Episode 174: Mila and Ada Juristovski, Co-Founders of Nala

When mother-daughter duo Mila & Ada Juristovski lost their husband and father, they transformed their grief over intense loss into a drive to create something focused on health and wellness. Nala combines Mila’s expertise in biotech and Ada’s mastery of marketing to bring a free-from, natural and effective deodorant to the market.

Dan Hodgdon
AnnouncerWelcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty®, hosted by Jodi Katz, founder and creative director of Base Beauty Creative Agency.
Jodi KatzHey, everybody, it's Jodi Katz, your host of Where Brains Meet Beauty® podcast. This week's episode features Mila and Ada Juristovski. They're the co-founders of Nala. And if you missed last week's episode, it featured Kayla Bertagna and Lisa Ballstaedt, they're the co-founders of Soon skincare. Thanks for tuning in.

Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the show. I'm so excited to be here with Mila and Ada Juristovski, they're the co-founders of Nala. Welcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty®.
Ada JuristovskiThank you. It's so great to be here, Jodi. Thank you so much.
Jodi KatzIt's nice to meet you both. Thank you so much. I hope that I did a good job pronouncing your names. I've been practicing off-camera.
Ada JuristovskiYou did.
Jodi KatzSo what I love about today's recording is that this is a mother-daughter team. We don't get to meet too many mother-daughter teams on this show. So it's really cool to be with both of you now.
Ada JuristovskiWe get a lot of questions about what it's like working as mother-daughter and so far we're here and we're happy. So yeah, we're excited to be here.
Jodi KatzWell, my favorite question, and I've talked to you about this offline is to hear about what my guests wanted to be when they grew up when they were a little kids. So let's start there and Mila, we can start with you, when you're a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Mila JuristovskiSo, yes. I thought about it and I actually not quite sure what I wanted. And if I knew when I was a kid, what I really wanted to be when I grow up, I think I'm still searching to what I really want to be. But for me, it has been all this passion actually to find the cure for cancer ever since my first-grade teacher passed away from cancer.

But other than that, it feels like I've been always searching for doing something new, learning something new, doing different things, starting from working from a pharmaceutical industry as a biotech engineer, then completely changing and working in digital media and music industry, even doing bioenergy healings. And it feels like everything has led me to this point, starting my own beauty brand, Nala.
Jodi KatzAnd Ada, what were your dreams when you were a little kid?
Ada JuristovskiYeah, I thought a lot about this and I think actually similar to me, I never had one specific career, but funnily enough, I always had, I think, more just fragments and associations of what I wanted to be. And for me, the image that stands out the most is, I knew that I always wanted to be a top executive, top leadership position at some big company. And I remember specifically, envisioning myself in this Prada power suit and coming in every day in high heels and being somebody there, I think in the core leadership team.

And to me, that was really aspirational, and after we last spoke, Jodi, I reflected on why this was because I never really thought much about it. And on one side, I think it's sad in the sense that I feel like I did really buy into this corporate dream. I think all of that appealed to me. I was literally fantasizing about back to back meetings and powering myself with caffeine.

But on the other side, and I think really what it was is I think even from a young age, I think I already recognized that what I was aspiring to in terms of being part of that core leadership in a big company influencing lots of people is a position typically held by men. And I think that's really what drove that is showing that I can be just as capable, just as competent. And I think proving myself in that way. Yeah.
Jodi KatzI think it's so interesting for me that you say that that was your vision because when I was, I guess, in college, I couldn't wait to get to that place. I was so excited to put on suits and feel important, this idea of self-importance. And after less than a year, working in a corporate environment, I'm like, "Oh wait, this is not for me. I'm a tank tops and flip flops kind of girl and all of the hierarchy and the what you can say, what you can't say, all this stuff was really draining on me.
Ada JuristovskiAnd the funny I wonder, if you feel this too, but all those things and qualities I was searching for. So autonomy and significance and having an impact over the future of the company, ironically, you get that through entrepreneurship or through being your own company and wearing tank tops and sweat pants and being a two-person team working out of your apartment that you don't necessarily get out of a 2000 person team.
Jodi KatzOh, yeah. I had so much audacity and so much ego when I was younger and I was so frustrated why all these thousands of people don't care about my point of view. It's like a 21-year-old in this giant corporation. I was so nurtured in college. I went to a school that was so much about building you into... Helping you be whoever you want to be. And then it was like a rude awakening right after graduation. And yes, the only place you can really impact total change is to run the business yourself.
Ada JuristovskiYeah. We found that too. And I still had one foot in the corporate world up until literally this month. So taking Nala full-time, which is a huge milestone. And I think, yeah, both have their place, but it feels really right to be, I think at this point, putting my energy into Nala.
Jodi KatzSo let's talk about why you decided to start this company. Mila, tell me what the inspiration was.
Mila JuristovskiThe inspiration... Nala is first of all a Vancouver-based skincare company, and is the most recognized for our free-from deodorants from our line of Free-From deodorants. How I started Nala, the inspiration behind was actually a loss of someone really special to us, my late husband, Alan, and Ada's father.

