Nopalera makes a line of latino-inspired bath and beauty products, using the Mexican Nopal cactus as its star ingredient. Will this prickly luxury bath and beauty brand be able to convince a Shark to join them in elevating the cactus to the top of the luxury market? Read our Nopalera Shark Tank update to learn more about this sticky matter.
What is Nopalera?
Nopalera is a company which manufactures a latino-inspired line of bath and beauty products, which use Mexico’s Nopal cactus as the primary ingredient. The company is located in New York, New York.
The company states that precious oils are carefully extracted from the seeds of the Nopal cactus’ fruit, then boldly blended with other natural butters to help you achieve a hydrated cleanse and lasting body moisture. True to tradition, they use the whole of the cactus, including the outer skin of nopales for a more refined skin texture.
Who created Nopalera?
Nopalera was founded by Sandra Velasquez, whose parents had immigrated to the US from Mexico. She was raised in southern California near the Mexican border, and Sandra studied music at the California Institute of the Arts. She moved from California to New York City in order to pursue a career in music, and she did have some success in the music business, as she wrote a number of songs in Spanish that helped her celebrate and elevate her culture. She recorded several albums, and she toured with big-name acts including Los Lobos and Lila Downs.
However, while she continued to play music part time, in order to pay the bills in New York, Sandra also worked as a sales representative for several consumer products goods companies. She gained experience in the consumer goods market, and in 2020, she decided to launch the high-end, latino-inspired brand Nopalera.
How did Nopalera get started?
According to an interview Nopalera founder Sandra Velasquez gave to the San Diego Union-Tribune, in 2019 Velasquez made a significant change in her career. After a 14-year tenure as lead singer for an alternative latin music band, Velasquez, who, years before, had moved from San Diego to Brooklyn in pursuit of a music career, visited her parent’s home in California. Her visit was during the summer and Velasquez was between jobs.
Since 2016, Sandra had been working with consumer packaged goods brands, and she had learned a bit of what it was like to build a brand. In 2019, she was unemployed and curious, and she became interested in making stuff, particularly soap. During her visit with parents in San Diego, she told her daughter, “We’re going to make stuff. We’re going to learn how to infuse oils and make lotion bars.”
While Sandra and her daughter were experimenting with making craft soaps during their time in San Diego, she discovered a main ingredient for her new hobby, the prickly pear cactus, or nopalera, in Spanish. She told the San Diego newspaper that after arriving back in New York, a year later, “I realized I could build a high-end brand around this plant that I had grown up with my whole life, a sustainable and regenerative and culturally relevant brand.”
Sandra spent a year creating formulas for body soaps and scrubs from her Brooklyn apartment, and from this work, she decided that she would create a new, vegan, cruelty-free line of bath and beauty products made with prickly pear oil, shea butter, and other natural ingredients.
Sandra also told the San Diego Union-Tribune that she used her American Express card as capital for the costs of formulation school, branding, packaging and other business-related expenses, so she was able to create a bootstrapped business with zero money and zero savings.
What happened to Nopalera before Shark Tank?
After creating formulas for her cactus-based beauty and bath products, Nopalera founder Sandra Velasquez began to work on the business in 2019, and she launched her first products in the middle of the Covid pandemic in late 2020. The company had $19k in sales in 2020, but in 2021, her first full year in business, Nopalera had $617k in revenues.
At the time of taping the company’s Shark Tank episode, the company was on track to produce $1 million in revenues for 2022. They were selling their products both online, direct-to-consumer, and wholesaling into retail stores, with Nopalera products available in Nordstrom, Credo Beauty, Free People, and in over 350 boutiques throughout the country.
During her pitch in the Tank, Sandra told the Sharks that she had meetings scheduled with the two largest beauty retailers in the US and that the company had also attracted interest from international distributors; however, at present, they did not yet have the infrastructure in place to service the international business prospects. At the time of Sandra’s Shark Tape taping, she was confident that the company was about to experience a tidal wave of growth.
What do customers think of Nopalera?
Nopalera sells direct-to-consumer both on the company website and on Amazon; they have a fully-developed Amazon store with a number of bath and beauty products listed. We examined all of the products and discovered that the company’s Nopalera Flor de Mayo Botanical Lotion Bar had the most customer reviews, so we took a dive into these reviews to see what customers had to say.
