Deodorant is a hygiene basic; but the deodorant category is anything but basic. This personal care category is innovative, profitable across market tiers, and beauty consumers are more excited about products that address odor and sweat than you might think.
Which is why the people, passion, and purpose behind deo brands today are such a good source of insight into the category; we have a lot to learn from founders and forward-thinkers like Radmila Juristovski-Bosnic and Ada Juristovski Jemc.
Turing Routine Products into Self-Care Rituals
Their brand Nala Care is a premium, personalized body care brand intent on “becoming a leader in the free-from-carcinogens body care products industry.” Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Radmila and Ada founded the brand in 2016 after losing a family member to cancer. The first Nala Care deodorants launched in 2017: Sandalwood & Bergamot, Lemon Myrtle & Geranium, and a Detox Deodorant with Peppermint & Charcoal.
According to the mother-daughter duo, “Nala strives to give consumers the highest quality products that are beautiful, effective, and free-from any known carcinogens, without any compromise to their health and beauty. The products are designed to inspire daily acts of self-care and self-knowing. We believe that these rituals…are vital for our collective wellbeing.”
Nala Care is working to expand the brand’s product line in support of that purpose with further body care essentials in 2024; after that, there are plans to “[go] into more niche areas of focus, specifically on body parts or qualities that may be considered taboo to discuss.” The brand’s latest product launch is a Breast Oil, which according to the product page is “Made with specifically chosen ingredients to alleviate breast tenderness, reduce stretch marks, and improve skin texture, this oil serves as a vehicle to honor and care for one of the most miraculous parts of the human body.”
And there is documented demand for an expanded Nala Care product portfolio: “Our customer base is very loyal and wants to see us show up in more parts of their daily routine, be that in the shower or their bedtime rituals,” the founders tell me.
Conscious Consumers and an Expanding Community
The reasons why personal care consumers opt for one brand over another are innumerable; but certainly they include expectations around product performance, product scent and sensoriality, formulation preferences, and sustainability.
“Nala’s consumer,” explain Radmila and Ada, “is a conscious consumer who cares and prioritizes high quality ingredients, balanced (leaning on hedonistic) wellness, and a sensory experience.
“They are willing to invest in themselves and products that fulfill their sense of wellbeing.
"They are values-driven and spend their hard earned dollar on brands that align with their own values - whether that is sustainably sourced and manufactured, brands that give back, women-owned and led, organic, vegan, etc. Nala,” they point out, “is all of these things.”
When asked how Nala Care builds community and maintains consumer loyalty, they tell me that, “the number one way to maintain consumer loyalty is above all, a quality product. Nala products work, which is why customers come back. We have a very high repeat purchase rate, with about 50% of our revenue coming from repeat purchasers.
“New and seasonal scents are a big driver of repeat purchases—our customers love them! That's one of the benefits of manufacturing in-house, we can have a quick turnaround with new scent formulations.
“We’ve always done loyalty internally. That is, offer freebies for our loyal customers, speak to our top customers to understand what matters to them. This has felt more authentic than points programs or banking on discounts to drive repeat purchases.”
And at Nala Care, thanks to gifts and recommendations, loyal customers give rise to more loyal customers. “We build community by being incredibly customer-centric,” say Radmila and Ada. “Much of our growth comes from word of mouth and even people being given our deodorants. It says a lot about the quality of your product when people are giving deodorants as gifts!
“We leverage our social platforms to facilitate conversations around topics that don’t get talked about often in our industry, such as why you smell more after having a baby, or the decision to keep or remove body hair. This attracts other people interested in challenging certain societal norms we hold around beauty, and organically grows our community with like-minded individuals.”
A Deodorant Brand Built on Love Equity
There are many ways to build a brand and many version of victory. The team at Nala Care seems to be quite pragmatic and thoughtfully moving forward at their own pace.
“It was a wonderful opportunity...that helped us meet with industry leaders, connect with other entrepreneurs, and learn about what it takes to entire wholesale partnerships at a much larger scale,” she says.
When asked if she’d recommend the experience to other beauty entrepreneurs, Ada says, “The advice I’d share is that while helpful, I don’t believe any one accelerator or incubator program will be a ‘make or break it’ opportunity. It can be a leg up; but ultimately, it’s the work that happens outside of the program that shapes your next opportunities, so don’t beat yourself up too much if you don’t get in. Similarly, if you do get in, it’s not enough to lean on that accomplishment, but rather what you do with the connections you make that counts.”
And when it comes to financing the brand, Radmila and Ada tell me that Nala Care is “completely bootstrapped with some support from government and private grants. It’s definitely challenging,” they say, “and does affect our ability to compete with larger brands that are VC-backed and have a high marketing and advertising budget.
“It also gives us more control to work at the speed which we can to maintain a family life and some sense of sanity,” stresses Ada, who “had 2 kids in the last 4 years,” and firmly believes that “the ability to take time off and reserve certain periods for scaling back is the only reason I was able to continue working for myself during this time. While that’s definitely possible when you’ve received external financing, there can be an added element of stress to grow and scale when what you’re needing is to rest and reassess.”
“Nala is truly funded by the love and passion of its founders,” says Radmila. “We give Nala all we have: our time, financial resources, creativity, heart, and soul. So it is more like ‘love equity’. It is the love and the sense of purpose that drives the growth of Nala. No money can really pay for endless working hours, but the sense of purpose can.”
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