Bakslap: Product with Purpose

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Amanda Stevens meets a local entrepreneur who has turned his personal loss into a lifesaving product driven by purpose.

In 2011, adventure lover Raphael McGowan had set off from Australia to embark on an epic cycling trip across the United States with two mates. The trip was months in the making and Raph was riding high on life; in the previous year he’d celebrated his sister Tess’s wedding and the news that she was pregnant with her first child. 

On day 62 of the trip, while the trio were cycling through Kansas, Raph received a phone call from his father that would change his life forever. 

His sister Tess had been diagnosed with stage three melanoma after her husband noticed a mole on the middle of her back that had changed. 

Raph immediately flew home to Australia to support Tess in her fight, which sadly ended with her passing on June 22, 2012. She was just 31 years old and had given birth to her first baby Mabel only a few months earlier.

Witnessing Tess’s heart-wrenching and decline as she bravely battled her illness motivated Raph to find out more about Melanoma. He soon learned that it’s an epidemic facing tens of thousands of Australian families, and countless more around the globe. He also discovered that Queensland, and in particular South-East Queensland, has the unfortunate title of the melanoma capital of Australia.

“The instances of melanoma in Queensland are significantly higher than other states”, says Raph. 

Further research revealed that the middle of the back, where Tess’s melanoma appeared, is one of the most common places of severe sunburn.

“It’s the one spot on the body that’s almost impossible to self-apply sunscreen,” says Raph. “So if you’re on your own and heading out into the sun, it’s often an unfortunate, unseen area of exposure.”

Raph, determined to solve this problem and driven by Tess’s memory, set about to design a product that enables anyone to apply sunscreen to their back. 

The result is bakslap, a lotion applicator that makes applying sunscreen to hard-to-reach places possible.

Described as ‘the perfect extra helping hand’, bakslap is now stocked in hundreds of pharmacies across Australia and is a booming e-commerce success story, with global expansion on the horizon.

“Since we launched in 2019, we’ve had double digit growth year-on-year,” explains Raph. 

“The product is doing exceptionally well on Amazon and we’ve just sent some samples to a major retailer in the United States, so it’s exciting times.”

And while expanding internationally is a core focus of the brand, Raph is proud of bakslap being founded on the Sunshine Coast. 

“It’s a core part of our brand and our increasing global exposure has enabled us to educate our customers about the Sunshine Coast and Noosa as tourist destinations,” he said.

The other unexpected aspect of the brand has been the demand from consumers who are finding uses for the product beyond sunscreen application.

“We’re selling a lot of bakslaps to the elderly and people with mobility issues, who are using it to apply all sorts of lotions, not just sunscreen,” he says.  

With innovation and consumer insight at the heart of business, Raph believes that the key to the success of the product has also been the strong brand story and the commitment to manufacturing a superior product.

“We’re not the only product of its type on the market but when you’re committed to quality and your brand has purpose, it resonates with consumers,” he says.

And when reflecting on the success of bakslap, Tess is never far from Raph’s mind.

“This business has enabled me to speak Tess’ name daily and ensure her legacy lives on as we continue our mission to educate the next generation on skin cancer and the dangers of sun exposure,” he said.

Visit bakslap for more information and a list of retailers.


Keep track of the UV Index and get alerts, reminders and advice via the SunSmart App.

Find out more Melanoma Institute Australia:

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