By: Sara Wong, Peak Associate
For local artists and artisans, business took a drastic and unexpected turn when COVID-19 hit. In the midst of a pandemic, it’s hard to find many optimistic stories, yet that’s exactly what I discovered in SFU alumna, Melody Lim, and her candle company Mala the Brand.
What sets Mala the Brand apart from other handmade-candle brands in Vancouver is Lim’s focus on sustainability. All the materials she uses, for both the candles and the packaging, are eco-friendly. Lim sources out recyclable materials that, in turn, are reusable. In fact, you can return an empty Mala the Brand candle jar for $1 off your next purchase. Additionally, thanks to partnerships with social enterprises Tree Era and Plant the Peace, every Mala the Brand candle purchased leads to a tree being planted. In the seven months that Mala the Brand has been operating, over 2,210 trees have been planted.
I asked Lim how her time at SFU played into the development of Mala the Brand. Her email response was glowing, “SFU has helped shape me into the person I am today, through the experiences, knowledge, and community that I was privileged to be able to come across.”
Lim goes on to describe the skills she developed along the way, which she deems invaluable. “How [I] communicate, network, and critically apply knowledge to my tasks at hand [can be seen] in the way I conceptualised and secured partnerships with my brand,” she told me.
However, it was SFU’s co-op program that had a direct impact in her decision to launch Mala the Brand. “My first internship [was] where I discovered and fell in love with the concept of digital marketing. Being a start-up, it’s there that I was able to learn all the ins and outs of a business as I wore many hats (PR, email and social marketing, product launch campaigns, etc.) while in that position,” she shared.
As a recent SFU graduate from the department of communication, Lim participated in this year’s Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize, SFU’s premier competition for entrepreneurs. Due to COVID-19, the competition was done remotely. Mala the Brand emerged victorious, receiving the top prize in the venture category — a grand total of $35,000.
During a time where most small businesses are facing serious financial hardship, I was curious as to whether or not COVID-19 still presented obstacles for Lim after winning the Venture Prize. “My business has not too drastically been affected by COVID-19, other than shipping services having major processing delays, which results in certain products and launches to be pushed back a few extra weeks, as well as seeing severe delays in packages being received by customers,” Lim revealed.
Lim employs no staff, handling every side of the business herself. From producing the candles in small batches to processing each order to managing social media pages, Mala the Brand truly is a one-woman show.
COVID-19 has put a hold on a lot of plans for the future. Yet, at the same time, it’s given people (though admittedly those with relative financial security) a lot of freedom to explore the lengths of their creativity. Is now the right time to start a new project? Here’s what Lim had to say when I asked her what advice she had for young, aspiring entrepreneurs at this time, “I would say take advantage of the internet! Everything you would ever want to know is probably online, and most resources nowadays are free.”
In conclusion, “With picking new things up or starting something fresh, there will never really be a perfect time [. . .] you kind of just have to start!”
What Mala the Brand’s steady customer base shows is that consumers value and support local artisans. That needs to continue happening in order for small businesses to survive. So the next time you’re ready to treat yourself to some extravagant candles, and help plant a tree, check out malathebrand.com.