Combining Eastern wisdom with a Western mentality. That was the perfect starting point for Shiran Gort-Jankie to start Four Leaves. Shiran was born in an orphanage in Sri Lanka in the early 1980s and shortly afterwards adopted by a Dutch mother and Indonesian-Dutch father. In 2018, Shiran started to wonder what he really wanted to do with his life. Not long after, Four Leaves was born, a stylish brand for sustainable bed linen and towels. But it doesn’t stop there, because for every set of bedding you buy, a sleeping bag is donated to a children’s home in Sri Lanka. Shiran tells us the beautiful story behind Four Leaves.
What inspired you to start Four Leaves?
A feeling that there should be something more. More than what I was doing at the time. I flew all over the world for Scotch & Soda – a great company with a really cool job, but somehow I felt that I wasn’t going to find myself there. So in 2018 I decided to resign – with no actual plan. 3 days after I decided to give my life a different purpose, I was staring at the flag of Sri Lanka on a Friday night. I saw the lion of course, but what struck me most were the four dots around it. These turned out to be four leaves from the Bodhi tree, which symbolize the four commandments of Buddhism. When I learned what these commandments were, I knew that these would also become the four core values of my future company. What I also noticed about the flag was that if you took the lion out, it looked very much like a pillow. If you would lay on it, between those four leaves, you would wake up very zen! That night everything came together. I knew a good Sri Lankan architect who inspired me a lot, so I knew what my look & feel should be. I also knew that I wanted to give something back to orphanages in Sri Lanka. By 4 am my complete plan was clear, and woke up my wife with my new idea – ‘I’m going to start a bedding brand!’.
The leaves symbolize the 4 commandments of Buddhism and therefore also the 4 core values of Four Leaves. What are those 4 core values?
The four commandments are Loving Kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy and Equanimity . I have translated these into the core values of my company. Loving Kindness is translated to Excel with Friends. I want to work in this company with people I would like to invite at home as well. This applies to people who work at Four Leaves, but also to people we work with, for example the manufacturers. Compassion was immediately clear to me – that was giving back to orphanages in Sri Lanka. I have therefore translated this to Empowered Children. Sympathetic Joy has become Respect our Globe. The earth is what we all have in common, and what we ultimately all have to hold on to, so that’s where our sustainability approach comes from. And finally Equaniminity, where everything comes together, I translated that into Care about Products. At Four Leaves, everything comes together in the product – the sustainability aspect, the four leaves, and giving back.
Four Leaves wants to contribute to physical, mental and social well-being.
Good bedding promotes your sleep, which amounts to good physical health. Mentally you will feel good because, when you lie in bed, you know that the bedding has been produced as sustainably as possible. And as for social well-being – of course it feels nice to know that someone else, in this case a child in Sri Lanka, can also sleep and shower well because he or she has a nice sleeping bag and towel.
What are your ambitions?
I have 3 ambitions. At the moment Four Leaves is very much about donating, which is of course also very important. But what I especially want is that people just sleep and shower very well, and that the products really improve your life here. For me, it’s common sense that our products are sustainable. Giving back is also part of it and is ultimately something extra that we offer. But I want people to buy Four Leaves because our products make them really happy, and give them a comfortable feeling. Coming back to my ambitions – first, I want the brand itself to become really important, so that it’s less about me. My second ambition is to move from a bed linen and towel brand to a lifestyle brand. We have already expanded our range with scented candles and a chess game, and that appeals to people. My third ambition is that we outgrow Sri Lanka in terms of donations and that we can help children in several countries. I’m talking about donations of sleeping bags, towels or other things that improve their standard of living.
What are you most proud of so far?
We are taken seriously in the market, as an entrepreneur I am very proud of that. But also that so many nice people want to connect with Four Leaves. Both the people who work for and with us and people who want to promote us. And the fact that we have already been able to mean something for 13 orphanages, that is really fantastic.
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Pics Four Leaves & Shiran Gort – Jankie