Don’t you hate sunscreen? It’s so slippery and greasy! It burns your eyes and gets in your hair! It smells horrible! It’s just bad! Joshua Apitz hated it too, but he did something about it. At 15, he created a new, natural, non-slip sunscreen called Seagull Milk, and people are loving it. He’s even won a Seven News Young Achievers Award for his innovation.
Josh’s father and grandfather had both suffered from skin cancer, and he knew that Queensland is the skin cancer capital of the world. Growing up on the Gold Coast, he constantly saw people sunbaking, and occasionally did it himself. ‘I started thinking, why would I do that, and why don’t I wear sunscreen? Because what are the odds that they’re not wearing sunscreen either?’
Being a surfer, he also had another big issue with sunscreen. He’d wax his board to create grip so he didn’t slip off, but his sunscreen would immediately make it slippery again, wasting all his work, and risking his safety.
Joshua knew he wanted to start a business before he left school, but he wasn’t doing it for himself. He was hoping to support his family, raise funds for Christian organisations, and create a platform for his own Ministry.
‘It would be so sick to be able to influence and inspire so many young kids to go out there and chase their dreams, and live for who they want to be. God’s got a plan for each and every one of us. And this might be mine, so let’s chase it.’
He had his big idea. The next challenge was making it happen. He took advice from his mum and business coaches, but in the end, he just googled some manufacturers. He got in touch, and organised some samples, and started testing the product on himself and his friends.
The Quicksilver Pro surfing competition was coming up, and he thought it was important to have a professional try his sunscreen. Out surfing one morning, he spotted John John Florence, the world number one surfer at that stage. ‘I’ve got this opportunity in front of me,’ he thought. ‘I don’t want to waste it.’
But he knew starting a conversation out here would be pretty awkward. There were hundreds of people around, and they would all be pretty confused when some kid offered John John Florence some Seagull Milk. He had to leave for school, but as he caught a wave back, he prayed: ‘God, if it’s your will, I just pray for an opportunity to speak to John on the beach, or somewhere, before I leave.’
‘Literally the next wave after, he came in to switch boards right behind me. I was like ok. This is real. I’ve got to go and do it.’
God’s got a plan for each and every one of us. And this might be mine, so let’s chase it
So he boldly approached his hero, and offered him some sunscreen. John realised this wasn’t just another kid wanting a signature, and got interested. ‘He’s introduced me to so many other people, and given me a real big silent plug in the surf industry, and given his sample to other people, and given me great feedback himself.’
Since then, Seagull Milk has been taking off. Joshua says its memorable name has been helping. ‘We’ve done a few markets, and little kids have come up to us and been like how do you milk a seagull?’ They’ve also been approached by some angry and confused vegans. ‘That’s animal cruelty!’ they protested. ‘And you say it’s a vegan product!’
Joshua reassures us that no seagulls were harmed in the making of his sunscreen, but he sometimes likes to make up funny stories about how they do it. ‘We use laxatives, and chips, and a tarp for them to poop. And then we collect it, put in the tube and sell it.’
It’s pretty incredible that a teenager has started up a successful small business. But Joshua wants to encourage other kids to follow in his footsteps. ‘It’s just all mind-set, and being like ok. I’ve seen people out here do it. What’s stopping me from doing it too? And just chasing that dream.’
You might think that if he had time and space to get his venture going, he must have had a pretty easy childhood. In fact, his parents split up when he was three, and his cousins moved in with him six years ago, after his aunt died of cancer. ‘One of the things I stand by,’ he said, ‘is that no matter where you start in life, you can choose where you end up.’
The key to Joshua’s success is that he’s doing it for the right reasons. He wants his story to encourage other young people to live for all God’s got for them. ‘I think this is like a platform for me to be able to share that, which is really really cool for me, and I’m really honoured to have the opportunity I do.’
Find out more about Joshua and his sunscreen at