Nopales inspired Sandra Velasquez to launch her Body line

Sandra Velasquez is no stranger to standing in the spotlight. Before California’s first-generation Mexicana launched her body line, Nopalera, she was the lead singer and bandleader of the Latin alternative band Pistolera. But with the release of its product line, Velasquez has comfortably taken a back seat to allow a new star to shine – the nopal. “The nopal cactus is one of the most sustainable, regenerative, and resilient crops in the world. It can be eaten, made into textiles, and used to moisturize skin and hair,” Velasquez told POPSUGAR. Besides the plant’s versatility and regenerative qualities, there are also deep-rooted cultural ties that were important for her to highlight. “The nopal is an ancient symbol of Mexican culture. It’s literally the most Mexican plant ever,” she says, noting that it even appears on the Mexican flag. She adds: “I knew that by creating a brand around this factory, it would automatically speak to our consumer base.”

On November 2, 2020, Nopalera launched cactus soaps, an exfoliator, and a botanical bar. The cohesion of the line was intentional; Velasquez wanted to create products that all work together. She was also mindful of every ingredient, using high-quality cocoa butter and shea butter for her soaps to ensure skin was hydrated and glowing. But the nopal cactus is the main player due to its benefits and cultural symbolism. “The nopal is a cultural symbol of resilience,” says Velasquez. “He was always there and was overlooked.” In fact, she admits she almost forgot about it herself.

Nopales from the start

“Nopales are all over California. We grew up eating them,” Velasquez recalls. “They were always in the yard, and in everyone’s yard for that matter.” The plant that was in abundance throughout its upbringing was primarily a food source due to its long-lasting, nourishing and resilient qualities. Velasquez describes the nopal cactus as “the gift that keeps on giving,” not least because, unlike aloe vera, you can cut off a pad and a few weeks later a new one will sprout in its place. But it wasn’t until she came up with the idea for Nopalera that she started incorporating the nopal cactus into her beauty products.

“I knew that building a brand around this plant would immediately attract our main customer. Every Mexican or Mexican-American knows what a nopal is,” she says. “Bringing this plant/ingredient to an elevated space makes an entire community feel seen and celebrated.” Velasquez is a first-generation Latina American, who was raised by Mexican immigrant parents in the border town of San Diego. Her parents instilled cultural pride early on, and she took those lessons with her and incorporated them into the fabric of her brand. “Honestly, everything I’ve done in my adult life has been a celebration of my culture,” Velasquez says.

“There are other beauty brands that use parts of the nopal, but they call it ‘prickly pear cactus,'” she adds. “Latinos don’t call it that. By calling it by its Spanish name, we own this plant as part of our culture and own the narrative.”


For culture

Understanding its consumer was a top priority for Velasquez when creating Nopalera. Instead of making the products first, she decided to focus on the consumer base and build her body line based on their needs and wants while putting culture and environment at the forefront of the brand. . “Our nopal is wild-crafted in Mexico,” she says, adding that all products are made with a high concentration of butter and vegetable oils and are free of synthetic fragrances. Creating deeply hydrating products was a priority, and so was planet Earth. “I wanted to be environmentally conscious. That’s why I created the Botanical Bar to replace plastic lotion bottles,” says Velasquez. Additionally, this Latino entrepreneur wants other Latinas to feel luxurious and dignified and have a sense of pride when they see Nopalera. In fact, Velasquez’s celebration of Latin excellence began with itself.

Invest, rise and shine

Velasquez’s belief in herself was really what launched Nopalera. Despite the obstacles she faced, her unwavering focus kept her in tune with the steps she needed to take to achieve her goals. “One of my first investments was in myself. I enrolled in formulation school and formulated my products to meet the Credo Clean standard, which is the highest in the country,” says -she. “I had no money when I started Nopalera. I did everything on my Amex card for a year. I didn’t know how to find investors either.” But that hasn’t stopped her, and she wants others to know that it shouldn’t stop them from pursuing their dreams either.

“My advice is to start with the end in mind and work backwards,” she says. “Decide who you’re making this product for and where you want to sell it. Then you work backwards on branding and pricing.” Velasquez suggests having a list of questions about your potential consumers and competitors that you answer before you begin creating and launching your product or brand. It also emphasizes the importance of the quality of the people around you.

“Get a team that likes to see you win,” she says. “Put yourself into new rooms to expand your network. You have to commit to growth even if it’s uncomfortable.” Nopalera offers everything from its Original Moisturizing Botanical Bar ($30) to soaps like Planta Futura Cactus Soap ($14), body scrubs like Mandarina Cactus Flower Scrub ($32), packets, and Moreover. Nopalera is currently sold at Nordstrom, Credo Beauty, Free People, Thirteen Moon, Whole Foods New York and over 350 stores nationwide. Wherever it sells, the core element of the brand is its culture, which has been the driving force behind all of Velasquez’s creations.

“Even when I was a musician, I only sang in Spanish and used music as a cultural storytelling platform to celebrate and uplift my community,” she says. “I always do that, just with a different brush.”

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