Babba Rivera is used to moving fast — but now she’s going into overdrive.
Ceremonia, the Latinx clean hair care brand Rivera launched in 2020, has raised $10 million to support its recent expansion to more than 500 Sephora stores with a series A investment round led by Sandbridge Capital.
That has the buzzy brand working with an investment firm that’s proven to have a knack for big exits with Ilia (sold to the Courtin-Clarins family holding company), Youth to the People (L’Oréal) and Thom Browne (Ermenegildo Zegna). Existing Ceremonia investors Silas Capital and Female Founders Fund also re-upped during the round.
“We’re by no means chilling out,” Rivera, who leads the company as chief executive officer, told WWD. “The work begins now and our series A funding is coming at a perfect time to accelerate our success.”
In addition to building at Sephora, the brand is planning to open its first flagship, in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, this June.
Ceremonia seems to have found something of a sweet spot in the crowded beauty market, zeroing in on Latinx shoppers with a wellness approach to hair care. The brand has about 20 stock keeping units made with natural ingredients procured from Latin America and free of silicones, parabens, sulfates, phthalates and artificial colorants.
“We somehow managed to carve out a very different space for ourselves,” said Rivera, who oversees a “small, but mighty” team of 15.
Rivera, who identifies as a Swedish Latina, took a circuitous route to the hubbub of beauty.
She was Uber’s first employee in Sweden, launching the rideshare business in the country.
“I was 21 and I was running an eyewear blog and I had sort of dipped my toes into performance marketing,” Rivera said, recalling her start at Uber. “I joke that I got the job less on credentials and more on being the only person crazy enough to say, ‘Yes.’ The target when I joined was, ‘You can do whatever you want, you just have to grow the business 20 percent week-over-week.’”
Rivera’s four years with Uber proved to be a formative experience — one the CEO described as “my greatest asset in building a beauty business.”
Despite launching into the maw of the pandemic, Ceremonia has found its place bringing the wellness approach that’s worked so well with clean skin care to hair.
“We are so conscious about what we eat and what we put on our skin and the makeup we use, but when it came to our scale and our hair, it was sort of a free-for-all for all the toxins in the market,” she said. “[The market was] sort of stuck in this celebrity hairstylist obsession and most of the offering in the hair space pertains to styling, which is the equivalent of makeup for your hair.”
But Rivera said hair and hair care is so important — to everything from self-esteem to racial justice — that a new approach resonated strongly.
“When I need a little boost of confidence, I go to the review section,” Rivera said. “Reading our customer reviews is the most gratifying and instant reminder of why we do what we do.”
Now the CEO also has another sounding board in Sandbridge founder and managing partner Ken Suslow.
“I feel almost like I got a cofounder in a way,” Rivera said of the relationship since the round closed. “I can text him any hour of the day and just get a pulse check for something. As a sole founder that is super valuable. It’s just truly been a partnership.”
In a statement, Suslow noted: “Ceremonia is a purpose-driven modern hair care brand with uncommonly strong momentum and crossover appeal in a category that we find persuasive. We are delighted to partner with such a dynamic and authentic founder; Babba is an industry pioneer with a compelling vision to grow Ceremonia into the globally recognized leader in Latinx beauty.”