The Botanical Lotion Bar is one of the company’s most unique products, as it is a skin moisturizer in the form of a bar, rather than a liquid, eliminating the need for all of the water used in a traditional moisturizer, thus, also eliminating the need for a plastic bottle.
With 222 Amazon customer ratings, the Nopalera Lotion Bar has an average rating of 3.6 out of 5 stars. 58% of customers rate the product at 4 or 5 stars, while a full 25% of purchasers give the Lotion Bar only 1 or 2 stars.
What are customers saying about Nopalera?
Concerning Nopalera’s Flor de Mayo Botanical Lotion Bar, one happy verified Amazon purchaser wrote, “I loved everything about this product. I would definitely buy again. Reminds me of when I used to buy Palmers cocoa butter in the stick. I actually like this better.”
Another satisfied Amazon customer wrote, “I love the Nopalera Moisturizing Bar and use it after every shower. The light citrus scent is nice and the bar glides on after a bit of warm up on the skin. The moisture it provides lasts for hours and feels rich when applied. This bar not only does the job, it’s a breeze to travel with. I hope over time the price gets a little better.”
With 25% of Amazon ratings for the product at only 1 or 2 stars, we did expect to find some negative comments. One irritated Amazon purchaser declared, “After one application of this product I broke out in hives, and two weeks later I am still dealing with the itching and scratching if I don’t take a daily dose of benadryl. So be sure to test first on a small patch of skin.”
Another somewhat dissatisfied customer said that she wanted to love the Moisturizing Bar, but she wrote, “I bought this product after seeing it on Shark Tank. I had some high hopes, but I am not sure how this moisturizing bar is supposed to work. I love the scent, but I can’t get it to melt into my hands in order to put on my body. It seems to be ‘dry’ even though my hands are sliding over the bar-it just does not transfer to my skin well.”
Some of the other Nopalera products on Amazon had higher ratings, but we believed that it was most fair to take a look at the product which had the greatest number of ratings on the site.
When did Nopalera appear on Shark Tank?
Nopalera appeared on Shark Tank in Season 14, Episode 12, which aired on January 20, 2023. This episode featured regular Sharks Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Kevin O’Leary, and Daymond John, along with repeat Guest Shark Daniel Lubetzky, founder of snack company Kind.
Nopalera appeared in Shark Tank’s 14th Season, which featured many successful companies, including outdoor brand Kinfield.
What happened to Nopalera on Shark Tank?
Nopalera founder Sandra Velasquez entered the Tank and asked the Sharks for a $300k investment in return for a 5% equity stake in her company.
Sandra started her pitch by telling the Sharks that she was born and raised in southern California to Mexican immigrant parents, and she remembered that growing up there were ‘nopales’ everywhere. She explained to the Sharks that a nopal was a cactus, and that the plant is very versatile because you can eat it, make textiles from it, use it to hydrate your skin, and cleanse your skin and hair.
After a career in both alternative latino music and working as a sales rep for a number of consumer goods product companies in New York, Sandra told the Sharks that she decided to return to the plant of her youth, the most Mexican plant ever, the cactus, to create Nopalera, a luxury brand of Mexican botanicals for bath and body using the nopal as the star ingredient. Sandra declared that her goal with Nopalera was to celebrate and elevate latino culture and change the perception of latin goods while inspiring her community to stand in their worth.
Next, the Sharks began to examine the Nopalera products which were in front of them, and one product, the moisturizing bar, seemed to garner a lot of attention. Guest Shark Daniel Lubetzky, founder of snack company Kind, held up the bar and asked Sandra what it was. Sandra told him that it contained sage and eucalyptus, and it was a solid-body moisturizer, which replaced liquid moisturizers that were packaged in plastic because they contained so much water.
Lori Greiner, Daymond John, and Daniel Lubetzky were all very impressed with the moisturizing bar and declared that they loved the idea of putting liquid moisturizer in a high-quality dry bar. Lori then asked Sandra to tell the Sharks about her background, and Sandra told them about her career in latin music and working as a sales rep in New York.
Sandra also told the Sharks that a couple of summers prior to her appearance in the Tank, she found herself between jobs, with student loan debt, credit card debt, and a child to raise, and that she knew that the only way to change her life was to create something bigger, not go back to work for a company that wasn’t going to pay her enough, so she enrolled in Formulation School, and then started to work on developing the cactus-based products for Nopalera.
