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M'sian social enterprise Love, Light, Lemons sells various products like eco-friendly activewear and donates the profits to multiple causes.

Faye Lee  |  MY
Published 2021-07-13 11:03:38
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Started in 2017, Love, Light, Lemons was the brainchild of Raisa Gabrielli, born from a passion to help every community that’s in need in Malaysia.

“Considering how I was raised in a family that understands the importance of giving back, I knew I wanted to uplift the lives of communities in need with every sale, too,” Raisa shared with Vulcan Post. 

It’s unrealistic to want to help everyone at the same time, and, understanding this, Raisa has found a way around it. Every year, she instead gives back to one group of beneficiaries, be they refugees, orphanages, stray dogs, or the blind.

Making sustainable activewear while giving back to the needy / Image Credit: Love, Light, Lemons

Realising the ugly side of fast fashion

“In 2016, I watched The True Cost and as a result, my view of the fashion industry changed drastically. Soon after, I started dissecting everyday items to assess their impact on the environment and on society. Turns out, a shocking amount of commercial everyday items contain a plethora of unsafe chemicals,” she explained.

“For example, most commercial candles are actually detrimental to health when used long-term, due to containing carcinogenic chemicals.”

As a candle enthusiast herself, Raisa knew that she had to switch to safer options. But she also knew that safer options were either sparse or not as affordable. 

Rasia’s eco-friendly candle / Image Credit: Love, Light, Lemons

So she rolled up her sleeves and did weeks of R&D on how to make eco-friendly candles which later became a line of products she curated on her own. These candles of hers are made from pure soy wax, high quality essential oils, and a wick of choice. 

Benefitting the needy and Earth

Besides candles, Love, Light, Lemons also produced handcrafted clay bowls and activewear made from upcycled batik. This is the timeline of Raisa’s projects and what sustainable products she sold:

YearProductsBeneficiaries
2017Eco-friendly candlesThe Malaysian Association for the Blind
2018Ready-made traditional handmade shoulder-bags (made in Myanmar)The Rohingya Education Centre, Klang
2019Handcrafted clay bowlsPusat Jagaan Rumah Juara, Puchong
2020Global Organic Textile Standard-certified activewear made from 100% cotton and some with upcycled batik strapsThe Strays of Shah Alam

When curating products, Raisa would first analyse how relevant the product is to the market, how many existing competitors there are, production costs, where she can sell the final product, etc.

Because she makes some of these products herself, R&D can last anywhere from several weeks (the candles) to several months (the activewear).

Upcycling batik fabric for the activewear / Image Credit: Love, Light, Lemons

Another reason why Raisa dedicates a year for each cause is that this isn’t her full-time job, but she’s hoping to grow Love, Light, Lemons enough to be able to take on several projects per year. Raisa is currently a freelance writer and yoga instructor. 

As for how the profits are split, it depends on the project. Even though her projects run for a year, the beneficiaries aren’t funded monthly. Instead, they will be given a lump sum once the project concludes, though Raisa is working towards monthly funding. 

BeneficiariesProfit splits
The Malaysian Association of the Blind50-50
Rohingya Education Centre10% of each sale
Pusat Jagaan Rumah JuaraRM500-600 (it was an amount fixed by the orphanage to purchase school supplies)
The Strays of Shah AlamRM62 thus far (100% of the donations)

The activewear is produced by refugees from Afghanistan (The Craft Shop under El Shaddai’s Life2Life Programme) and from Myanmar (Mang Tha under Tanma Women).

Monthly revenues this year have ranged from RM0 to RM328.90 for Love, Light, Lemons, but at the start of the year, Raisa had the opportunity to become a vendor at the Sunny Side Up Market at The Row, and over the course of 2 days, she earned RM1,513 in sales and RM26 in donations. 

Nu Vung, one of the tailors employed under Mang Tha / Image Credit: Love, Light, Lemons

A blessing in disguise

“As I work with refugees from Afghanistan and Myanmar, language barriers occur sometimes,” Raisa shared with Vulcan Post. Because of this, miscommunication happens, which led to excess stock for their activewear last year. 

However, Raisa found a fix for it and approached Stitchworks and Good Juju at the start of this year—local brands specialising in embroidery and tie-dye respectively—to produce a seasonal product line together, The Lunar Capsule.

“The dead stock was tie-dyed using only plant-based ingredients (like blueberries, turmeric, red wine, etc.) and embroidered with symbols representative of the festive season we were honouring.”

Seeing more opportunity in the activewear sphere

Dropping a new product line to commemorate Chinese New Year / Image Credit: Love, Light, Lemons

While Raisa doesn’t hop onto trends when it comes to choosing what product she wants to put out there, she actively keeps an eye on what’s missing in the Malaysian market. From her latest findings, it’s GOTS-certified 100% organic cotton activewear. 

Hence, she plans to stick to producing activewear for a while, because she also intends to maintain her relationship with The Craft Shop and Mang Tha.

Currently, she’s working on producing unisex muscle tanks with a batik collar, unisex reversible shorts (one side batik and the other cotton), ballerina wrap-around tops with batik details, and batik bandanas.

A beneficiary hasn’t been decided yet for this upcoming project as Raisa finds it hard to choose at a time when so many communities need help.  

Of her own challenges, Raisa shared, “Whenever I invest in a project, I use money I have either earned or saved. In turn, my budget for marketing is low which means less exposure, especially when compared to other social enterprises/brands with a cause. Thus, becoming more established was, and can still be, a struggle.”

“I’m grateful to have broken even this year and am definitely planning to invest more into marketing to be able to donate monthly, in some way or another,” she concluded.

  • You can learn more about Love, Light, Lemons here, and browse its products here.
  • You can read about more social enterprises we’ve covered here.

Featured Image Credit: Raisa Gabrielli, founder of Love, Light, Lemons

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