The Refreshing Approach of Break-Out Beverage Brand Agua Bonita
With a business idea in mind, Casteñeda and PonTell decided to take the leap and launch their beverage idea, Agua Bonita.
Agua Bonita means beautiful water in Spanish and the name suits it just right. The brand makes canned aguas frescas in a variety of flavors that come from different fruits. Agua fresca is a very popular drink in Mexico and Central America and the inspiration came from Castañeda's grandfather, who made the drink using fresh fruit collected from the fields in which he worked.
They worked to make their product sustainable by using only produce that would otherwise be discarded and opting for cans that are more easily recycled instead of bottles. The business launched in 2020 and it quickly picked up a following on social media when people discovered a product with a legitimate cultural identity, as opposed to the culture vulture products we’re used to seeing from global beverage producers.
Their alternative to heavily processed and sugar-laden drinks grew so fast that in September of 2020, the company became the first-ever Latina-run beverage startup to raise more than $1 million in funding.
We must know more. Kayla Castañeda, Co-Founder of Agua Bonita, gave us the scoop.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and flow.
LM: Tell us a little bit about yourselves and what led you to create Agua Bonita.
KC: I grew up in a small town in the Central Valley of CA, where we grow most of the nation's produce. I moved to a bunch of big cities for work after graduating highschool, but moved back to my hometown a few years ago when a grandparent got sick. After my grandpa passed, I really began to reevaluate my life and more so my career, and that led me to consulting where I realized that tons of entrepreneurs were just figuring it out as they built. I knew from that point on that I could launch something at a larger scale than anything I had tried to before, and when the pandemic gave me a bunch of time back, it was the perfect time to start Agua Bonita.
LM: Where did the name of Agua Bonita come from?
KC: I definitely knew I wanted something in Spanish to reflect the type of product we are. Agua Bonita is approachable for both Spanish and non-Spanish speaking folks. We were focused on creating a beautiful product – in mission, in product composition, and as a brand. So Bonita was very fitting, and we are an agua fresca so Agua Bonita was where we settled.
LM: What would you say is the biggest challenge of launching a small business, and how did you overcome it?
KC: Having the resources you need to grow. Oftentimes that’s capital, but sometimes it can be access to a particular network. For me, I overcame this by submitting into pitch competitions. Not only did this give us the opportunity to have non-dilutive funding come through the door, but it also gave us access to networks of people that wanted to either help us or buy our products – or both!
LM: You’re quite successful both on and offline - how much would you say your social media has helped you with the growth of your business?
KC: We launched mid pandemic so social media was a huge part of our success. During the pandemic, retailers wouldn’t even talk to us because they were too busy keeping essentials stocked. So we launched DTC (direct-to-consumer) and used social media to move product organically, and that’s how we initially grew our business.
LM: What advice would you give entrepreneurs that want to turn their small business into something bigger?
KC: Figure out the key inflection points of your business – maybe it's closing a round of funding, or getting into a specific retailer – and work backwards from there to plan a roadmap for how to get there, and then execute against that. This will help guide the decisions that need to be made between being the small business you are now and the larger one you want to become.
LM: You have a lot of competitors, some of them huge corporations. What makes Agua Bonita different?
KC: Our community. Big corporations don’t really know what it’s like to invest in making a community, they just want to sell a product. For us, our community is the biggest reason why we have been able to achieve the level of success we have so far.
LM: What has been your proudest business moment so far?
KC: I can’t disclose the details just yet, but being accepted into a very pivotal program with a major retailer. It just validates our business and our product so much and carves out the possibility of really seeing ourselves on shelves en masse.
LM: What advice would you give to other Latinas who want to start their own business?
KC: Go for it, but be strategic and be realistic with your timelines – everything takes longer than you think, and more money than you anticipated. So make sure you’re thinking strategically about your business and have realistic timelines in place to reach your goals.
LM: What’s your biggest takeaway from this experience?
KC: My biggest takeaway from this experience has been learning a lot about myself, my limitations, and my potential.
There’s much to be learned from the successes and the roadblocks Latina entrepreneurs experience. We suspect we’ll be seeing Agua Bonita more often than we do now. Follow along on Agua Bonita’s journey at their Instagram DrinkAguaBonita and if you’re now craving a delicious agua fresca, hop on over to their website.
Courtesy of Agua Bonita
Made with real pineapple juice and cucumber essence, it's basically like drinking out of a pineapple on the beach - but way more convenient.
This interview is part of Luz Media’s Alpha Latina: Small Business Saturday series. This series highlights the accomplishments of Alpha Latinas making a difference in their communities through their businesses. Interested in being featured? Email us.