Establish your morning routine and follow it. I like starting my morning with a glass of warm lemon water and black coffee. I take a moment to enjoy and smell my drinks before I do a short sequence of exercises, followed by a short meditation. Before I jump up to get ready for work, I make a mental list of at least three things I’m grateful for. Doing so helps me set my intention for the day ahead of me and keeps my energy up.
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mila Bosnic Juristovski, one half of the mother-daughter duo that founded Nala; a collection of all-natural and organic free-from deodorants. Mila and her daughter, Ada were inspired to create Nala after a devastating experience that left them seeking ways to not only deal with grief but also finding ways to educate others of the dangers of using products crafted with harmful chemicals. Through the creation of Nala, Mila has been able to use her brand as a platform for change and as an encouragement to all to live “free-from” anything that may hold you down.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share your “backstory” with us?
Nala is a Vancouver-based natural and organic skincare company that I co-founded with my daughter Ada in 2016 after losing my husband and Ada’s father, Alan, to cancer.
Alan was a spirited man with an eye for innovation and an immense excitement for life. The pain of losing such a vital member of our family to cancer and the feelings of failing to help him, compounded with the disappointment in the cancer industry was overwhelming. As a biotech engineer, I have spent most of my career working for pharmaceutical companies and developing new drugs (including anti-cancer drugs), yet I was not able to save Alan. I felt an urge to channel my grief into creating something meaningful, something that can potentially help other people avoid the pain, helplessness, and disappointment my family was feeling.
In 2017, 4 years to the day of Alan’s passing, we launched Nala’s first product (a line of Free-From Deodorants) to celebrate his life and continue his legacy.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
Last year, Ada and I were in Europe for her wedding when I received the news that Jillian Harris, a popular Canadian TV personality and social influencer, published a blog highlighting natural deodorants. She picked Nala as her favorite out of over 20 natural deodorants she had tested.
As a relatively unknown and a small bootstrap start-up, we were over the moon with excitement at her endorsement but then started to consider what that was going to mean for our small business.
Only an hour after the blog was published, our website had completely crashed as it was not able to handle the number of orders we were getting from Jillian’s followers. Our excitement quickly turned into panic as we spent hours on the phone with our website hosting company and Nala developers trying to accommodate the orders. Luckily, we were able to get everything squared away and we went into Ada’s wedding without the added stress of the business.
What this situation taught us is that there is no such thing as bad timing when it comes to the good news. You don’t get to pick or control the timing of your success. The best way to manage success is to simply embrace it when it comes your way and trust that the timing is just right (even if it doesn’t seem so).
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting and the lesson you learned from that?
While we have certainly made mistakes throughout this process of entrepreneurship, thankfully there hasn’t been one “big mistake” to date.
Sometimes I think we should have picked an easier product to launch with as natural deodorants are anything but easy to make. When you are using only pure natural ingredients and trying the get the efficacy, smoothness, stability, and manufacturing reproducibility without added chemicals and preservatives, you are challenging not only your capabilities but also stretching your budget. Quality natural ingredients come at a high price and are hard to source and control for quality.
Regardless of the challenges, I feel we have just picked the right category that goes hand in hand with Nala’s philosophy of encouraging deep self-care, especially when it comes to such a delicate part of our body.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
I’m grateful to so many people who have helped me along the way. One of them is Professor Dr. Neil Branda, who has generously let us use his laboratory at Simon Fraser University 4DLabs when it counted the most. Thanks to his support, I was able to develop and continuously improve Nala’s formulations.
When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
There is growing concern from scientific evidence that some compounds used in deodorants (i.e. aluminum and preservatives) could make their way past the epidermis and get stored in fat cells in the underarms. The underarm tissue contains hormone receptors that could react with some of those ingredients and potentially cause developmental and reproductive health issues that can lead to bigger health concerns (i.e. breast cancer).
While the pharmaceutical industry and regulatory bodies argue that there is not enough scientific evidence linking aluminum and other chemicals to cancer, we would rather work towards preventing cancer than ignore the existing evidence and watch the incidents of cancer dramatically rise from year to year.
We create products that are not only safe but efficacious at the same time. That is why Nala free-from deodorants use 100% natural or naturally derived and/or organic ingredients when available because it’s very important to us that our products don’t contain harmful chemicals.
