In May, Valdé Beauty announced the launch of an annual grant program aimed at supporting and mentoring fellow Latinx beauty brands. The prize includes $200K worth of consulting services and a $10K cash grant, as well as an e-commerce launch with polycultural online platform Thirteen Lune.
The semifinalists chosen were Nopalera, Osquo Skincare, and Vive Cosmetics, with Nopalera chosen as the Latinx Beauty Entrepreneur Grant at the end of last month. The winning brand, founded by Sandra Velasquez, derives its name from the nopal cactus, a resilient and versatile crop which inspired the strong beauty approach of the bath and body brand. Osquo Skincare, founded by Danielle Kar, is focused on inclusive OTC acne care, promoting inclusivity of solutions for all skin types and identities, supporting mental health entreprises such as Saddie Baddies and the National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network (NQTTCN). Vive Cosmetics, founded by Leslie Valdivia and Joanna Rosario Rocha, is focused on uplifting and highlighting the diverse nature of the Latina and Latinx community.
BeautyMatter sat down with all four brand founders to discuss the critical importance of funding opportunities, the challenges of entrepreneurship, and their future ambitions.
How would you describe your journey within the Latinx Beauty Entrepreneur Grant thus far?
Sandra Velasquez: The Valde Latinx pitch grant has been a great experience so far. I love that they selected three finalists instead of more, because it’s allowed us to have a personal experience. Margarita [Arriagada, founder of Valdé Beauty] has taken all of us under her wing and in that sense, we are all winners. The money is just the cherry on top.
Danielle Kar: I spent part of my childhood in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, with my grandparents, and both of my parents immigrated to the US with the hope of giving myself and my brothers a chance to pursue the “American Dream.” Growing up, it was hard for me to envision myself where I am today—a Cornell University graduate and now the founder of Osquo, an acne care company. I didn’t see myself represented in entrepreneurship and never thought it’d one day be accessible to me.
I’m so inspired by Margarita’s journey and her commitment to not only amplify emerging Latinx founders but also provide resources and mentorship. The Latinx Beauty Entrepreneurship Grant couldn’t have come to Osquo at a better time. To this date, I have bootstrapped the company. As I gear up to fundraise my first round, I’m so excited to bring on partners and advisors to take Osquo to the next step. Margarita has made so many invaluable introductions, and being a part of this experience has already proven to be a catalyst!
Leslie Valdivia & Joanna Rosario Rocha: It's been incredible to feel really supported, especially by Margarita, all along the way. It's not really that common to be surrounded by a really supportive group of Latinas in beauty, and this opportunity has allowed us to connect in new ways we haven't before.
If chosen, how would you use the funds and consulting services to further evolve your brand?
SV: If selected, these funds would go towards new product innovation we are working on now. As a bootstrapped brand, I’m used to taking the first steps towards building before I know where the money is going to come from to pay the bill. Money aside, the resources the grant has provided are incredibly valuable. Being a beauty outsider, access to new partnerships is worth gold. Margarita is a forward-thinking entrepreneur. Resources like Revo, and trusted formulation houses, are going to help us shape our future.
DK: At Osquo, we create science-backed and evidence-based OTC acne care essentials formulated with clinically vetted and FDA-approved ingredients. Our core operating principles are inclusivity, efficacy, accessibility, and sustainability. The goal is simple: empower self-expression and healthy skin for all.
We know that dermatology is the second-least inclusive medical field; less than 4% of dermatologists are Hispanic and less than 3% are Black. Historically, dermatological clinical trials are not skin tone inclusive, and we aren’t seeing companies making the investment in bridging that gap. Our goal is to bring equity and inclusion to acne care by way of skin tone-inclusive pre-market testing. We won’t be perfect from the outset, but the goal is to start the conversation and shift the industry to think about inclusivity before going to market.
We just kicked off our beta trial for our first three products, and had over 1,000 people organically sign up to participate after we shared the link with our 24K+ TikTok followers. We’ve tried our best to go beyond the Fitzpatrick scale and recruit a diverse group of participants to collect testimonials. The funds of this grant would go towards funding our first clinical trial so that we can substantiate product claims and testimonials with inclusive data points.
The consulting services and mentorship opportunities granted by the program will help Osquo get ready for launch in Q1 of 2023. We hope to launch to market with an anchor retail partner and share our story far and wide prior to launch so that we can educate consumers on what our mission, vision, and purpose is. The mentorship opportunities would be invaluable and would set us up early on for success! The dream is for Osquo to scale sustainably so that we can serve anyone who experiences acne for decades to come.
LV & JRR: Our plan for the $10K grant is to split it in half to focus on two marketing strategies. We would use $5K to leverage a strategic paid Google search and shop campaign, as we know Google is our biggest site conversion channel and we’ve yet to invest any paid advertising on that platform. The other $5K would be used to create an influencer engagement program with guidance from Bonita Project, being that they are Latina owned and would understand how to effectively and authentically reach our community.
What are your hopes for the future of Latinx-owned beauty?
SV: Latinx beauty is not a fad or a moment in time, contrary to what some may believe. It is beautiful, rich, complex, and deserves a permanent place on retail shelves next to other legacy brands from Western Europe. Latinx is our perspective, it is who we are celebrating, but beautiful high-quality products are for everyone. Even in the darkest times—in a pandemic or recession—we all need art and aspiration.
DK: I hope to see more Latinx-owned beauty brands funded by venture capital and on the shelves of retailers, reaching new audiences. I’m excited to be alongside and meet the next generation of Latinx entrepreneurs taking risks, challenging the status quo, and reimagining a better future across categories such as beauty, personal care, and healthcare.
I’m inspired by so many Latinx-owned beauty companies, and one that I particularly admire is Ceremonia, founded by Babba Rivera. Ceremonia is a haircare company that celebrates Latinx haircare rituals. I love their Aceite de Moska—it’s given me the shiniest, healthiest hair ever! I love it so much because it reminds me of when my abuelito would grab a bottle of castor oil and oil his hair nightly. Ceremonia uses a lot of ingredients that are native to Latin America, supporting local economies. I’m optimistic and excited for what the future holds for Latinx beauty brands and founders.
LV & JRR: There are not nearly enough investments and funding opportunities for Latina beauty founders and companies, despite the immense economic contributions and trends we contribute to this space. We hope this Valdé grant competition is only the beginning of many more investments that need to happen for our community.
We hope corporate exes and VC folks start to wake up and realize our community's power, because it's only going to grow in the future. We are the future.
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