M’sian social enterprise for eco-friendly activewear

Launched in 2017, Love, Light, Lemons was created by Raisa Gabrielli, born out of a passion to help every community in need in Malaysia.

“Given how I was raised in a family that understands the importance of giving back, I knew I also wanted to improve the lives of communities in need with every sale,” Raisa told Vulcan Post.

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

Making sustainable sportswear while giving back to the needy / Image credit: Love, Light, Lemons

Realize the ugly side of fast fashion

“In 2016, I watched The True Cost and as a result my outlook on the fashion industry changed dramatically. Shortly after, I began to dissect everyday objects to assess their impact on the environment and on society. It turns out that a shocking amount of everyday commercial items contains a plethora of dangerous chemicals, ”she explained.

“For example, most commercial candles are actually unhealthy when used long term because they contain carcinogenic chemicals.”

As a candle lover herself, Raisa knew she needed to move on to safer options. But she also knew that safer options were scarce or not as affordable.

Eco-friendly candle by Rasia / 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 then became a product line that she curated on her own. These hers candles are made from pure soy wax, high quality essential oils and a premium wick.

For the benefit of the needy and the Earth

Besides candles, Love, Light, Lemons also produced handcrafted clay bowls and sportswear made from recycled materials. batik. Here is the timeline of Raisa’s projects and the sustainable products she has sold:

YearSome productsBeneficiaries
2017Ecological candlesMalaysian Association of the Blind
2018Traditional Handcrafted Shoulder Bags (Made in Myanmar)Rohingya Education Center, Klang
2019Handcrafted clay bowlsPusat Jagaan Rumah Juara, Puchong
2020Sportswear certified Global Organic Textile Standard in 100% cotton and some with recycled batik strapsThe Lost of Shah Alam

When conserving products, Raisa would first analyze the suitability of the product for the market, the number of existing competitors, the production costs, where she can sell the final product, etc.

Because it manufactures some of these products itself, R&D can last from several weeks (candles) to several months (sportswear).

Overcycling batik fabric for sportswear / Image credit: Love, Light, Lemons

Another reason Raisa dedicates a year to each cause is that it’s not her full-time job, but she hopes to grow Love, Light, Lemons enough to be able to take on multiple projects per year. Raisa is currently a freelance writer and yoga instructor.

As for the distribution of profits, it depends on the project. Even though its projects last a year, the beneficiaries are not funded monthly. Instead, they will receive a lump sum after the project is completed, although Raisa is working on monthly funding.

BeneficiariesProfit sharing
Malaysian Association of the Blind50-50
Rohingya Education Center10% of each sale
Pusat Jagaan Rumah JuaraRM500-600 (this was an amount set by the orphanage to purchase school supplies)
The Lost of Shah AlamRM62 to date (100% of donations)

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

This year’s monthly earnings ranged from RM 0 to RM 328.90 for Love, Light, Lemons, but at the start of the year Raisa had the opportunity to become a vendor at The Row’s Sunny Side Up Market, and Over the course of 2 days, she earned RM1513 in sales and RM26 in donations.

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

A blessing in disguise

“While working with refugees from Afghanistan and Myanmar, language barriers sometimes arise,” Raisa told Vulcan Post. Because of this, communication issues are occurring, which resulted in excess stock for their sportswear last year.

However, Raisa found a solution and approached Stitchworks and Good Juju earlier this year – local brands specializing in embroidery and tie-dyeing respectively – to jointly produce a seasonal product line, The Lunar Capsule.

“The dead stock was dyed using only herbal ingredients (like blueberries, turmeric, red wine, etc.) and embroidered with symbols representative of the holiday season we were honoring.”

See more opportunities in the field of sportswear

Dropped new product line to commemorate Chinese New Year / Image credit: Love, Light, Lemons

While Raisa doesn’t jump on trends when it comes to choosing the product she wants to offer, she actively keeps an eye out for what’s missing in the Malaysian market. From his latest discoveries, it is 100% organic cotton sportswear certified GOTS.

Therefore, she plans to stick with sportswear production for a while, as she also intends to maintain her relationship with The Craft Shop and Mang Tha.

Currently she is working on the production of unisex muscle reservoirs with a batik collar, reversible unisex shorts (one side batik and the other in cotton), ballerina wrap tops with batik details, and batik bandanas.

A beneficiary has not yet been decided for this upcoming project as Raisa struggles to choose at a time when so many communities need help.

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

“I’m grateful to have broken even this year and definitely plan to invest more in marketing so that I can donate monthly, one way or another,” she concluded.

  • You can read more about Love, Light, Lemons here, and browse their products here.
  • You can read more about other social enterprises we have covered. here.

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

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