At the time when we lost Alan, the deep grief, the loss was really unbearable and we feel we need to channel this powerful grief into something creative, into something that would not only help us deal with our grief, but also help others find the products that are safe, that are nourishing, that are free-from first of all, which was our focus. Free-from chemicals that are typically found in mainstream cosmetic products.

But above the literal, and now that you can add about aspirational meaning of the free-from. But for us, it really means that the products people can trust without overthinking, products that are safe, they're free from harmful chemicals. And some aspirational levels is having freedom to release the things that are not longer serving us. And did Ada want to add your take on that?
Ada JuristovskiHey, you answered that well. We were chatting about it before, but I think from my perspective, when my dad was sick, Mila quit her job to take care of him full-time. And when he passed, I think that was almost like this clean slate where on one hand, you're like, "Oh my God, what do I do with my life now?" The last, whatever period of time was dedicated to taking care of him and now, we were all feeling lost and I really saw this click in her when she was like, I don't know if I can swear but she was like, "F it, I'm not going to go work for anybody else. I have this amazing experience of 20 years in biotech, I'm going to do something powerful and beautiful and be my own boss."

And for me, it was a cool opportunity to be alongside her and I think change our relationship a little bit as well from almost mother, daughter, caregiver, receiver to business partners and take what we were both feeling and processing differently and channel that into the same thing.
Jodi KatzI appreciate you sharing your story of grief with me. Obviously, it's super intimate and personal. I'm curious to know how grief translated itself into deodorant for you.
Mila JuristovskiBasically it came down to how do we create the products... Jodi, come to think of it, it's about, how do we actually take care of our body? How do we...
Ada JuristovskiHey, if you want to just getting emotional.
Mila JuristovskiI'm getting-
Ada JuristovskiI'll take. The way we channeled grief into deodorant. I think yes. To Mila's point, it started with this deep self-care, and we think deodorant for us, I think is something that can often be an afterthought. It's just one example, you're running out the door, you throw it in. And I think we have this compound effect when this is happening over hundreds and thousands of seemingly quick afterthoughts that can have a profound impact on our health and our wellbeing, whether that's mental, physical, emotional, whatever that is.

Deodorants, the reason we started it as a product, I think is really two-fold. One, they're notoriously difficult to make naturally. And I think that is where Mila is our secret weapon. She has so much amazing experience firsthand, not only in product development formulation, but also regulatory affairs, like the dry stuff that a lot of people don't want to get into. She knows intimately quality assurance.

But the other is, our armpits are such a sensitive area. They're so close to our lymph nodes, to our breast tissues. There's more and more scientifically backed research that there is associations between the chemicals, most specifically aluminum that can be found in commercial deodorants leading to types of cancer.

And so for us, it was an easy, I won't say easy, but I think it made sense to start there, especially with our story and the place we were at at the time.
Mila JuristovskiYeah, thank you Ada for... I was just trying to get... but if I may add, it's such a sensitive area. And our armpits tissues are full of hormone receptors, lymph nodes, sweat pores, and there's growing concern is backed up by scientific evidence that some chemicals that are found in mainstream cosmetic and specifically in deodorants are linked to cancer, to mental health issues, a hormone disruptor, and can cause all sort of health issues.

