Small Business Lessons: How to communicate price hikes with customers, according to Nala

For our Small Business issue, we asked 14 B.C. businesses how they're surviving in this economy. Here's one of them

Vancouver-based natural deodorant and body care brand Nala Care is all about transparency—with its ingredients and prices. In times of rising costs and faltering economic growth, co-founders Radmila Juristovski Bosnic and Ada Juristovski Jemc resisted price hikes as long as possible. But the shoe dropped in March 2023, when the mother-daughter duo succumbed to inflationary pressures and raised the prices of their deodorants from $29 to $32.

“It is purely to cover for the astronomical increase of prices of the raw materials and packaging,” says COO Juristovski Bosnic, who immigrated to Vancouver from what was Yugoslavia (now Serbia and Montenegro) in 1992. “We also wanted to give a small raise to our staff [of five], just to cover inflation.”

Launching Nala in 2017 was the duo’s way of dealing with the grief of losing their husband and father, Alan, to lung cancer. The point was to encourage people to identify and remove carcinogens from their daily lives—starting with a switch to natural deodorants that the founders state are free from harmful chemicals like aluminum, parabens, phthalates and propylene glycol. So it was important for Nala (Alan spelled backwards) to be accessible, despite its premium status as a body care product.

Price standardization was a move to be able to stay in business, according to CEO Juristovski Jemc, who studied commerce and marketing at UBC Sauder. She notes that while the price of some Nala deodorants increased, its personalized deodorants (which come in different strengths for different bodies) went down from $35 to $32.

“We communicated to our retailers [via email] at least a few months in advance because they needed to know, but also to give them an opportunity to stock up at the lower price point,” says Juristovski Jemc. “With our customers, we started creating content on social media that directly tackled price transparency.”

Nala posted a number of Instagram reels and TikTok videos discussing the high cost of organic ingredients and sustainable packaging as well as the importance of fair pay. As Juristovski Jemc puts it, people were understanding: “For the most part, people have been pleasantly receptive to it. And we’re empathetic because we know the cost of everything is going up and we don’t want to raise our prices.”

She recalls sending a survey to Nala’s highest-valued customers (i.e., loyal customers who spent over $1,000 within the last few years), asking for feedback. One customer responded that, with recent life changes, Nala was simply out of her budget, and asked if the discount code that she had could be extended. “I gave her a code that was even more generous than that initial one,” says Juristovski Jemc, emphasizing how much she appreciates repeat customers.

“People are very price sensitive, especially during a recession,” Juristovski Bosnic points out, noting that Nala recently released a $10 summer deodorant trio sample pack. “Once they get to know you and trust you, they’ll come back and they won’t have a problem paying a little bit more because they will appreciate the quality and the brand’s value as well.”