¡CACTUS! Founder Shares Real Entrepreneurial Obstacles, Fears, and More

Prickly pear cactus paddle

MP recently spoke with Sarita Lopez, founder of ¡CACTUS!, an organic cactus water company she launched in 2017.

Article Summary
  1. Sarita
    1. When did you first want to follow an entrepreneurial path, and why?
  2. ¡CACTUS!
    1. What is ¡CACTUS!, and how is it unique?
    2. How has ¡CACTUS! distanced itself from other beverage companies?
    3. Where did the idea for ¡CACTUS! come from, and why was it chosen? 
    4. What does the future look like for ¡CACTUS!? 
  3. Entrepreneurship
    1. What three questions should would-be entrepreneurs ask themselves before starting a new venture, and why?
    2. What are your three greatest fears as an entrepreneur, and how do you manage those fears?
    3. What are three obstacles you’ve faced while growing ¡CACTUS! How have you overcome them? 
    4. What are three things you wish you could have done differently while launching ¡CACTUS!, and why? 
  4. Leadership
    1. What three characteristics define an effective leader, and why?
    2. What are three pieces of advice you can share with people looking to become influential leaders in their businesses, and why? 

Sarita

When did you first want to follow an entrepreneurial path, and why?

My parents both owned businesses and I saw the rewards of doing so. I started my first business at nine, selling handmade dolls at local markets. Since then, I have dipped into other creative ventures, such as a clothing business. The Cactus Water Co. is my most significant venture to date. 

¡CACTUS! founder Sarita Lopez
¡CACTUS! founder Sarita Lopez / Photo courtesy of ¡CACTUS!

¡CACTUS!

What is ¡CACTUS!, and how is it unique?

The Cactus Water Co. is home to ¡CACTUS! Organic Cactus Water. Our waters are certified organic, non-GMO, Kosher, and contain just 30 calories and 5 grams of sugar in each can.

How has ¡CACTUS! distanced itself from other beverage companies?

We use the prickly pear cactus paddle (aka Nopales) instead of the fruit. We use entire cactus paddles to minimize waste, and our supplier only cuts paddles at a time instead of whole plants (new paddles grow back within two weeks). We currently have (3) SKUs – Lime, Watermelon, and Papaya flavor. Each can contains over 100% DV antioxidant vitamin C, natural hydration properties, and amino acids. We are a woman and a minority-owned company. 

Where did the idea for ¡CACTUS! come from, and why was it chosen? 

I harvested and sold cactus paddles (aka Nopales) and loved to hear how my customers felt after consuming the cactus. Most of my customers were juicing the paddles; from that, the idea for cactus water was born. I launched my first cactus water in 2017 and listened to feedback from customers and buyers. I rebranded and reformulated from that feedback, and ¡CACTUS! was released in early 2020. 

What does the future look like for ¡CACTUS!? 

I would love to add more flavors to the line-up and expand our philanthropy donations. 

¡CACTUS! cactus water in a can
Can of watermelon ¡CACTUS! cactus water / Phoo courtesy of ¡CACTUS!

Entrepreneurship

What three questions should would-be entrepreneurs ask themselves before starting a new venture, and why?

1. How Much Will This Venture Cost?

A business plan with expense and sales projections is very much advised!

2. Who Is My Competition?

From this, you can see what they are doing right and follow that model. No need to re-invent the wheel! 

3. Where Do I See This Business in 1 Year/5 Years/10+ Years?

Setting goals is the best way to manage expectations for both you, your investors, and your employees. 

What are your three greatest fears as an entrepreneur, and how do you manage those fears?

1. That a Larger Company, Such As Coca-Cola, Will Create a Cactus Water of Its Own

This is a fear because they would be able to out-price a small brand like mine, making my cactus water irrelevant. The only way to work around this is to build consumer loyalty and stay relevant with new flavors and catchy marketing. 

2. That I Will Run Out of Money

This is where projections come into play. 

3. That There Are Never Enough Hours in the Day

I’ve started to bullet journal, which has helped me prioritize my daily, weekly, and long-term tasks. 

What are three obstacles you’ve faced while growing ¡CACTUS! How have you overcome them? 

1. I Have Had Handshake Deals That Have Turned Sour

I have learned the importance of getting everything in writing or in a contract. 

2. Proving That We Can Play in the Big Leagues

Sometimes you need to fake it before you make it!

3. Having To Prioritize Money and What Items Need a Bigger Budget

Geo-targeted social media ads have helped my business as sampling demos were non-existent during the initial period of the pandemic. 

What are three things you wish you could have done differently while launching ¡CACTUS!, and why? 

1. I Wish I Had Started With Aluminum Cans Instead of TetraPak Packaging

For price and recyclability purposes. 

2. I Wish I Hadn’t Started As Big as I Did

I expanded too quickly, brought on too many brokers, and spent too much money initially. I’ve learned a lot since then!

3. Vetting Suppliers Better

There was one supplier I worked with who ended up stealing from me. After speaking to some of his other past clients, I learned his ethics were very questionable. I was lucky to recover financially from that situation, and it made me ask for references for anyone I would be paying money to. 

Leadership

What three characteristics define an effective leader, and why?

1. Communication Is Key

If you have an inkling of an issue, speak to that person before the subject at hand becomes more dramatic than it needs to be. 

2. Learning To Work With People, Not Thinking They Work for You

It’s 2022 – haven’t we learned by now that everyone should be treated equally?

3. Respecting Personal Time Off

If someone is on vacation, a question or situation can most likely wait to be addressed until said person is back in the office. That includes you!

What are three pieces of advice you can share with people looking to become influential leaders in their businesses, and why? 

1. Surround Yourself With Like-Minded People

Join groups, go to conferences, and connect with people on Linkedin. Networking is a vital tool for growing a business. 

2. Be Honest

If you mess up, own up to it, fix it, learn from it, and move on. 

3. Be Kind to Others and, Most Importantly, Be Kind to Yourself

You can’t please everyone.