Founded by Eric Kee and Chanice Lim, Salt & Light is a Malaysia-based lifestyle brand with a specific objective — that all shall prosper. Read how these artisans are turning away from earthly pursuits in exchange for a higher purpose.
In 2020, Eric Kee and Chanice Lim quit their thriving careers. Eric was running a wine bar at the time, while Chanice lived the fast life, managing her own e-commerce business and chasing money, status and success.
Two years later, they’re running Salt & Light together with Julien Tham and Samuel Thye; it’s a creative lifestyle store that offers job opportunities for the marginalised and vulnerable in Malaysia.
“I saw [Eric and Chanice] quit their careers to pursue something of God, just quit everything and move ahead with Him. It was a very gung-ho move and it left an impression on me,” says Julien, who joined the team several months ago.
Finding Christ and discovering a new purpose
Eric and Chanice, who got hitched earlier this month, ventured into business at around the same time they found Jesus for themselves two years ago.
Chanice, 30, was not raised in a Christian home. She had been battling depression and anxiety for five years, and in her own words, “life was quite messy”. On a trip to Taiwan in 2020, she wasn’t able to sleep for three days in a row.
“At that time, an aunt from the US called me and said I had come to her mind. She prayed for me. My desperate cry was for sleep, and that night I slept so soundly. There was this peace,” Chanice says. She came back to Malaysia and visited a church with newfound hunger. After five visits, she decided to get baptised.
I was in e-commerce, living life on the fast lane. As the eldest child in my family, I had the responsibility to care for them as well. I used to earn five digits a month, but entering business based on Christian values is different. It’s more purposeful and fruitful, but it also moves slower. And that’s part of it, not always understanding why God has called you out but following Him anyway.Chanice lim
Having found a rock-solid faith, she invited Eric to begin a journey of discovering Christ for himself. He had known God at a young age but drifted away from the faith in his adult years.
“Deep down in my heart, I knew running an alcohol business wasn’t the right thing to do. I asked God for signs on five different occasions, and He answered all of them within the hour of my request,” Eric, 32, shares.
He quit during the MCO and joined a bible study group where his leader, Aunty Evelynn, planted the idea to develop products with the Word of God as its foundation.
And so, Salt & Light was born. Its flagship product, the handmade soy wax candle, is a reflection of Jesus Christ as the light, and how we as His followers are to carry the light in us as well.
As the work expands, God has provided
“So starting a product line based on God’s Word was actually my idea but they got to it first,” Julien says with a laugh. After graduating with a Master in Business in 2018, the now 26-year-old had a tempting offer: to work in private equity in Singapore.
But after experiencing God in a powerful way, he decided to follow His lead instead.
“My path has been very different from what I thought it would be. At first, I was helping Salt & Light here and there, then decided to join them full-time several months ago.” Having Julien on board, says Chanice, was the first of many answered prayers.
The couple had been prayerfully looking for people for their team, but from a worldly point of view, there are much better businesses to throw your weight behind. Yet, since they began praying their team has expanded even further with Samuel joining them in November 2022.
God hasn’t just provided the human resources. He’s also opened divine doors and the trio has stories to prove it.
Walking in obedience opens divine doors
For example, a shared table with a stranger at a cafe in Old Klang Road resulted in a sponsored billboard advertisement on Federal Highway (one of KL’s most used expressways).
The sponsor turned out to be a Christian and paid RM20,000 for Salt & Light to advertise their brand for two weeks in April 2021.
“When I saw the billboard ad, I thought, “Wow, they must be balling,” Julien quips. But Eric is quick to respond. “It’s God who’s balling, not us!”
On another occasion, Chanice felt the Holy Spirit prompting her to send a proposal to a company with a large presence in Malaysia. But the instructions were clear: she was not to use the connections she had, no backdoor methods
She obeyed and dropped a note to the general email, and was informed her proposal had been passed to someone in the team. After that, there was silence.
“Out of a sudden, a brand emailed me saying they are looking for a candle manufacturer. They had found out about us through the email I had sent to the wider community. And this was a white label order, they ordered 1,000 candles and now we’re still working together,” Chanice shares enthusiastically.
This experience is meaningful because it reminds her not to only rely on human connection, but the Holy Spirit. And this alignment is important because at times people won’t understand what you are doing as it makes no earthly sense. But as Chanice says, “When the Holy Spirit leads, I just go.”
To date, the store has sold more than 10,000 products. But more than ringgit and sen is the lives that have been impacted by each sale.
A brand that hires the underserved and vulnerable
Salt & Light’s five artisans are from the B40 community and include a former drug addict, a single mother and women who have suffered abuse. Even in the hiring process, the team has allowed God to take the lead.
“From a worldly standpoint, we’d look for a skillset but as the work we do is relatively low-level and requires minimal training, we can focus instead on holistically helping our artisans,” Julien explains.
Eric jumps in to share how they connected with these individuals, again through random and divine connections including a conversation on the street. “We don’t look for them on purpose, but once they are part of the team we try to disciple them and build a good working culture.”
As a small business, their decisions also have to make money sense. Each of these artisans are hired on a part-time basis whenever orders come in and paid an hourly wage.
“Even in paying our artisans, God has convicted us. In Leviticus 19:13, God clearly commands us not to withhold the wages of a hired man overnight. We pay on an hourly basis, so if we ignorantly forget to pay by even just one day, we can put the person under so much stress,” Chanice says.