Kevin O’Leary decided that it was time to get to the numbers, so he asked, “What are your sales?” Kevin learned that Nopalera launched in late 2020 during the Covid pandemic and did only $19k in sales that year, but in its first full year in business, 2021, the company had $607k in sales, and they were projecting $1 million for 2022.
Daniel then inquired where the sales were coming from, and Sandra replied that their sales were 50% direct-to-consumer and 50% wholesale. She also revealed the Nopalera products were available in Nordstrom, Credo Beauty, Free People, and over 350 boutiques across the US.
Daniel followed up by telling Sandra that going from launch to $600k in sales was impressive, but he thought that Sandra’s $6 million valuation for a Shark investment was hard to justify. Sandra indicated that her valuation included the fact that she was scheduled to meet with both of the two top beauty retailers in the US within the next month, and that she had interest from international retailers, but she couldn’t yet entertain these offers, as the company wasn’t ready yet operationally for international business.
The Sharks now appeared to be getting restless, and some of them were ready to reveal their thoughts about investment in this thorny enterprise.
Did Nopalera get a deal on Shark Tank?
Nopalera did not get a deal on Shark Tank. Despite receiving multiple offers from the Sharks, Nopalera founder Sandra Velasquez chose to walk out of the tank without a new partner.
Daymond John showed his hand first, as he told Sandra, “I have two beautiful daughters that are half latina; I love your mission, but I would have to ask so much that at the end of the day, it would compromise why you started.” Lori Greiner followed Daymond to the exit as she said, “Your mission is great, your intention, your heart, it’s a great business for you, but it’s not investable for me.”
Mark Cuban also bowed out, saying, “What you’ve accomplished is amazing, but the valuation to what I can probably add is really high.”
Daniel Lubetzky then told Sandra that she was very impressive and that she was a good ambassador for their latino people, but he also explained that he had a personal trauma with this product category, as he once founded a company which made dead sea minerals and soaps, and he took all of his life’s savings and put it into inventory for the products. He said that he had all of these products stored in his small studio apartment, but he couldn’t get rid of the inventory, along with the strong odors associated with it, so he couldn’t have anyone over to his place for many years.
O’Leary was the last Shark swimming, and he told Sandra that he was really impressed with her, but the company simply wasn’t worth $6 million, so he offered her $300k for 30% of the business. Hearing this offer, Daniel immediately spoke up and said, “I was going to make you a Sharky offer, but I decided not to, but if you are going to consider offers like that, then, I’m gonna make you an offer. From your numbers, the best I can do is $300k for 25%.”
Sandra reminded the Sharks that this brand was about self worth, and after a brief back and forth with Mr. Wonderful, she told Daniel that she could not get to 25%. She said that they were in the middle of raising capital. O’Leary then asked Sandra what she could counter to either of them, and she said, “It’s 10% for $600k.”
Even though he was not involved in the negotiations, Daymond John reacted strongly to this offer, saying, “that’s the exact same thing you came in here asking for, that’s not negotiation.” This comment then led to the Sharks arguing about the need to negotiate in the Tank.
Sandra responded to all of the comments about negotiating by saying, “My ancestors are whispering in my ear, and they’re saying, ‘don’t undervalue yourself.’” Daniel reacted to this comment by saying, “You gotta always listen to your god and your ancestors. We wish you the best, and we’ll buy your product.”
Nopalera Shark Tank update, what happened after Shark Tank?
Despite the fact that Nopalera did not get a deal on Shark Tank, the company was able to find additional investment. Nopalera closed an oversubscribed $2.7 million seed round at a $10 million post-money valuation. L’Attitude Ventures led the round with the participation of six angel investors, and with this latest round of investment, founder Sandra Velasquez, retained 60% equity in the company.
The trade publication Beauty Matter reports that after the new fundraising, Sandra said, “Now we are really going to be able to play in the arena I want to play in. Having capital in the bank allows us to go and pursue the retailers we want to partner with and grow our national presence. That’s really hard without capital. If you see a brand in Sephora that’s self-funded, that means they are already rich. You can’t bootstrap your way into Sephora without starting with something.”
Since the taping of its Shark Tank episode, Nopalera has continued to grow, and Beauty Matter reports that it could hit $5 million in sales in 2023, with the brand’s revenue still evenly split between wholesale and direct-to-consumer sales.
Even without a Shark on board, it appears that the future is bright for this latino-inspired, cactus-based venture.