The #MadebySFU’s annual marketplace is fast approaching and a new set of entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to showcase their products. In preparation for the event, we highlight past competitors from the product competition who have taken their ventures to new heights.
When Melody Lim first started making candles, it was a small project that she embarked on alongside her 9-5 job. At the time, she was struggling to find a company that produced environmentally conscious candles – and ones that didn’t break the bank. Little did she know that small spark would ignite her passion for sustainability and entrepreneurship. In 2019, Melody launched her company, Mala the Brand and participated in #MadeBySFU, Simon Fraser University’s largest product entrepreneurship competition. She took home first place and won purchase orders from the university’s very own Spirit Shop.
Tell us about yourself!
My name is Melody, and I am the founder of Mala the Brand, an eco-friendly scented candle company based in Vancouver, BC. Mala was founded in late 2019 after I graduated from Simon Fraser University’s School of Communication. I was working at my first full-time position through Simon Fraser University’s Co-op Program and was making candles as a passion project in my spare time. Later that year, I lost that job and decided to devote all my efforts to making Mala a full-time endeavour. Fast forward to today, I am still heavily involved in all aspects of the company, especially in the day-to-day operations, marketing, accounting, and production management. As a small business, this list goes on!
How did #MadeBySFU impact your life and your company?
I believe the most valuable experience I gained from participating in #MadeBySFU was the opportunity to meet and talk to the school community and the judges. This reaffirmed my idea and product, and as a result, strengthened my confidence to pursue my business.
Where do you feel you are in your business now?
There have been significant changes since we started in 2019. The pandemic began a few months after launching Mala the Brand but surprisingly, we saw exponential growth that year. For several months, we worked on organically growing the company’s social channels and community. We were able to engage a few major retailers such as Nordstrom, Indigo, and Bloomingdales. The steady growth and expansion propelled us forward and allowed us to lease a warehouse and expand our production capacity.
Are there any notable moments that have stuck out to you in your entrepreneurial journey?
There were a handful of times when I experienced surreal moments that will stay with me forever. For instance, this past summer, I was staying at an Airbnb in Calgary during a friend’s bachelorette. I was surprised to discover an old Mala candle in their home. Another time, I was shopping downtown with my partner who was wearing a sweater with the Mala logo on it. The store employee instantly recognized the brand. There was also a time when I was paying for duties/taxes at the US/Canada border for some Mala-related materials, and the customs officer said “Wait, are you Mala the Brand candles?” as she signed off on my customs form.
Although these aren’t considered traditional business achievements, it was unbelievable to see my product sitting in someone’s home or be recognized by strangers that I encounter in my day-to-day life.
What do you wish you knew before you started?
I wish I had known the importance of a business credit card when I first launched my venture. I could have avoided blending my expenses with my personal accounts. Things quickly became complicated, but I eventually invested in accounting systems and other software to support the growth of the business.
What is one thing you would share with other product entrepreneurs or those with ideas that they want to pursue?
Validate your product as much as you can before launching. If possible, ask your friends and family to be your guinea pigs, and get their feedback so you can make iterations and improvements! I wish I had spent more time conducting product validation as there were plenty of learnings from that process.
What are you most proud of so far?
Truthfully, the little things like building a community or realizing my candles’ impact make me appreciate where I am today! I never would have imagined achieving Mala the Brand’s milestones and I will forever cherish them. I am very proud and grateful for the support that my community has given me.
A collaboration between SFU Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship and SFU Spirit Shop, #MadeBySFU celebrates product entrepreneurship across Simon Fraser University. All competitors will showcase and have the opportunity to sell their products at the fair. They will be judged for a number of prizes. Selected winners will have their products bought and sold through the SFU Spirit Shop and the online store. This competition is open to SFU undergraduates, graduates, staff, faculty, and alumni who graduated between 2012 – 2022.
The SFU Spirit Shop believes in sourcing and supporting local BC companies and products. By supporting local businesses, we hope to strengthen our community, grow BC’s economy, and maintain a sustainable and ethical business for our community partners.
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