Among the coastal communities of Ireland the health and nutritional properties of seaweed are well known. For Liam McBride, growing up in Ballycastle with its famous dulse and yellow man on the North Coast was a way of life made famous at the Oul Lammas Fair.
Seaweed – A Natural Skincare Remedy
With over 500 types of Seaweed growing around the Irish coast it is a plentiful if underused resource. Having had a lifetime interest in seaweed of his native coastline, it was a chance conversation with a friend of his mother’s that set him on a course that would lead to establishing a successful business making a natural seaweed skincare lotion culminating in a successful appearance on RTE’s Dragon’s Den and a listing with one of Ireland’s largest pharmaceutical distributors.
As Liam explains it is a mixture of good fortune and hard work that has brought him to the stage he is at now, where he is planning to launch a series of products under the Caraderm brand which he successfully pitched to Dragon Peter Casey earlier this year.
“Caraderm is manufactured from the Carrageen Moss that we harvest around the north Antrim coast. It is a 100% natural product that grows in the fresh seawater. We collect it at low tide. I was brought up knowing that you could eat seaweed and the older folks made a drink out of the carrageen and of course at the Oul Lammas fair in Ballycastle people eat Dulse and yellow man.”
“Whilst people know that seaweed is edible they don’t know the actual health benefits. A friend of my mother’s explained to me that it was good to boil up the carrageen and drink it to clear your chest. She also mentioned in passing that it was great for the skin and could help with easing eczema and psoriasis.
That conversation gave Liam the idea to pursue the possibility of developing a skincare treatment from the abundant locally growing carrageen.
Working With Invest NI
“I went to Invest Northern Ireland with my idea which was to develop a commercial product that would work as a general skin lotion to ease rashes, burns and irritation and redness caused by the likes of eczema and psoriasis. I had evidence that it worked from trialling the early version of the product with local people in the area. They knew about carrageen and seaweed and were very interested in trying it out. But there is a whole population out there that knows nothing of the health benefits of a seaweed regime. One of our aims is to spread the news about this wonderful natural product.”
There are a number of manufacturers of seaweed based products in Ireland, Liam is full of praise for them. ‘Like myself they are believers in the benefits of seaweed and many of them are making high end cosmetic products. Our target market is slightly different in that we’re targeting a daily skincare product that is multifunctional for all sorts of skin ailments. The response so far has been very encouraging.” And on the back of his success Liam has a further range of products in the pipeline.
“The Invest NI people helped put me in touch with cosmetic technologist Barbara Olioso who helped develop my idea into a sustainable product with a proper shelf life. With the addition of a few additional natural extracts we have a 100% natural product that is odourless, tasteless and which works on all sorts of skin irritations. We have people telling us they have used it after waxing their legs, after shaving, for treating burns and scalps, chapped skin. Shortly after it was launched it was stocked by a series of the larger independent pharmacy groups in the North. That was followed by a listing by United Drug Sangers and in late 2013 by United’s subsidiary Pemberton.
The reason for its enduring appeal is the fact that it worked. Caraderm has received positive feedback since its launch. Liam explained:
“We knew that it worked for the likes of eczema because I trialled it with people in and around Ballycastle. Out of the blue a woman on Rathlin Island contacted me to tell me that her daughter had suffered from Molluscum. It is a disfiguring skin condition which is hard to treat. Over a period of a month or so, regular application of Caraderm produced a noticeable improvement in the condition. I visit Rathlin frequently and I was able to see with my own eyes the effect of the Caraderm. The mother had taken before and after images and the difference was astonishing.
Having had a reasonable degree of success Liam decided to pitch his fledgling business on the Dragon’s Den. Straight away the product caught the imagination of Dragon Peter Casey’s who’s late mother had a great fondness for Carrageen. He was also impressed with Liam’s business acumen and his successes in developing the product and getting it to market.
Says Peter: “Straightaway I could see the potential in the business. Here we had a marvellous and abundant naturally occurring product. Liam was passionate about the business and he had shown tremendous initiative to get it to the stage it was at, listed by various pharmaceutical retail groups. Then there was the personal element as my mother had always proclaimed the benefits of carrageen to us all. It was the sort of opportunity of a lifetime. Straight away Liam and I hit it off.”
Now stocked by pharmacies across Ireland and the UK and with a series of meetings under way to target new customers, Liam McBride and Caraderm is making a success story out of one of Ireland’s richest natural products. Liam has the final word””If anyone wants to see the benefits of Caraderm my advice is simple. Just try it.”