Learn how Sarita Lopez, Owner/Founder of The Cactus Water Co. prioritizes sustainability while creating and packaging her consumer product.
The Cactus Water Co. won second place in the 2021 WBENCPitch: Sustainability pitch competition. The pitch competition was designed to highlight the most innovative business solutions focused on sustainability across the WBENC network. Sustainability is defined as the processes and actions that help to avoid the depletion of natural/environmental, social and economic resources.
Growing up, my parents were the weird hippies who sent me to sleepovers with Tom’s toothpaste and presents wrapped in newspaper. Clothing that sported too many spots of wear and tear were cut up and made into rags. As a kid, I was always so embarrassed! I didn’t know it then, but as I grew older, my folks would become my blueprint into a life of sustainability. Multiple compost piles and all.
I left my cubicle and corporate America in 2014 to move back home. My parents were lucky enough to have bought a few acres of land in Napa Valley, before Napa became what it is today. The plan was to start an organic farm, where I could harvest before the sun rose and sell my delicious goods at markets and to restaurants. My kale struggled with aphids, my tomatoes nibbled at by squirrels, but the one plant variety I never had to worry about were my prickly pear cactus plants.
As a Hispanic in California, I was familiar with Nopales (AKA the prickly pear cactus paddles/plants) but I didn’t start researching their history or benefits until I decided to start selling the paddles at my local farmer’s markets. I was amazed at what I discovered. Mesoamericans had consumed Nopales for centuries, both for food and medicine. In modern times, there have been studies with amazing results showing how this cactus might help lower bad cholesterol, improve digestion, help aid those with diabetes and even clear up skin ailments. I was soon spending hours every week, cutting off paddles and skinning them and every Fridy and Saturday I would have a line of customers, all wanting to buy the paddles. I heard story after story of how this cactus was making people feel better and I too became a believer when I began incorporating the paddles into my diet. My digestion felt great and my eczema wasn’t as angry. Plus, new paddles grew back quickly without any water needed. I also found that while the prickly pears would be picked at by birds, the paddles themselves remained pest-free.
When my first market ended, I decided to connect with my local Small Business Development Center to see what type of business help I could get in spreading the word about Nopales. I signed up for a business plan course called NxLevel. Through that course, I found how popular plant-based products were becoming and how plant-based waters were beginning to dominate the non-alcoholic beverage category. The idea for a cactus water was born, and now, seven years later, I have three organic cactus waters in Papaya, Lime and Watermelon flavor. All use Nopales as one of its main ingredients, and I have a fantastic cactus supplier who doesn’t use any irrigation and only cuts paddles instead of full plants. I like to think of it as borrowing from Mother Nature instead of stealing from her. I chose for my products to be in recyclable cans as nearly 75% of all aluminum produced in the US in still in use today. It can be recycled back into itself repeatedly, in a true closed loop.
Every day is a learning process and I continuously find ways to improve my business and honestly, myself. I’m grateful for organizations like WBENC that understand the importance of sustainability. I’m grateful to have launched a product that gets people interested in cactus. And, of course, I’m beyond grateful for my parents and for the lessons I learned through them.
To this day, I still wrap presents in newspaper.
About The Cactus Water Co.
The Cactus Water Co. is home to ¡CACTUS! Organic Cactus Water. Their waters are certified organic, non-GMO, Kosher and contains just 30 calories and 5 grams of sugar in each can. By using the prickly pear cactus paddle (aka Nopales) instead of the fruit, they minimize waste. Their supplier only cuts paddles at a time instead of whole plants (new paddles grow back within two weeks). They have three delicious flavors — Lime, Watermelon and Papaya. Each can contains over 100% of DV antioxidant vitamin C, natural hydration properties and amino acids. They are a woman and minority-owned company.
The Cactus Water Co. won second place in the 2021 WBENCPitch: Sustainability Pitch Competition.
WBENCPitch is a signature WBENC program featuring a series of pitch competitions and educational sessions to help WBEs hone their business pitch, gain meaningful exposure, and compete for grants and other prizes to invest in their business.