by Fatima Khan·
Napolera founder, Sandra tells us about her botanical products created from one of the most sustainable plants - the nopal cactus bush.
Tell us about your journey and how you founded Nopalera
Nopalera is the name of the nopal cactus bush. The nopal is an ancient symbol of Mexico. It is even on the Mexican flag. It is the most sustainable, versatile, and resilient crop in the world. Not only do we use different parts of the nopal in our products but we are also inspired by its resilience. It is why our tagline is Resilience Is Beauty.
I was raised by Mexican immigrant parents near the USA/Mexico border. Nopales grow everywhere in Southern California. We cut them from our front yard and use them as food. They are amazing for your health. I was visiting my family in the summer of 2019 and had a light bulb moment while sitting at the table eating my nopales for breakfast: why weren't there more elevated beauty products that celebrated Latino culture on retail shelves? Why was aloe vera so commonly used in bath products but not nopal? At the time, I was learning how to make soap and had enrolled in Formula Botanica's Organic Skincare Diploma program. I felt almost a responsibility to create the brand. I wanted it to be beautiful and practical, but also make a statement about culture. There is a deep sense of Euro-centrism in the United States which perpetuates the belief that things from Western Europe are better. People are happy to pay more for things if they are from France and Italy but expect things from south of the border to be cheap. Nopalera was created to change that narrative. It is also a statement for any culture that is overlooked by a dominant culture.
Please tell us about Nopalera’s values
Our four core company values are: (1) Celebrate and elevate Latino culture (2)Believe in yourself (3) Be proud of where you come from (4)Open doors for others. Before I create a product I take its environmental footprint into consideration. This is why I chose to make bar soap instead of bottled soap. It's why our moisturizing botanical bar comes in a recyclable tin and why our exfoliant comes in glass.
What has been your biggest challenge as a female founder and how have you overcome it?
I believe that being a Spanish speaking female is actually my superpower in this industry. I don't see it as slowing me down or holding me back. I am fortunate because I have a sales background from my day job, so I understand business math, margins, and setting up systems for success. My ultimate goal is to make my company successful so I can help other founders build their own business and be independent.
Where is your vision for Nopalera in the next 5-10 years?
Nopalera is my dream project. I want to build a platform with my brand that goes beyond making products. I want to build Nopalera into a successful brand so I can ultimately create grants, scholarships, and mentoring opportunities for other women of color owned businesses. In the immediate future, I am working to transfer manufacturing over to a co-packer and engage with some larger retail clients.
What is your vision for a sustainable future?
My personal dream is to live off grid. I have actually already begun. I purchased land in an off-grid community in California where I will eventually move to in four years when my daughter finishes high school in New York. My plan is to build a sustainable home. As a society we need to normalize sustainability and make it more accessible and easy to incorporate into daily life. It should not be something reserved for the rich.
What do you think we need to do support a sustainable and regenerative future?
Eliminate single use plastic. Wear your clothes longer. Use solar energy.
Your top three recommendations for anyone looking to venture into or learn more about sustainability
I think all you have to do is picture yourself in a room with every shampoo bottle you have ever used in your life and know they will be on earth longer than you. If that doesn't prompt you to make a change, no book or film will.
Advice for other female founders on this International women’s day
Play big. Release your limiting beliefs and money issues. The more money you make the more people you can help. Staying small and just getting by does not make an impact.
Advice for other sustainable business?
Meet people where they are and make sustainability easy for them to incorporate into their lives.