A local company we have always admired and looked up to is Moonshadow. Moonshadow if you didn’t know produces natural products people use every day, like soap, laundry powder, and lip balm. Their products are all hand made & biodegradeable which we stock some of their range in our shop. When, I had the pleasure to interview Sion the owner, I was really looking forward to it. I had heard such wonderful things about this man from the team and on meeting him, he did not disappoint. We met about a workshop that we are running on September 13th – a soap making workshop at Ceylon Sliders (pssst join us) and we just got lost in conversation like old friends usually do. It was one of those meetings that didn’t feel like work because everything Moonshadow does they do it with passion and a lot of heart. They truly believe in their business and ethos from grass roots up. To give you all a little taster of what Moonshadow is about and their values they infuse in the world, I share with you a little bit about our honest conversation in the café one sunny afternoon. We hope to see you at our event soon!
Where did the name Moonshadow come from? We love it!
Our brand name comes from a 1971 song by the recording artist Cat Stevens. I grew up listening to his folky acoustic pop songs and I still enjoy his music. His song “Moonshadow” is a light hearted song about hopefulness and looking on the bright side of life. He says things like, “If I ever lose my eyes, I won’t have to cry no more…” and I just love that kind of optimism. And I want our products to make people happy, and so that’s the story of the name.
We consider the environment in every aspect of our work, from sourcing materials, to waste, packaging and product ingredients. We consider economy by trying to offer affordable high quality products, but also ensuring that there is enough profit to meet our needs as an enterprise. We aren’t perfect, but we are always improving!
Moonshadow is a very eco-conscious company, where does this passion stem from?
Humanity is facing many challenges at this time, but it’s not time to give up and lose hope that there are other ways of doing things. I’ve been involved in many approaches to address the challenges of our time and a few years ago I became very interested in working on market-based economic solutions. I really have no experience in the world of business of economics, and I had often thought that economy is the real problem.
Moonshadow is a social enterprise and we try to operate on some simple core values that are important to us and we hope are important to the people who use our products as well. Economy is not the enemy, but I do believe that our market systems need to reassess how we create value, share, educate and impact the planet. This is what Moonshadow is attempting in our small way.
We believe that business can balance social, economic and environmental needs. Moonshadow is a social enterprise, which means that we take care of our staff and work hard to meet their needs. We consider the environment in every aspect of our work, from sourcing materials, to waste, packaging and product ingredients. We consider economy by trying to offer affordable high quality products, but also ensuring that there is enough profit to meet our needs as an enterprise. We aren’t perfect, but we are always improving!
We have lost millions of acres of primary rainforest in the tropics for palm oil production. The forest is the life support system of our planet, and I am saddened by the actions of corporations that conquer and destroy nature for profit.
Can you explain why Moonshadow refuses to put in Palm oil in your products?
Palm oil is not inherently bad, but the way that it is commonly cultivated has had some devastating environmental impacts. We have lost millions of acres of primary rainforest in the tropics for palm oil production. The forest is the life support system of our planet, and I am saddened by the actions of corporations that conquer and destroy nature for profit. There are many choices for less impactful oil and so we choose to use those.
And in the same way that we refuse palm oil we refuse petroleum based products and synthetic ingredients in all of our products. These are part of our values and ethics which guide the decisions we take in making and offering our products.
Can you explain a little bit about the soap making process ahead of our event next month? Where does this take place and how long does it take to make one bar of soap?
When I talk about soap making I always say its one part chemistry and one part artistry. Soaping is the combination of oils/fats and an alkali solution. Traditionally soap makers would make a solution of wood ash and water to make an alkali, but today we use sodium hydroxyide so that we can have consistent results in our soaping process. When the alkali binds with the fat a process called saponification occurs and this is what ultimately makes soap. There are many methods of soap making and we use what is called “cold process” which means that we can make soap at room temperature using basic kitchen equipment. We have two small home based workshops where we make all of our products. We make soap in loaves, similar to a cake loaf and then cut the loaf into bars. It can take anywhere from 1 hour to 5 hours to make a batch of soap and we leave our soap for 24hrs to harden and then another 3-4 weeks to “cure” before we package it.
Who comes up with all the scents?
We formulate everything from scratch and it took some time to figure out the desired characteristics for the soaps, not just scent, but texture, color and size are all factors to consider in the process. We rely in ingredients that are locally available in Sri Lanka and give preference to ingredients that are locally produced, but some are imported.
Moonshadow launched a ‘dishwasher’ soap? we are intrigued with how you came up with this concept?
When I first came to Sri Lanka we stayed with a Sri Lankan family. I noticed that they used a bar soap for washing dishes rather than liquid soap which I was familiar with from other parts of the world. I started to notice that in most Sri Lankan households they also used bar soap to wash dishes. When we started making soap, the dishwash bar was the first soap that we made and sold in the market. We have always tried to be an enterprise that offers ecologically friendly everyday use products that are not available in the market at the moment. The dishwash bar continues to be our best selling product! We also do liquid dishwash, laundry powder and laundry bars as other examples of ecologically friendly everyday use products.
As an entrepreneur what motivates you daily?
I’m motivated by the fact that my work is contributing to a movement to create an alternative economy. I know that I’m not alone in this and connecting with others and being part of a larger movement is why we do this. I’m also motivated by the positive feedback and encouragement that I receive from people who enjoy Moonshadow products.
I know what motivates me, and it is not only about money, and that has given me the greatest reward: freedom with my time. So as you start up your own enterprise, consider the scale and amount of effort required, consider your own role and what relationships will help you achieve what you want.
If you could give any new start-up company a piece of advice what would that be ?
My advice is to go at your own pace. Lots of people want to give advice and tell you how they think you should run your enterprise, but I’ve found that going at my own pace has given me a sense of freedom which I enjoy above all else. I know what motivates me, and it is not only about money, and that has given me the greatest reward: freedom with my time. So as you start up your own enterprise, consider the scale and amount of effort required, consider your own role and what relationships will help you achieve what you want.
The other important part for me is to define your ethics and let them guide the decisions you make with what you are offering in the world. What is the impact that you are having? How can you maximize the positive impact??
We hope you’re feeling a little more creative and inspired after reading about Sion and his vision with Moonshadow natural products, join us on Wednesday, September 13th for a delicious soap making workshop (where you will make 3 soaps), tickets are limited so please book online or pop into the shop to reserve your ticket. Tickets are RS 2,500 per person.
Imagery by Filipe Neto and Brad Golden