Carson Life Joins A Select Group Of Latina-Founded Startups That Have Surpassed $10M In Funding
Sonia Guzman, founder of Carson Life, has entered a select group of Latina founders who’ve raised in excess of $10 million in funding.
Her Miami-based beauty and wellness brand has secured $2 million in bridge funding following an $8.5 million series A financing tranche. Previously, it raised $1.55 million in seed capital. Carson Life’s investors include New American Funding co-founder and CEO Patty Arvielo, Wisconsin Investment Partners, Foley Ventures and Kelly Futures.
There are over 100 startups with Latina and Black women founders that have crossed the $10 million funding threshold, according to nonprofit Digitalundivided’s Project Diane research. The research shows Latina-founded startups received about .4% of venture capital last year. Among the Latina founders who preceded Guzman in drawing $10 million and above are Maude founder Éva Goicochea, Eight Sleep co-founder Alexandra Zatarain, Stoke Therapeutics co-founder Isabel Aznarez and Aura Biosciences founder Elisabet de los Pinos.
“There was no Latina when I started to raise who had ever raised more than $10 million, and I started this company to become that person. I always remember my why. There’s so much more we can do for our community,” says Guzman. “I have raised over $10 million, but it has been a struggle. It hasn’t been easy. It took courage, and I want to inspire other Latinas to keep going.”
Arvielo says, “I was attracted to Carson Life because it was Latina-led with a real focus on the Latina market, which is one of the largest in our country and yet so underserved. As a Latina, it’s very powerful to see ourselves in companies and brands. Carson Life has captured the power of our culture in so many products that we use every day. More and more companies will have to attract the significant purchasing power of U.S. Latinos if they want to be relevant in the future.”
“I want to inspire other Latinas to keep going.”
Carson Life began in 2013 after Guzman was struck by a drunk driver coming out of a meeting for CNN, where she was in sales. She formerly held similar sales roles at Turner Broadcasting, Harvard Business Review and Time Warner. Along with her 15-year-old sister’s death from cancer, the accident reminded Guzman that she didn’t have endless time to chase her dreams. She left a successful media career and poured $500,000 from her personal savings and a loan from friends and family to launch Carson Life with 13 products in four categories: skincare, haircare, vitamins and sports nutrition.
“Companies like Procter & Gamble and Unilever—they were my clients at CNN—would be spending millions of dollars in advertising translating what they had in English and using a spokesperson like Jennifer Lopez or Sofia Vergara for it. As a Latina, I had two options: Buy a product translated like Head & Shoulders or buy a very cheap product with cheap ingredients that I didn’t like,” says Guzman, who’s Puerto Rican. “There were no authentic brands out there with a combination of the product, marketing and founder.”
Driven by her close connection to the Latina community and strong belief that it would embrace better-for-you ingredients, Carson Life quickly gained momentum. Walmart promptly picked up its initial collection. By 2019, the brand became a profitable operation. Last year, its sales tripled. Today, Carson Life and Eva+Avo, a haircare brand it introduced in 2021, are stocked in 9,000-plus stores at major retailers such as Walmart, Target, H-E-B, Walgreens and Giant Eagle.
Carson Life’s assortment spans roughly 50 products priced from $6.99 to $29.99, and Eva+Avo’s assortment contains 12 products priced from $9.99 to $39.99. Skincare products like Collagen Cream and weight loss products like L-Carnitine With Green Tea are bestsellers for Carson Life. Centered on avocado, a staple of Hispanic households, Eva+Avo’s bestseller is Shine Avocado Oil.
“I see more expansion, more stores, more products, more categories, maybe acquiring other brands or being acquired by a strategic partner, but definitely more growth.”
“Ninety-nine percent of our advertising is in Spanish. We speak to our community in their language, and we try to make our community feel at home by bringing them ingredients like avocado and papaya that mind them of their grandmother’s or mother’s recipes,” says Guzman. “The Hispanic market is underserved still. Even though we have been in it for years, there are still very few players. Not many brands are focused on that consumer, and there are a lot of places we can go.”
She envisions expansion for Carson Life both on the distribution and assortment fronts. Eva+Avo is stretching from haircare to body care. Guzman highlights sun care as an opportunity for the brand as well. Carson Life has cracked supermarkets by landing at H-E-B and Giant Eagle, but it has plenty of room to increase its presence in them. The brand is set for an HSN debut later this year. Ulta Beauty and Publix are distribution targets.
Per 2020 United States Census Bureau figures, there are 62.5 million Hispanics in the U.S., accounting for almost 20% of the population of the country and an estimated purchasing power of $1.7 trillion. Carson Life is prioritizing them and could realize a ton of growth by further capturing share of Hispanics’ beauty and wellness spending. The insights firm NielsenIQ found in 2021 that Hispanic consumers spend “13% more than the average consumer on beauty and personal care.”
However, Guzman built Carson Life, which gets the “Carson” part of its name from a portmanteau of her name and the name of her mentor at CNN, to transcend ethnic, racial and geographic divisions. “The name ‘Carson Life’ doesn’t limit us to a language. I knew I didn’t want to create a brand that was limited by its name. It can be anywhere in the world,” she says. “Everybody loves avocado. It’s an amazing superfood. So, anybody can identify with Eva+Avo. We are finding that they don’t have to be Hispanic. Good products cross over.”
Carson Life will soon seek series B funding. Asked about her pitch to potential series B backers, Guzman says, “I have one of the strongest distributions out there for the Latina consumer in very little time—and I’m just getting started. I have a woman-owned, minority-owned company. You invest in me, and you are changing the statistics in America.” She adds, “I have never stopped growing year over year 2X, 3X. I see more expansion, more stores, more products, more categories, maybe acquiring other brands or being acquired by a strategic partner, but definitely more growth.”