At 45 Sandra Velasquez Created Nopalera, The First Latina Body Care Brand Sold At Nordstrom
After reading a success story, we can easily discard it and tell ourselves, “that’s incredible, but that could never happen to me.” But the reality is that you too can make it happen. With dedication and discipline to execute a clear idea – the next success story can be yours, and that’s exactly what happened to Sandra Velasquez, the owner of Nopalera’s Mexican botanicals for bath and body. In a short time, Nopalera became the first Latinx body care brand to be showcased on Nordstorm shelves.
It was the summer of 2019 when Velasquez decided she needed change. After being a musician for 15 years and living in Brooklyn, New York, for most of her adult life, she knew that she wanted something more for herself: higher quality of life. So, that’s exactly what she aimed for.
She decided to take that summer off to head back to her roots, back to San Diego, Calif., where she grew up. In doing so, she picked up a new skill: soap making. That’s when everything started coming together for her. In between eating nopales, and being surrounded by her Latinx culture, Velasquez started to experiment with her formula by mixing cacti that grew in her parents’ house. She quickly saw this as more than a hobby and enrolled in formulation school. Eventually, she landed a part-time sales job in boutiques and that’s when she started noticing the lack of Latinx representation in high-end beauty products.
“Why are there no beautiful Latina-owned high-end brands on the shelves? We are such a huge population in this country,” Velasquez asks FIERCE.
With no debt on her credit cards, Velasquez knew it was the time to make a move and used that lingering thought as inspiration. “It was really just a moment – I decided to start this company. I was like I know that I can do it well. I have resources, I know designers, I understand how sales work, and if anyone’s going to do it it’s going to be me. And it’s going to be called Nopalera. So I decided to launch and create this brand before the pandemic happened.”
The launch of the brand wasn’t easy, but with the slow down of the pandemic, she used the time to blueprint her distinctive vision. From the intentional name that represents cultural symbolism, resilience and versatility, to the packaging that features copy in Spanish descriptions, Velasquez was ready to put her culture on high-end shelves. “I told my designer, we are making a high-end Latina brand that screams we’re proud and badass to be Latina, and it has to be colorful and it has to be able to sit on the shelves of a premium retailer.” And so she did.
Now, Velasquez had to find a way to make it all work. After all, she is a mother, too. “My recommendation to anyone else that is a mom and also wants to build a business is, you need help. You cannot try to do everything yourself. And I think sometimes we sometimes glorify doing it all, but I’m not doing it all. Make a list of all of the things that you do in a day, and the things you do that have nothing to do with succeeding in business—and get rid of them, outsource them,” Velasquez tells FIERCE.
After a long process of designing her Nopalera brand, of calls, and of sending samples, Velasquez and her sales rep finally got the call to be part of the first Latinx body care brand to launch in Nordstrom, as part of their Hispanic Heritage Month. Just what she envisioned for her brand.
“I don’t want people to hear success stories and be like ‘wow that must be like a special case’. No, I am not a special case; the only thing I did was that I decided that I was going to do it, and every single day I worked towards it. And it took time. It took me working three jobs and not going out, not doing fun things, but I committed to what I wanted for my end goal. I’m 45 years old and I still started in the middle of a pandemic, because I decided that this life that I’m living right now is not good enough,” Velasquez tells FIERCE. “A lot of Latina entrepreneurs don’t dream big enough. We all get confined by our existing realities and what we think is possible—and now, Nopalera is going to hit half a million in sales for 2021.”