Moreover, we want to create a platform to encourage the conversations around living our lives completely free, from not only toxic chemicals but also free from guilt, fear, and arbitrary beauty standards.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- Establish your morning routine and follow it. I like starting my morning with a glass of warm lemon water and black coffee. I take a moment to enjoy and smell my drinks before I do a short sequence of exercises, followed by a short meditation. Before I jump up to get ready for work, I make a mental list of at least three things I’m grateful for. Doing so helps me set my intention for the day ahead of me and keeps my energy up.
- Learn to notice and appreciate the beauty of everyday things in your life. Our life is filled with abundance and all we need to do is notice it while opening our hearts and minds to receive it. So important! I like observing and paying attention to my surroundings, nature, and people around me. It helps me to live in the present moment and not think about the past or worry about the future.
- Eat healthy and drink lots of pure filtered water but don’t forget your “emotional food” either. In general, I enjoy eating wholesome and local food and keeping my body well hydrated. Eating relatively clean doesn’t prevent me from occasionally enjoying a glass of red wine and some dark chocolate as my comfort foods. Life is about finding balance.
- Continue learning new things and exploring yourself. Life is a constant opportunity to learn new things — even if that means stepping out of your comfort zone. For example, I have joined a community choir to everyone’s surprise since I’m not much of a singer but love to sing. I have also been studying and practicing bioenergy healing. This helps me not only help others in their healing journey but also heal myself and get in touch with my spirituality and intuition, with my higher self.
- Allow yourself to be human. It is okay to be sad or angry or even lazy once in a while. You don’t always have to be at the top of your game. Smile when your heart smiles, not when others expect you to smile.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I hope we have already started. Nala for me is much more than a deodorant company, Nala for me is a movement.
At the fundamental level, we would like people to take better care of their bodies and choose products free from carcinogens and other harsh chemicals. At a deeper level, we would like to encourage people to live their lives free from anxiety, fear, pressure, discrimination, prejudice, etc. When we are free from all the unnecessary stress society imposes on us, we are liberated to truly care about our bodies and mind. By doing so, we are not only doing a service to our individual emotional and physical wellness but we’re also encouraging all of those around us to love ourselves, each other and spread that love.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- I wish someone told me I would be making so many decisions every day without having time to analyze the pros and cons. Learning this has been a big growth opportunity for me.
- I wish someone told me I would have an overwhelming number of unopened emails every single day. Keeping up with the daily influx of emails keeps me on my toes since I don’t want to miss an important email and/or be slow in replying to customers and business partners.
- I wish someone told me how costly it would be to create body care products. While we strive to provide the best value to our retailers and quality products to our consumers, we have yet to find that balance of marking up the products to cover the cost of production and continuing bringing more innovative products to the wellness market.
- I wish someone told me that finding a reliable contract manufacturer to scale up Nala’s manufacturing would be so difficult. There are only a handful of contract manufacturers that have acceptable quality standards and capabilities when it comes to natural body care products. While we personally invest lots of care, energy, and love into creating every single formulation and we feel no one can do it as well as we can, we do have capacity limitations at this stage and the logical next step to do would be to find a contract manufacturer to help us with scaling up.
- I wish someone told me “Do it your way and you will enjoy it,” as I would have started what I’m doing now sooner. It takes a lot of determination, energy, enthusiasm, time, and money to be your own boss, but what makes it rewarding is that you get to do it your own way! I simply love the freedom of doing things in unconventional ways, the ways they don’t teach you in business school.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Mental health is an important cause to me because while it grows in awareness, it does not yet get the attention it deserves. As per the Canadian Mental Health Association, 50% of people have had or will have a mental illness by the age of 40. Because of the stigma associated with mental illnesses, half the people suffering from major depression, anxiety, or suicidal behavior end up not asking for help.
When designing Nala’s deodorants, we use ingredients that have calming effects, soothe anxiety, and as such, make us sweat less. Essential oils such as Lavender, Ylang-Ylang, Chamomile, Geranium, Rosemary and Copaiba affect our mental and emotional health and are great when we need to soothe anxiety and lift up the mood.
This, of course, does not replace seeking help or speaking to a professional when your thoughts and emotions get the better of you, however, the more we can normalize feeling down, the more we’ll be able to connect with one another and ourselves on a deeper level, allowing us to lead our brightest lives.