By Kaya Laterman, The New York Times
In 2019, Sandra Velasquez, a longtime musician most recently with the band Pistolera, visited her family in California and realized that she needed to make a change.
There, she learned how to make soap. The recipes called for aloe vera, which she didn’t have. But her mother’s yard had plenty of nopal, a type of cactus that is also a common ingredient in Mexican cuisine. She replaced the aloe vera with nopal and was pleased with the results.
That was when Ms. Velasquez had a light bulb moment: She would start a cactus-based natural botanicals company.
“It always bothered me that there aren’t any high-end Mexican beauty products,” she said, especially considering that the latest census figures show there are 62 million Hispanic or Latino residents in the country.
She started Nopalera right before the pandemic, basing operations out of her Brooklyn home. Now her balms, exfoliants and soaps are carried in independent boutiques as well as in Nordstrom.
Ms. Velasquez, 45, lives in Kensington, Brooklyn, with her 14-year-old daughter and her partner, Sean Dixon, 45, a musician.
STRETCH, BERRIES I wake up naturally around 8 a.m. I try to warm up my body with a quick stretch, like five to 10 minutes, or whatever my trainer has taught me. Recently I’ve tried to focus on eating a healthy breakfast, nothing big, like oatmeal and berries. I’m trying to have a better morning routine, because in the past, I didn’t eat a good breakfast and I was tired all day. Like I would check emails first and then eat something and I can’t do that anymore. For the past four months, I’ve been trying to turn myself around and be on a path of good energy and brainpower.
QUICK CLEANUP I like to straighten out the house on Sunday. I don’t do a deep clean, but just want to get things out of the way. It feels better to prep the house and make it look decent.
CLARITY If it’s a nice day, I’ll go take a walk. Sometimes I wander my neighborhood or go to Green-Wood Cemetery since it’s so close. Since the pandemic, the cemetery opened up its gates near me every day, so that’s been great. It’s quiet there, with hardly any people. Usually, I’m out for about 30 minutes to an hour. Sometimes I walk and talk and record notes on my phone, but mostly I get clarity by staring at the trees.
MARKET-READY My business has expanded so quickly that I’m at the point where I need new capital so I can buy inventory. The good news is that some investors have now come to me, but they’re always asking for additional and updated information so I have to work on my pitch deck all the time.
SUCCESS SQUAD I then text with my C.E.O. squad, which involves several minority women I met during a seminar for entrepreneurs. I need to surround myself with other people in the same boat. They’re all badasses and we’re each other’s listening board. We live in different places so we’re starting to meet every few months and treat it like a retreat. The next one should be in Colorado. I’m so glad I found my “Success Squad.” They’re incredible women who keep me going.
INSIDER INFO Then I work on my newsletter. It’s for anyone who wants to know how to start a business with $1,000. I didn’t go to business school, and there are plenty of minorities, especially Latinas, that need to know how capitalism works. I have no secrets. I will let you know how I grew my business, what mistakes I made, and what I wished I knew. It’s giving people access to information, and there’s so much to tell.
TOURIST FOR THE DAY It’s time to get out of the house! I’m trying to be a tourist in my own city. I will pick a random place to go, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, because I can and I should visit it. Recently I went to Governors Island with my partner, Sean. We strolled around and took in the view. Then we had noodles for dinner in Chinatown.
PORCH DRINKS Back home in the evening, it’s time to lounge and unwind. Sometimes, I’ll have drinks on my porch; other times I watch a movie. I write in my journal and plan out my coming week. I have a “No Meeting Monday” policy at my company so I take a look at what I can get done the next day before all my meetings start on Tuesday. It’s really astonishing how I was a musician and a night owl for many years, because now it’s lights out around 10 p.m.
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