In The Community
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
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.
Whether you’re vegan or not, many can agree that doing our part to eat less meat can help the environment and our health. While it has become a trend for many, veganism is a way of life that can leave you feeling healthier and happier. With the advancement of the food industry, now more than ever you can make the transition to veganism without losing the ability to enjoy your favorite foods.
That’s why we’re giving you a list of some delicious Latina-owned vegan restaurants across the United States that cook with their cultura in mind. From South Florida to Portland, we’re giving you locations that you have to visit! Make sure you tag us if you pay them a visit, let them know Luz Media sent you!
Manna Life FoodMiami, FL
If you’re ever in South Florida and are craving a great spot for vegan food, Manna Life Food is the place for you. Providing everything from superfoods to juice cleanses and everything in between, Manna Life Food leaves you feeling renewed.
Calaveritas Atlanta, GA
Who doesn’t love a great taco? Atlanta’s Calaveritas is a vegan taqueria specializing in our favorite tortilla-based meal. Vegan proteins and endless fresh ingredients are the name of the game at this must-visit.
Miami NicePortland, OR
Looking for Latinx flavor in all forms? Portland’s Miami Nice is a great way to get all your favorite plates in, serving everything from plant-based egg breakfasts to sandwiches and more. We’re literally drooling over that vegan Picanha!
Luna Verde Vegan Mexican RestaurantBradley Beach, New Jersey
Mexican food is fairly easy to veganize, but New Jersey’s Luna Verde Vegan Restaurant goes above and beyond in their offerings. Birria tacos, chimichangas, nachos, and much more create a large menu of offerings generous enough to delight anyone’s taste buds.
Bar BombónPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania
Philly’s Bar Bombón offers plant based offerings that are Latinx favorites such as arepas and they go all out in their efforts. A juice bar is one of the star offerings at this place, along with their queso and seasonal savory dishes too.
Rellenas Dallas, Texas
If Mexican food is your thing and you find yourself craving tacos, tortas or anything in-between, Rellenas is the go-to place. Known for their Mexican comfort food, they celebrate authenticity with consciousness to bring you vegan-friendly traditional recipes - yes that includes pozole.
If there’s one thing the Latinx community prides itself on, it’s that we know good food. From full meals to snacks, we love to eat! Sweet, savory, and everything in between, we have a special relationship with all the food we consume. Check out our list of the 10 Latinx snacks we crave, and all the memories that come back with every bite. After all, isn’t that one of the main reasons we’re so attached to these snacks? They’re reminders of those simple moments that brought us so much joy.
Source: Pretty. Simple. Sweet.
Country of origin: Mexico
Gansitos are little snack cakes filled with creme and strawberry jelly and also covered entirely in a chocolate coating. Can you say yum? So many recall sweet memories of eating frozen Gansitos. We don’t know what our parents were thinking but we definitely know some of us might have had these for breakfast. But if poptarts count as breakfast food, Gansitos definitely make the cut, and IOHO they’re much tastier!
Country of origin: Cuba
From the outer crisp cookie to the dulce de leche filling, alfajores are melt in your mouth delicious! They're the perfect in-between of a cake and pan dulce and pair perfectly with your midday cafecito. They’re a little bite of heaven that no one can resist!
Source: Serious Eats
Country of origin: Venezuela
Simply put, Tequeños are an upgrade to the basic mozzarella cheese sticks. Made with crispy dough and fried until golden brown, we can’t stop ourselves from eating as many as we can. The perfect appetizer to kick off your party and show off your Latinx cultura!
Elote En Vaso or Esquites
Source: My Latina Table
Country of origin: Mexico
We’ve always loved elotes, but an elote en vaso (AKA esquites in Mexico) is magic. Elotes are a little bit of the best of all the things you enjoy: queso, crema, chilito picoso and of course, the fresh corn (it’s not legit if it comes from a can). People stand in line for 30 to 45 minutes or more waiting to get their hands on a snack that they will devour in less than 10 minutes because the taste of corn in a cup is that amazing!
Source: Hispanic Kitchen
Country of origin: El Salvador
The greatest thing about stuffed cornmeal patties? They’re fully customizable! We love pupusas because they’re super filling and can be made to your liking. Pro tip: order them with curtido, a spicy cabbage, carrot, onion, and vinegar slaw. Warning: if you eat them with a fork, you might get side-eye.
Source: The Noshery
Country of origin: Caribbean and Latin America
Fried and salted plantains, anyone? Tostones were a staple growing up for many in Puerto Rican households. Some of our favorites are tostones de pana that our abuelas would make from scratch. You can’t forget the mayo ketchup on the side to add a bit of flavor to an already savory treat.
Pastelitos De Guayaba y Queso
Source: House of Nash Eats
Walk into any Latinx bakery with a large Cuban, Puerto Rican, or Colombian population and you’ll probably always see pastelitos de guayaba y queso in the display case. These puff pastry desserts can be covered in powdered sugar or corn syrup but the base of guava and cream cheese always remains a constant.
Source: Serious Eats
Country of origin: Colombia, Venezuela
Similar to the Salvadoran pupusa, arepas are a favorite for anyone looking for a handheld cornmeal-based snack stuffed with anything imaginable. We love ours with cheese and chicken, and if we’re feeling fancy we might throw some avocado on there too!
Source: Health and Lifestyle
Country of origin: Many in Latin America and the CaribbeanThese bittersweet fruits are known by many names in Latin America, the Caribbean, and even states like Florida. Many might affiliate them with hot summers, the juicy fruit providing relief from the heat almost instantly.
Totis Donitas are little wheat circles covered in lime and chile. These are a great portable snack for those on the go, and come in some flavor varieties as well we love to share.