So we felt we have to start somewhere. We have to start explaining, we have to take basically charge of our own health. And when it comes to suffering from cancer, going through grief, or any illness, there's really not... The mainstream medicine is not going to help you. It's really up to us to take up responsibility of our health and start caring for ourselves.
Jodi KatzSo Mila, when Ada is talking about you to me on our intake call, she said that your colleagues said you're a visionary, which is a really nice way to be described by your daughter and your friends. And it makes me think about the timing of entering the deodorant business because it's been many years that you've had this business and you were working on researching it for several years before that. What were you seeing in the deodorant category at the time that you started researching this brand?
Mila JuristovskiWhat I was seeing, basically, I felt like there is much more to doing the deodorants category. It was definitely a rapidly growing industry and field. And yet, I mentioned before, it was really hard to manufacture it. It was really hard to ensure that there is a safety, that there is the quality, it was really hard to pick the ingredients that are turned out to be so important in our everyday self-care.

So I felt by applying my years of my knowledge, I can really add values and contribute to the industry that has been growing really rapidly and at a really steep trajectories and yet the regulations are not able to follow and to regulate. So yes, as far as natural deodorants, there were fewer deodorants, there was not so many, not as many as now and now every day we wake up to new deodorants.

So I guess, I obviously have this visions. Yes, people are going to switch to natural deodorants. People are going to start caring more, certainly reading labels, to start interpreting what it really means. What is it that we are putting on our body? I felt this is where I actually can add value and read more of a scientific rigor. And then almost like more of this industry needs modernization. It needs a higher quality standards. It needs someone understanding what it takes to make a good quality deodorants using only natural ingredients, but at the same time, maintaining the efficacy, maintaining the quality of the product.
Jodi KatzSo Ada, when your mom told you she's not going back to her full-time job and she's going to start a deodorant company, what was the first thing that you thought?
Mila JuristovskiOh my God, why deodorants?
Ada JuristovskiNo, honestly, I think genuinely I supported from the beginning. I think what's interesting is yeah, she's talked about her expertise and where I felt I could add value. I wanted to see this be a success as well. And so it was my, as I say, five to nine, helping her after work and stuff, but mostly focused on, at the beginning, branding, marketing, sales and I tease her because I think one of the initial names for Nala was something terrible, but it was just like-
Jodi KatzBalance?
Ada JuristovskiYeah, I think it was balanced cubed or something. And then I was like, "Vito, that's not going to be the name of the company." And we landed on Nala. Nala is actually Alan's name backwards. And so it felt very topical. Tied it full circle. This is the spark that started it. But also, it keeps us driving and keeps us going. And we both love that. We, to this day, debate over who came up with it.
Mila JuristovskiYes.
Ada JuristovskiI'm confident it was me.
Mila JuristovskiI'm confident it was me.
Ada JuristovskiBut I had full faith in her and I think it was a nice way to see our skillsets and my background being in marketing and communications, where I could support her to really see this come to life.
Jodi KatzThat's so cool. I didn't realize that the name was your dad's name backwards. That's so smart. So you told us that you actually just left your full-time job. Right now you are completely dedicated to growing this brand. How hard was it to come to terms with making that decision?
Ada JuristovskiIt was definitely difficult. I think one of the struggles for me is, I think there's two main schools of thought when it comes to entrepreneurship. And one is, if you're serious about something, you're going to dive right into it, do 100%, leave everything behind. And that wasn't my thinking. My thinking was, okay, hold on. We need to see if this is viable and we're going to do this on the side and test it out. And to me, I think that's always just been a smarter way. And I've seen both ways be done by multiple companies and both with great success.

But my challenge, I think, is always just my balance of energy and time an, I'd come home from the workday drained and then trying to put my best self forward, my best creative thinking, especially, when you're not doing route tasks, but rather, being creative and thinking outside the box.

