At 21, April McGrath is enjoying sell-out success with her first skin-boosting invention
Your skin is your largest organ.
Yet despite the fact that we’re wrapped in it, most of us don’t treat our poor old dermis with the respect it deserves.
In fact, even your daily dip in the shower could be making your skin unhappy – something one young Cork entrepreneur is on a mission to fix.
Step forward UCC Environmental Science student April McGrath. The Douglas 21-year-old is the creative force behind the GAIA Filter, an advanced shower filter designed to improve hard and chlorinated shower water and remove heavy metals, unwanted minerals, bacteria, and pesticides.
The idea for the GAIA Filter was sparked during a college lecture on water treatment and the chlorination process.
“At the time I suffered from very dry skin and brittle hair, I started to think maybe there’s a connection between the water I was showering in and my skin and hair problems.” April, who is also a full-time student, told Yay Cork.
Now, with two sell-out orders under her belt and an exciting year ahead, April tells us how she’s working it:
Not everyone’s water is the same. It depends on where the water is coming from; some people will have hard water, high in minerals (a nightmare for skin and hair) others will have softer water. Most people are connected to a mains water supply so the water is chlorinated, which is extremely drying and is a huge issue for people with skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Some people have both hard water and chlorinated water, which is the case for about 85 percent of Ireland.
I had spent a lot on products to treat my skin and hair, which weren’t working. From my research, I knew there was a lot of evidence connecting chemicals and contaminants in shower water skin and hair problems like dry skin and dry, brittle hair. I took it into my own hands and found a manufacturer that would make a filter to remove the chemicals and contaminants. After 10 days the dry skin/dermatitis on my face had completely gone and my hair was much softer and less straw-like. I knew I had found an incredible product and that I had to share it with the world, which is when GAIA was born.
Finding a manufacturer was one of the most time-consuming parts. I tried to find one in Europe as well as America but none of them would do exactly what I wanted. I eventually found a manufacturer in Asia (through a lot of Googling) that knew exactly what I wanted and they were so easy to work with. I had a few video calls with them explaining how it had to be (very effective, aesthetic, and easy to install) and they sent me samples, which I could then get independently tested as well as try out for myself. When I was happy, I placed the bulk order and they arrived within a week.
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I really want to educate people on what’s actually in their water and how it could be affecting them. I launched in August this year so GAIA is still in the start-up phase.
I really admire businesses like VICO deodorant. VICO is owned by Ben, who you might have heard of because he was on the Late Late Show recently. VICO is a completely natural deodorant business and he does all the work at home in Cork. His commitment to sustainability is admirable and he is such a nice guy!
I funded the business using savings I had from working in a bar. After that, it was a loan from the Credit Union.
It can be really daunting when you first start out. You have people telling you it won’t work. I had no idea what I was doing (I’m still learning – GAIA only launched four months ago) so trying to get sales organically was challenging. However, any time I thought I had made a mistake or failed in some way, it always ended up working out in my favour and better than I expected.
I promote GAIA on Tiktok and Instagram, all organic. I don’t run ads (yet). TikTok is the best! One of my videos got almost half a million views. GAIA Filters is still very new so I’m still learning but people seem to love behind-the-scenes content about running a business. Also, people hate being sold to so I don’t blatantly try to make sales. Instead, I make more UGC (user-generated content) style videos on Tiktok.
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The best piece of career advice I’ve been given is ‘Don’t take advice from people who haven’t done it themselves’. My boyfriend Dylan (also a business owner- Ecclesia.ie) said that to me when someone who worked in an office and didn’t own their own business told me that my business won’t be successful.
Surrounding myself with like-minded people and people doing the same things as me is one of the most valuable changes I made in my life. We can learn so much from each other. If you’re trying to build a successful business it’s extremely important to surround yourself with the right people
I think it’s important to develop a strong mindset first before you start your own business. You really have to get your priorities right and become comfortable with being uncomfortable. You will constantly be pushed outside of your comfort zone and if you’re not mentally prepared for that then entrepreneurship is not for you. I always think of myself as 80-year-old April – how would I feel as an old woman if I spent my whole life playing it safe and staying within what’s comfortable to me? My life would’ve been so boring and predictable! So, take risks and trust it’ll work out for you.
I keep a notebook and write everything down. When I’m done I cross it off, it’s very satisfying! I also never burn myself out, if I’m feeling overwhelmed I will just stop what I’m doing. This helps me a lot because if you’re stressed/anxious things can get very messy and unorganised. I love planning and setting new goals for myself and my business.
I switch off with meditation and going to the gym. Or a lovely glass of Rioja and Netflix in the evening.
I have so much planned for GAIA. I plan on expanding the product range to include a drinking water filter after I finish college in May.
The GAIA Shower Filters are almost sold out for the second time since I launched them in August. I’m currently taking a posting on social media break because I’m studying for my exams and after that, I’ll be back posting every day as normal and growing my socials and the community more.
You can buy a GAIA Filter, €79.99, here.