Exclusive Interview with Pure Beauty Co-Founder and CEO Imelda Walavalkar
Pure Beauty, a cannabis brand born in California, has gained support from celebrity investors in a recent $5 million raise. Co-founder and CEO Imelda Walavalkar gave New Cannabis Ventures an inside look at the brand’s California footprint, commitment to sustainability and plans for expansion. The audio of the entire conversation is available at the end of this written summary.
Social Justice Roots and the Pure Beauty Team
Walavalkar studied social justice and began her career working with nonprofits serving formerly incarcerated people. Struggling against institutional racism left her feeling unsure of whether or not she could make a difference. She pivoted in her career and started a catering business. For Walavalkar, cannabis was the natural progression for her career, bringing together her passion for social justice and making things.
Women and minorities make up more than 65 percent of the Pure Beauty team. Diversity is instrumental to the company’s success, according to Walavalkar. In addition to that in-house commitment, the company donates proceeds to causes and organizations that align with its own values and drive for social justice.
To date, Walavalkar and her co-founders Irwin Matutina and Tracy Anderson have been the total of the small but scrappy leadership team. Matutina is an artist and has served as the art director for a number of brands, while Anderson has a background in building brands.
Now, with more funding, the company is at an inflection point, according to Walavalkar. It will be building out its leadership team with more people who can help drive greater efficiency and expansion.
Pure Beauty in California
Pure Beauty has 24,000 square feet of indoor cultivation in Sacramento. It is in the process of bringing online 22,000 square feet of canopy, aiming to complete the first harvest in November.
The company started in 2017. In its first year, it had products in about 40 doors. Now, it has serviced more than 250 doors and continues to increase its sell-through quarter over quarter. In the beginning, the company’s pre-rolls were ranked somewhere around the no. 60 mark in California, but now, they have become a top-eight to top-five pre-roll brand, according to Walavalkar. By adding more SKUs, getting into more product categories like edibles, expanding the flower supply via new cultivation and getting in more doors, she hopes to see the brand make even more progress.
In addition to its cannabis products, Pure Beauty expands its footprint via apparel, art and other non-cannabis products sold through its Drugstore platform. That platform has garnered strong sales across markets like New York, Europe and Japan.
Pure Beauty has made environmental sustainability a priority. The company is growing in soil at scale, using LED lights and taking an innovative approach to water and power. It pulls water from the air using HVAC and dehumidifiers, using minimal water from the California tap. It also creates all of its electricity onsite via microturbines.
Pure Beauty in Michigan
The company is expanding into the Michigan market via a partnership with Gage Growth Corp. Walavalkar ultimately wants to make Pure Beauty a national and global brand, and this partnership is the first step toward that goal. But, this step and each subsequent growth stage will be intentional. The company wants partners that can execute the same level of quality and maintain the integrity of the Pure Beauty brand. Walavalkar wants consumers to find the same quality pre-roll in Lansing as they would in San Francisco.
New York is a dream state for the Pure Beauty team; the brand feels like a cultural fit with New York, according to Walavalkar. The company is currently having conversations about potential expansion into markets like Florida, Massachusetts and Nevada. Growth is on the table, and the team will remain open to options, whether partnerships or M&A, but California will remain its priority.
Pure Beauty recently raised $5 million in a convertible note fundraising round. The California brand attracted investors like Gron Ventures, Ceres Group Holdings and Subversive Capital. Celebrities Timbaland, Nas and director Tom Kuntz also participated in the round. The company was looking for investors who would bring strategic support as well as capital to the table, and Walavalkar is pleased with the network of investors Pure Beauty has curated.
This most recent round of funding will help Pure Beauty to build out its team, develop new products, expand geographically and find more creative avenues for brand storytelling.
Gron Ventures was a lead investor in the company’s first raise and in this second raise. Walavalkar expects that the company will be able to rely on many of the same investors if it continues to execute. But, the team will continue to be on the lookout for more potential partners as it evolves. In its next round, the company may look for partners outside of the cannabis space.
With more cultivation and SKUs coming online, as well as geographic expansion, Walavalkar expects Pure Beauty to at least double its revenue over the next eight to 12 months. The company is tracking metrics like revenue, margin growth, door count, growth within its doors and cost of goods sold. It also looks at less quantifiable metrics, like brand traction.
As the company grows, the stakes become higher in this hypercompetitive industry. Walavalkar and her team will be striving to remain adaptable and carefully deciding which of many potential opportunities to pursue.
To learn more, visit the Pure Beauty website. Listen to the entire interview: