Lemonjarz & the Business of (De)Hydration with Linda Phan
Lemons, a dehydration machine, and a serendipitous moment were how Linda Phan became the founder of Lemonjarz. Much like its name, Lemonjarz is a Vancouver-based small business that sells organic, additive and sugar-free dried lemon slices in mason jars.
Convenience in a Jar
A simple, yet practical business, Lemonjarz encourages customers to stay hydrated and put some zest in their lives by enjoying their morning cup of lemon-infused water.
This is partially where Phan's passion for lemons came to fruition, through the need to hydrate her body in the morning along with receiving all the benefits of lemon which include Vitamin C and detoxification properties.
"You’re dehydrated at night time. The morning is the best time to refuel, especially with water, and lemon makes it more enjoyable - so you can enjoy your morning water! Usually, it takes me some time to wake up so when I drink lemon water routinely every day, I feel like it gives me the energy to start my day. You realize 'Why haven’t I been doing this before'?”
Phan points out how it may be difficult to implement lemon water as a consistent routine because sliced lemons not only go bad quickly but also having to slice them every day may become a cumbersome task for some. Providing that daily convenience is where Lemonjarz shines.
Discovering a Fruitful Craft
A full-time holistic nutritionist by day and lemon maven after hours, Phan came across the concept of dehydrating lemons unintentionally, piquing her interest nonetheless.
"It was really random. In one of my [previous] jobs, they had a dehydration machine in the corner of the kitchen they never used. As a team bonding activity, our director suggested we dehydrate something, and we decided on lemons. No one knew how to use a dehydrator, so they were worried about leaving it there the whole night because it takes about 26-30 hours to dehydrate the fruit. I was the only person with a car, so I brought the dehydrator home and dehydrated everything! And since then, I purchased my own because I thought it was so useful."
A dehydration machine is a box-like object featuring several rows of trays or sheets where you place the fruit, with a temperature and timer setting. Full dehydration takes between 26-30 hours, so producing each batch is quite a time-consuming effort.
However, after discovering the magic of dehydration, Phan found that a dehydrated lemon in her drinks tasted far better and had less of a bitter taste than when using a regular, fresh lemon. So, she continued with the craft but never explicitly had the intention of developing a business around it, although she always had aspirations.
"Being in the generation that I am, I’ve always thought about starting a business but never had the confidence to take that leap. And at one point, after I graduated and went through my first few jobs I was having a bit of a quarter-life crisis. I don’t know what happened, I just quit all my jobs and didn’t know what to do. I started working random, little jobs and felt like I couldn’t get anything."
The Inspiration To Start
However, the catalyst in launching Lemonjarz happened when one day, Phan had simply dehydrated too many lemons and decided to inquire on her personal Instagram page whether any of her followers wanted the excess dried lemons. To her surprise, she was met with 10-20 enthusiastic messages from people happy to receive them.
"I knew it was a useful thing but I didn’t realize how many people would actually be interested! Then I thought 'What do I have to lose? Let’s just try to move this forward.' I’m also the type of person that needs an immediate reward. It’s hard for me to be consistent or do something if I don’t feel a reward. Since I received positive feedback on Instagram that people were interested I started making my logo.
When I sold something, I wanted it to look nice, so I decided to make it pretty. [The name came from how] it's in a jar, and there are lemons - so Lemonjarz, it’s very simple. That’s how I got started."
The "Stay Squeezy" Vision
Working in holistic nutrition, Phan emphasizes how there is more to health than simply just food and nutrition. She aims to integrate more aspects of well-being into her brand in the future, which can be referred to as the #StaySqueezy vision.
"In general I value health, but not just nutrition. Mental health, spirituality, connections with others, being part of a community, feeling like I have a purpose. Lemonjarz can be a place where people think more about self-care and feel like they belong to a community. All of these things are something I hope to develop in the future, and not just be a product-based company."
Currently, Phan has added a few more additions to her product lineup aside from the namesake lemon mason jars. By popular demand from her customers, she introduced an assorted citrus mix that includes lime, grapefruit, orange, and lemon which all pair perfectly with hot and cold drinks and make lovely cocktail garnishes.
Wanting to figure out a productive way to use the lemon ends as opposed to tossing them, Phan also developed a natural all-purpose cleaner that took approximately six months to perfect. Noting how other natural, all-purpose cleaners on the market today are not truly natural, contain toxic ingredients, or are simply not strong enough, she knew she could create a high-quality product through her staple lemon infusions.
Phan went through several iterations and because she was infusing the lemons in the all-purpose cleaner for about 3-4 weeks, each new recipe required a month to test out. It took 2-3 months before she perfected it, and then an additional two months to figure out the packaging and logistics regarding ingredients.
Sweet & Sour Lessons
Being a small business owner has afforded Phan her share of insights into the world of entrepreneurship along with many challenges. Her biggest takeaway from launching a business? Successfully creating an extension of herself.
"It’s about finding something that feels like you. I can say 'Oh, I started Lemonjarz' and that feels very me. I think in the past when I’ve had random business ideas, they didn’t align with me. It just didn’t feel right. But with Lemonjarz - every part of it, since I created it from the beginning and made all the choices, it feels like an extension of me for the first time!"
She also touches on the trap many aspiring entrepreneurs fall into when attempting to start a business: too much research versus actual creation and action.
"In our society, most of us consume a lot of things like social media and entertainment. I’m trying to find that balance between consumption and creation and this is the first time I feel like I have. I’m actually creating and putting something out there, while also consuming, of course.
I would say that balance is pretty important when it comes to business because it's easy to be overwhelmed with continuous research. You can research forever but it means nothing if you’re not creating. Then you're kind of stuck."
How Has Lemonjarz Buttered Linda's Soul?
Phan says one of the most fulfilling parts of founding Lemonjarz is the wonderful customers she has the pleasure of interacting with every day and the strength it's given her to welcome more positivity into her life.
"I love my customers! I feel so grateful and lucky. Everyone I’ve met along the way with Lemonjarz is people I can be friends with. They’re so wholesome and I’ve had a lot of support, everyone’s always encouraging me.
I hope that Lemonjarz brings joy and helps remind people to take care of their mental health and their self-care more and that I can create a community of wholesome people and we can do wholesome things together - that would be the goal!
I feel way more aligned with my soul and I’ve had a lot of realizations. I’ve been able to leave toxic friendships and just focus on things that bring me positivity.
It’s crazy because I remember in the past I always wanted to start a business but people would tell me they didn’t think I could. I still didn’t have the confidence even when I was starting Lemonjarz but now I’ve learned to set my boundaries and bring people into my life that I feel bring joy."
You can find Lemonjarz at The Nooks in Kitsilano and various farmer's markets around Vancouver and the lower mainland. Click here for a full 2021 schedule.