Latina Founder, Babba Rivera, Raises $1 Million Pre-Seed For Her New Brand Ceremonia
Only 58 Latina founders have ever raised $1 million+ in venture funding. Forbes 30 Under 30 alumni Babba Rivera is one of those pioneering Latina’s. Through a successful pre-seed round Rivera’s new brand, Ceremonia, has raised $1M with participation from SoGal Ventures, XFactor Ventures, and Female Founders Fund all while Rivera was pregnant and navigating the pandemic. “We are strong believers in brands that design for people who were overlooked or misunderstood,” says Pocket Sun, partner at SoGal Ventures. “This unlocks a sense of belonging and community, which is just about the most powerful thing you can build as a brand. Babba is the best person for this – I loved her story growing up as Chilean-Swedish, her influence built around authenticity and creativity, and her dedication to make this her life’s work.”
Rivera’s idea for Ceremonia came to her during a business trip for bybabba, her brand marketing agency, when she was traveling for fashion month last year. She never anticipated this casual idea would ever turn into her main gig, let alone mark the end of bybabba. Ceremonia is bringsing a natural and modern approach to traditional Latinx haircare rituals, launching with Aceite de Moska, a miracle oil celebrated by many for its various hair wellness benefits. Aceite De Moska is formulated with a nutrient-rich cocktail of key natural ingredients including Brazillian Pataua Oil to reduce scalp flakiness, Aloe Vera to condition and soothe, and Castor Oil to increase hair strand flexibility and shine. The original, clean formulas free-of silicones, parabens, sulfates, phthalates, artificial colorants and more not-so-great ingredients found in traditional beauty products is principled in their belief of high-performance clean products that are good for you and for the environment.
“Initially, the plan was for us to incubate Ceremonia, or Project X, as we called it for the longest time, through bybabba. Call me naive, but I truly thought I would continue to run both businesses and eventually incubate more brands through the agency. I guess what I didn’t realize at the time, is that when I believe in something it quickly becomes all-consuming. I am not someone to do many small things. I like to give things my everything and see them live up to their full potential. As we kept working on Ceremonia, it started to occupy more and more brain power, to the point where it was evident that this was my new calling,” shared Rivera. “As with most things, to make space for something meaningful, you also have to learn to let go of something else. To me, that meant closing the agency in order to fully devote myself to this new journey.I wouldn’t have been able to start this company three years ago. In many ways I needed the experience of bybabba to get here and I’m really thankful for having had that opportunity. It was the perfect stepping stone to ultimately lead me to the creation of Ceremonia. Ceremonia is bringing a natural and modern approach to traditional Latinx haircare rituals, launching with Aceite de Moska, a miracle oil celebrated by many for its various hair wellness benefits.”
Growing up as a Latin American immigrant in a homogenous country like Sweden, Rivera never found herself represented in mainstream media and the products she consumed especially in beauty. Upon arriving to the U.S., she reconnected with her Latinx heritage thanks to the bigger population of Hispanics. “For the first time, I could see myself in others and realized how many have grown up in-between cultures, just like myself. However, despite the modern Latinx community I met, coupled with the fact that Hispanics account for 20% of the U.S. population, I still witnessed an enormous void of Latinx representation in almost every aspect of my life; professionally, in the media, the brands I consume and not to mention role models in entrepreneurship. As such, I began to feel a strong sense of responsibility to propel change,” Rivera explained.
Ceremonia was born out of Rivera’s desire to celebrate the richness of Latin culture while highlighting the next-generation of Latinx. “Inspired by the rituals I grew up with, alongside a strong understanding of the modern consumer, Ceremonia provides a new-age perspective to hair care for all. Through this journey, I also hope to potentially inspire and pave the way for more Latinx founders and businesses,” she said.
Although Latinas are amongst the largest spenders on beauty products, they are still ignored by mainstream brands. Ceremonia is hoping to change that. “The Latinx beauty and haircare market is massive and has been largely ignored by the incumbents, especially in masstige” says Aubrie Pagano, partner of XFactor Ventures. “I’ve known Babba for years and I can’t imagine a better operator to seize this opportunity.”
Over the last year Rivera closed the doors on her brand marketing agency, bybabba, while raising money for Ceremonia during the pandemic as she was an expectant mother. She knew it wasn’t going to be an easy feat, but her strategy of prioritizing the right people over a check paid off. “I knew I wanted to build Ceremonia for scale from day one and to do so, I prioritized the right people over just a check. In a way, I felt as if I wasn’t really raising money- for us it was more important to build the foundation to a category-defining business through the right people. Ultimately, I wanted my cap table to reflect the values of the company I’m building and decided to invite some notable angel investors from my network who could also serve as strategic advisors. Interestingly enough, I found that angel investors have come much further in their bet for diverse founders than traditional VCs. Many angel investors are former founders themselves and can as such relate to the journey of a founder very well, whereas VCs are mainly looking to replicate their known formula of success– which traditionally doesn’t include people like me,” Rivera said.
While Many investors ended up declining the opportunity due to the uncertainty of COVID-19, despite being very intrigued by the overall business idea. “Raising capital pre-launch, before having the final product available in combination with COVID-19 was definitely a challenging experience. Everyone was being extra cautious and as such less likely to invest in an outlier. However, after successfully securing angels with strong backgrounds in DTC, beauty, and eCommerce, we were able to close the round with two strategic VC firms who have a very refreshing approach- Female Founders Fund and SoGal Ventures. I really appreciate that both Female Founders Fund and SoGal Ventures aren’t just female-led, but also led by women of color which is so rare in this industry. Having good people on your cap table is so valuable when building a business and I feel incredibly lucky to have investors who feel like partners.” Adrianna Samaniego, investor at Female Founders Fund saw the need for Ceremonia in the market very early on, “As an investor and Latina, I clearly saw the unmet need and authenticity Ceremonia will bring to the market. It’s no secret Hispanics represent unparalleled growth opportunities. Nearly one in every five people in the U.S. identifies as Hispanic and have enormous purchasing power. Babba Rivera is building a brand that meets the needs of the hypercultural Latinx consumer who is dynamic and gives you a clean product with your orgullo (pride) at its core.”
Rivera hopes to be able to lead the way for more Latinx founders and share her heritage’s beauty rituals through Ceremonia.