And then I had a baby recently, he's 11 months old. And so I've been on maternity leave, which is another balance as well, I think, between taking care of a baby and doing this full-time. And so, there's always been something and I suspect it always will be competing for that energy and that time. And so for me, I knew that if we really wanted to go forward and see what we can make of Nala, now was the time. We've proven the concept, there's demand for it, customers are happy. We've got a rich pipeline that we want to bring to market that it was time to give it my all.
Jodi KatzAnd there's an element of personalization for the brand. What is that?
Ada JuristovskiDo you want to talk about that?
Mila JuristovskiPersonalizations. Yes, this is how we differentiate now. This is what we were passionate about. And actually, it goes back to your question how do you channel all these grief into deodorants? Because we do believe that our bodies are different and there is no such a thing as a one size fits all when it comes to persons medicine, but also when it comes to cosmetic, and in this case, deodorants.

The reason why we started personalized deodorants and what that means, we allow people to choose their favorite scent and also, which comes in different strengths of deodorants. We believe by doing so, we are actually helping people to make that transition from antiperspirants aluminum salts is the one that we believe it's the main offender in deodorants.

To make that transition to natural deodorants and by personalizing, we are helping them, we are leading them through, starting gently, detoxifying using really gentle solutions to later on building up, increasing the amounts of active ingredients, baking soda, and eventually going to maybe to the strongest solution.
Jodi KatzI didn't realize that there is a transition process needed from going from a traditional antiperspirant into a natural deodorant. What is the consumer experiencing when she switches?
Ada JuristovskiLike anything, it's totally personal. Some people don't notice it transition and there's multiple factors. But what we found maybe to really boil it down and simplify it, but the way that antiperspirants work by definition, anti-perspire, so aluminum will literally clog your pores so that you're not sweating. But what happens, it forms a bit of this jelly plug that goes into your pores, but over time, not only the ingredients in the antiperspirant, but also just toxins that your body is trying to daily get rid of, will start to accumulate in your armpits, which is what can be dangerous.

So when you start using a natural deodorant or when you stop using deodorant, your body is actually learning to self-regulate and to sweat regularly for the first time. And at the beginning, what that can include is I think the release of anything that's just been stagnant just by nature of blocking your body from sweating.

And that can come as a bit of a shock because sometimes it's sweating a little bit more, sometimes it's smelling a little bit more because it is this bacteria releasing from your body, mixing with your skin. And so, the way that we've mitigated that, we're very passionate about people switching to natural deodorants, safer alternatives. We have a beautiful, gentle, it's a peppermint and charcoal deodorant. We actually recommend wearing it at night.

So the peppermint is nice and cooling. So if you're a hot sleeper, you wake up tingly fresh. And the charcoal actually helps extract some of these, whatever it might be.
Mila JuristovskiImpurities.
Ada JuristovskiYeah, impurities that are trapped in your armpits. And so, you can get that sweat out at nighttime, in the morning, just shower, wipe down with a towel, whatever it is. And then, yeah, like you said, buildup where... Or mix and match with the deodorant needed for you.

On the other side, there's also people who don't notice any transition. And I think it totally depends on lifestyle too. It can depend on just your genetics. It can depend on how much water you're drinking, how much you're sweating on a daily basis, exercising. So we try to meet the consumer where they're at. And we knew if we gave everyone the strongest deodorant, it'd be too strong for some people. And if we gave everyone the most gentle deodorant, it wouldn't be enough protection. And so we really work with our customers. We have that direct line of communication to be like, "Hey, how do we find something that's fit for your lifestyle?"
Jodi KatzIt's so interesting. So let's talk about the idea of finding joy in your work. Being an entrepreneur is not easy. My guess is, you're not sleeping on bags full of money every night. So you're doing this with passion and investing in your future. How do you keep the joy alive when that gets hard?
Mila JuristovskiI'll do it. Yes. For me, how do we keep the joy alive? I think for me, it is actually staying really through to Nala brand essence, and really going back to why we started this business. I remember when we started Nala, and I actually took lots of time to come up with a brand book where we clearly define what our mission is, what our vision is, what our core capabilities are, and what we want to do.

And then it's actually in the whole process of running a business, it's really easy to get distracted with what the industry trends are, what our competitor is doing? What else are they expecting us to do? What they're telling us to do. And it's hard not to, in a way, wanting to do the same things that our people are doing successfully. But then, at the end of the day, you end up overworking, working long hours, having difficult disconnecting.

