Vol. 127 - NO. 39

Blog Startup CPG

SINCE 2019

The Entrepreneurial Journey of
Pricklee Cactus Water Startup

Mo Hassoun and Kun Yang are the cofounders of Pricklee Cactus Water, a sustainable natural hydration beverage that’s good for your body and the planet!

How Did Pricklee Begin?

Mo: Growing up in Lebanon, my favorite childhood drink was made from this delicious, magenta cactus fruit called the sobbeir! It was a treat we’d get whenever we were sick, and I’d fight my siblings for every last drop. When we moved to Canada when I was young, I never got to have it again.

Kun: Fast forward to when Mo and I met in Boston while working in healthcare, and we noticed that all of the daily natural supplements we had been taking for recovery and immunity contained prickly pear cactus extract. As we researched the natural health benefits of the prickly pear, we thought this would be a really interesting hero ingredient to build a supplement around. But, we actually never knew what the prickly pear looked like, so we pulled it up on google…

Mo: I couldn’t believe my eyes – it was the Sobbeir! Overcome with nostalgia, I tracked down the closest prickly pears around me, and attempted my best impression of the childhood drink my grandma would make us.

Kun: It was this beautiful magenta liquid, with the most refreshing and unique flavor profile that was just so easy on the tastebuds. It was such a serendipitous and special moment, we knew we had to share this with the world.
Mo: The cactus found us, and Pricklee was born.

What are the benefits of cactus water?

Kun: I mean, anything that can thrive in the most challenging environment on earth HAS to have some incredible natural benefits, right? Well, there’s nothing that hydrates you better than the cactus. Prickly pears are packed with natural antioxidants, electrolytes, and vitamin C, and contain 50% less sugar and calories than popular hydration beverages like coconut water, sports drinks, and juice! It’s great for hydration, immunity, recovery, and skincare!

Mo: And, it’s the most water-efficient crop on earth, because it requires little to no irrigation to grow. It’s good for your body, and good for the planet.

What has been the hardest part of building Pricklee?

Mo: Building a beverage company is so challenging because it requires founders to have such a deep knowledge base of all the different touchpoints that are required to get a product from manufacturing line and into the hands of the customers. Understanding all these different levers, and more importantly, how and when to push them is as much an art as it is a science. It’s taken a lot of failures, smart partners, advisors, and mentors to help us get to where we are – and much of the same recipe to take us to where we intend to go.

Kun: I think getting product and branding right in the beginning was such a challenge, because marketing cactus water effectively – it had never been done before. The tension point of taking an unapproachable ingredient, and turning it into a really approachable brand and product, was really difficult, but with the help of our community and some incredible design partners, we landed in a place we never thought possible. We’re excited to get it into as many hands as possible!

What are you excited about in 2023?

Kun: If there’s one thing we’ve been really good at, it’s testing. And it feels like all the countless tests, failures, and learnings we’ve obsessed on over the last few years have really allowed us to dial in on exactly who and what Pricklee wants to be. I’m most excited about bringing that vision to life in 2023 and getting Pricklee into the hands of more consumers than ever. It’s pretty motivating to be able to stand behind a product that we truly believe improves the physical and emotional wellbeing of our customers, while helping the planet in the process as well.

Mo: I’m really excited to be P&L focused in 2023. It feels like we’ve just been building out our toolkit and business foundation for a really challenging macro-economic environment over the next few years, and we’ve really set ourselves up well to scale in a sustainable and intentional way. 2023 is going to be a really difficult year, but we’ve never been more ready for the challenge ahead than now.

Kun: Our mission is to empower people to live resiliently like the cactus, through health, happiness, and sustainability. And that’s exactly what we will continue to manifest in 2023!

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