Being the founder of a business specializing in natural skin care and wellness products can come with a level of glamour, as you tap into the desires of customers looking for an emotional lift or a burst of energy from your gels, creams, capsules and cleanses.
However, Nava Feller, creator of the Nava Natural line of products, says she finds her motivation from different sources — her Jewish faith, her Israeli upbringing and motherhood.
Feller came to the United States in 2004 and a year later launched her business in Beverly Hills with the intent to create products that integrated natural elements from the Dead Sea. She had become familiar with the health benefits of botanicals and minerals from the Dead Sea over the course of her life, starting with her family’s annual vacations there and continuing with her studies of natural medicines in Israel and at the International School of Detoxification in Sarasota, Fla.
“While [the Dead Sea] was always a favorite place, I never thought about why my parents kept taking us back there until I was older,” said Feller, 57. “I then realized they wanted to take advantage of the Dead Sea’s health benefits, and for my brother and I to understand its effects on the muscles, skin and our overall well-being. I also observed people from all over the world were coming to the Dead Sea to experience these benefits in addressing chronic skin diseases like psoriasis, eczema and acne, as well as cardiovascular and lung diseases.”
Beginning with a handful of clients, the business now has thousands of customers who buy her products at her Beverly Hills shop, as well as from spas and salons in Palm Springs, Colorado, Oregon and Switzerland, as well as online.
Before coming to the U.S., Feller enjoyed a happy marriage, raising her two children — Stephanie, now 36, and Kevin, 32 — and several successful careers. She was a member of a professional dance troupe and then a dance instructor until 1979 in her native Israel. After she married, she and her husband moved to Switzerland, where she opened a dance and fitness studio, which she operated through the 1980s. In 1992, she and her husband decided to move back to Israel to strengthen their children’s Jewish roots and open a restaurant in Eilat.
Yet in three years, their life was interrupted when her husband received a diagnosis of terminal cancer, which tested her Jewish faith and definitions of health and wellness. The family eventually spent his last months in Switzerland, where he believed he would receive the best treatment.
“When doctors found my husband’s brain tumor, they told him there was no hope,” Feller said. “By telling him this, they took from him the very thing that keeps one alive, and he died three years later. Instead of allowing myself to grow bitter, however, I got into learning about preventative remedies. I turned this time into a series of teachable moments for my kids, learning from my husband’s passing and paying tribute to him by feeding my family a healthy, raw and vegan diet.”
To set a positive example for her children, Feller said, she shifted their focus from what she considered to be the fear-driven aspects of Western medicine to proactive approaches to health and nutrition. When Stephanie was 25 and suffering from skin irritations, neck and stomach swelling, and weight gain — the cause of which doctors could not pinpoint — Feller searched for a deeper connection between inner health and outer appearances.
“I reasoned that as she was still mourning the death of her father and holding those feelings of loss and sadness within her body, this was contributing to her various maladies,” Feller said. “Then, one day, a miracle happened when Stephanie read ‘The Complete Master Cleanse,’ and then did the cleanse for a month.” That regimen improved Stephanie’s condition and motivated her to take greater responsibility for her health.
When Feller moved to the U.S., her desire to keep connected to the benefits of the Dead Sea led her to sell skin care lines with Dead Sea ingredients produced by other companies. This turned out to be field research, as she noticed some products contained parabens, petroleum and other artificial ingredients, colors and fragrances. She then decided to start her own line of products that would be free of such additives.
After Nava Natural’s first few years, instead of growing her skin care line like other entrepreneurs, Feller scaled back her product offerings to what she calls the “Fabulous 5” (Eye Control, Line Control RSMO, Healing Anti-Aging Facial Treatment, Facial Peel and Sparkling Body Scrub).
“To make the customers’ experience of the Dead Sea more authentic, I got rid of things that did not relate to what Israelis actually used for their daily care based on what I saw growing up,” she said. “In 2015, I launched five herbal remedy kits with Dr. Robert Morse, an expert on herbal medicine under whom I studied for two years. The kits are designed to stimulate the lymphatic, endocrine, kidney, digestive and other functions that impact one’s well-being.”
To assign clients the right regimen of herbal tonics and supplements, Feller addresses their current health issues and general state of mind. Customers who want a comprehensive plan or cleanse can make an appointment to visit Feller’s home or have her come to theirs to have her develop a custom, three- to five-day program of juicing and herbal usage.
Feller said her motherly instincts come into play when recommending different products to her clients. She helps adults pass along their newly attained habits for good health and nutrition by encouraging them to teach their children as early as possible to read labels and make good food decisions.
“Children need to fall in love with Mother Nature — the colors of the vegetables, fruits and herbs — and understand it is made for them, as opposed to processed foods made for profit,” she said. “A good visual lesson is to have kids compare the orange color of natural juice with orange soda. Have them taste and smell both, and ask them what tastes more ‘real’ to them. It makes an impact, and once they have an awareness of what originates from nature, you can then teach them to say, ‘No, thank you’ to processed food.”
“Based on my Jewish upbringing,” she said, “I believe that, as God created a beautiful world, there are many things sourced rather than produced that heal and nourish the body. After all, animals and birds are not buying junk food or fad beauty products. They have an instinct for finding things in nature that are good for them, and [they] don’t rely on commercials or publicity to find them.
“Somewhere along the way, [humanity] took a few wrong turns, and now my job is to put it back in the right direction.”