But at the end of the day, I always come back to, "Okay, what is it? What were the values? What was our vision?" And then I literally go back and read and it's like, love, education, health, being bold, challenging the status quo. But at the same time enjoying it. Feel that joy, doing it your own way, being authentic. That always helps me.

The analogy would be like, when you're trying to get attention of a special person, your dream person, and yet you're wearing the same clothes, the same makeup, speaking the same way like everyone else is. And then you're trying to get that dream person. So how do you do that? Just by going back to human essence like expressing yourself, being you.

And that's what roots for us when it comes to Nala. Just let the Nala be Nala.
Ada JuristovskiI will say Mila is a good reminder of going back to the joy. Anytime I'll get stressed out or overwhelmed or burnt out, she's the one to instigate it, but say, "Hey, if we're not enjoying this, what's the point? Yes, there's times that are going to be stressful and uncertain, but if we can enjoy working for ourself and then if we're stressing and working ourselves to the ground, we might as well work for any corporation and we can get that same stress. There's joy in being your own boss and setting your own terms. And I think it's important to celebrate that."

And for myself, I think work, whether it's for yourself or for somebody else, if it adds value or if you need it to live via consistent part of your life, but I don't think it should ever be your whole life. And that's for me personally. If work becomes too much, I think it's important to just inject those moments that where you can disconnect, whether that's, for me, time with my kid, whether it's time in nature, whether it's writing, reading a book, I don't think it needs to be over crafted, but just remembering to step away as well.
Jodi KatzIt's really hard. Especially this year, it's been so challenging and so much of a rollercoaster ride, at least for me in my business. And today, I'm having a down day. Most days are not, but today, it just feels a little gloomy. And listening to you talk, it reminds me that on better days, I remind myself that I'm wealthy with freedom and wealthy with control over how I spend my time. So, wow. Maybe the ups and downs of revenue are stressful. I am wealthy in other ways. So thank you for mentioning it because it reminded me that that's what I tell myself.
Ada JuristovskiAnd sorry you're having a gloomy day.
Mila JuristovskiYes, it's okay.
Ada JuristovskiAnd I think it's important as well to acknowledge. It's okay to have gloomy days. It's okay to have down days. We can't always be happy and every day be the best day ever in terms of revenue or success or exposure or whatever it is. But yeah.
Mila JuristovskiYeah, we like to say just, yes, allow yourself to be human, to feel down. We don't have to always be at the top of our games and it's good to feel pain.
Ada JuristovskiYeah, to feel it all. We feel it all.
Mila JuristovskiAnd then when you're ready, go back.
Jodi KatzThis podcast is amazing for me because it's like free therapy. Like seriously, the universe always gives me the guests that I need on that day. So I'm super grateful because it's hard. All this stuff is hard. And I don't know then it's easier, honestly, for somebody who works for someone else at this moment in time, I think it's just hard for everybody. Sometimes it gets a little lonely in my head. So I need my people around me to help me see things differently. It's very helpful. So thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with me today and our guest.
Ada JuristovskiThis is your saying that it's a total gift having your guests come and I think just having different perspectives, different sounding boards being exposed to that. So I think, that's another way you're wealthy in connections. And I think that's a huge gift, especially in 2020 and these times.
Jodi KatzYeah. I think the most fun I have, when I try to break down the joy, other than helping my team grow into the people they want to be is connecting with new people and getting to meet them and hear their stories, which is obviously the beautiful part of the podcast because I get to do that every week. So thank you to the universe for delivering the Nala team to me today. So thank you so much for joining me here on the podcast and for our listeners, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Mila and Ada. I certainly did. Please subscribe to our series on iTunes and for updates about the show. Follow us on Instagram at @wherebrainsmeetbeautypodcast.
Ada JuristovskiThank you, Jodi.
Mila JuristovskiThank you for having us. It's a pleasure.
AnnouncerThanks for listening to Where Brains Meet Beauty® with Jodi Katz. Tune in again for more authentic conversations with beauty leaders.

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