Turning tables on the way Malaysians do business
Julien opines that Malaysia has almost normalised greed, the tendency to pilfer and a culture of bullying in the business sphere. Malaysian businesses also flagrantly cut corners or delay credit (in fact, many are praised for it) especially when strapped for funds or resources.
“But that’s not how God wants us to do life and business. There’s no sense of growing together, and as I started doing more business, I realised that’s something God is not pleased with,” he shares.
Eric agrees, and as a former recruiter, he also knows what it’s like to pursue people, great resumes and profits. It’s the worldly way, he repeats.
“In my born-again journey, however, I’ve switched off that button. At the same time though, I’m saying, “God, I can’t do this alone. It’s Your company, not ours.” We’ve received enquiries on whether we’re open for investors, but so far we don’t have the peace about it. In past experience, when God sends the right people to Salt & Light, they are top-notch.”ERIC KEE
But it’s not just fixing things on the outside. The internal bits must be properly done as well. An example is using software illegally. Eric laughs sheepishly as he recounts how God not only corrected him but showed him how to make a wise choice in a legal manner. “It’s about getting both the internal and external right,” he maintains.
At times, that means the business may grow slower than it would if the team pursued earthly methods. But that’s not the point. Seeking God’s kingdom is simply about doing what God asks you to do and being the person He wants you to become.
In business and life, it all starts with the Word of God
When asked if they had any advice for young Christian creatives looking to get a business going, all three of them shared a common answer: a dependence on God.
“For me, it all boils down to your personal relationship with the Father. I’m not very logical, I just believe my Father loves me the most and so I hold onto my childlike faith to follow Him. When you have the revelation of God, you will not fear,” Chanice says simply.
The prayer warrior adds that the battlefield is really in the mind, and the Word of God is what sets us free. “When you keep sowing the Bible in your heart and as long as your heart is willing enough for God to change and lead, regardless of what the world thinks, God will make a way.”
Julien’s advice is to avoid focusing on building a successful business and channel our efforts in growing our relationship with God. It’s important to focus on the relationship more than the outcome.
Even in business, it’s truly about the small battles you win, the daily choices you make. Sometimes we can be too focused on education and developing our skills, but we need to focus on the Word of God and trusting Him as we do business.JULIEN THAM
As for Eric, his stepping out has been a freefall. It has taught him that faith is not something a logical person can always comprehend. In a biblical sense, success is tied to seeking God’s kingdom first.
“In Matthew 6:33, if we seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness, everything will be added unto us. If we get the first thing right first, everything else will come. The world may perceive it as weird, but that’s how we choose to work,” he says.
In their walk with God, the Bible is also their foundation
It may seem odd that these three young Malaysians are so captivated by the Word of God, but hearing how the Bible shapes their personal lives, it only makes sense that their passion for His Word translates into their business too.
Chanice highlights Psalm 23 as one of her favourite passages of Scripture. It was introduced to her by her spiritual sister, Grace when she first began to know Jesus Christ.
“It’s a passage that God always reminds me of. I need to keep reminding myself that I no longer belong to this world; God has redeemed me back to His kingdom. We have two dogs and they never think, “Oh what should I eat today?” They know that at mealtime, food will be there.
If God already adopted and redeemed us, He is ultimately responsible to take care of us. So I think we have to renew our minds through the Word of God. There’s always temptation to worry and fear, only through the Word of God do we stay unmoved,” she says.
Eric selects the very first verse in the Bible: Genesis 1:1. “It’s just cool lah,” he says cheekily. But on a more serious note, Eric points out that if you remove any element from the verse, the world as we know it would fall apart. “It’s full of context and mystery, and shows us that without God, this world cannot exist.”
Julien shares from 2 Corinthians 5:17 because he believes this verse holds the key to living the Christian life. “As a new creation, all things become new. This verse is what empowers Christians to do what the Word says. A piece of advice I have is that you can live counter-culturally and do everything the Bible says because you are a new creation. But we still have to renew our minds with the Word of God,” he says.
In God’s way of business, all shall prosper
Armed with God’s Word, faith and the Holy Spirit’s leading, the team has recently launched Worshiper Club, a lifestyle streetwear store selling items based on or inspired by the Word of God.
Worshiper Club had a soft launch with a t-shirt line, but a full launch will be happening in the first quarter of 2023. “We’re really excited for Worshiper Club because we feel there’s definitely space for a brand like ours to grow in Malaysia and regionally,” Julien says.
Salt & Light will continue to run with a bigger marketing push for its other products and plans to go international. A product they’re promoting now is their portrait candles, each uniquely crafted with a hand-drawn portrait by in-house artist Eric. The goal is to train and empower local artists in the future through this product.
“Our tagline is that all shall prosper. We’re not necessarily a Christian business, but we run on Christian values. The goal is always to serve and treat people like people; we want to have a posture of servanthood, and of course, make business sense,” Julien says.
Salt & Light will be having a Christmas event on 17 December 2022 at The Coffee Academics, Pavilion KL. Pop on over to browse their products and participate in fluid pouring, terrarium and rug tufting workshops (12pm onwards). Enjoy a free coffee from 10-11am and 2pm-3pm and when you purchase a gift pack, a portion will be given to The Assembly Soup Kitchen!
For more information on Salt & Light, its products and future events, click here.
All photos provided by Salt & Light Creative Lifestyle Store.