom and Credo for credibility. When you are in Credo Beauty people know that you have the highest ingredient standards. Each channel has a different purpose.

What was Shark Tank like?

It's like a part-time job. You have to invest a lot of your time and energy. I applied in March without a single connection and had several auditions. They check whether you are a good fit for TV. You can film an episode and it may not air, because some people are not good on TV. It’s a risk you will have to take. I looked at it as playing a gig and an opportunity to tell the world what the brand is about. I was offered two deals and I turned them down. 

Two months later, I was able to raise 2.7 million, whereas on Shark Tank, I was offered $300K for 30% of my company. When you know your value, you can stand in it. Always know that there are more opportunities and just because someone is offering you something you do not have to say yes. I went in with the mindset that I was the opportunity, if someone didn’t want it, it was their loss.  

The importance of mindset

I spent my 20s and 30s paycheck to paycheck simply surviving. My father used to pick fruit and my mother was a Mexican immigrant. They have done well and live good lives but, in our community, money is considered a tool to survive and if your basics are covered you do not need more money. I had to identify these thoughts, and we inherit these beliefs from our parents. I realized that I needed to change my beliefs about money and my worth. It took a lot of work, hanging out with different people, learning, and joining the mastermind. This is still a continuous process for me. People are shamed when they don’t have money and people are shamed when they do have money. You have to become the version of yourself who has money. I now see it as an energetic tool, I see money as limitless and infinite. We assign meaning to money; without us money means nothing. Money always comes back to you so always invest in yourself to change your mindset and your life.

Lightning round

Favorite omnichannel brand

Tower 28

Thing you wish you could change about our industry


Favorite podcast

How I Built This with Guy Raz

Favorite newsletter

The Entrepreneur Newsletter

Favorite social media channel


Favorite book

Good to Great by Jim Collins

Favorite event you are planning on going to this year

L'ATTITUDE, a Latino business conference

Where can our listeners connect with you?