FLINT, Michigan -- Alex Love of Flint knew at a young age that he wanted to “work in somebody’s laboratory.” It just so happened that the laboratory turned out to be his own. Created in response to the ongoing Flint Water Crisis and the desire to give Flint residents clean water, Love, like The Sister Tour
, utilized his knowledge, passion, and inward guidance to create his own company, Garden of Y.O.U.T.H. Water, as a solution.
His company provides its own fresh ionized alkaline water to “promote a healthy alternative lifestyle for each customer at an affordable cost.” Complete with a bottle that has Love’s face on the center of it along with nutrition facts, an expiration date, barcode, and recycling information, today, Love and Garden of Y.O.U.T.H. Water are an anomaly in Flint, as he’s Flint’s first and currently only bottled water brand.
While delivering his water brand to stores around Flint, Flintside caught up with Love at Flint Farmers Market to discuss his chemistry background, inspiration, and vision for the future.
Flintside: I first got wind of Garden of Y.O.U.T.H. Water at a Concrete Jungle event earlier this summer. It was super hot, and you were giving out free bottles of water. Can you give a small introduction to who you are and what Garden of Youth is?
I started the Garden of Y.O.U.T.H. Water in April 2016. During the five years, we've expanded, and the product has grown to where I have manufacturing, and my presentation of the actual item is better. I took the criticism, and I listened to everything that y'all said. Keep your eyes open because y'all will see me growing and expanding in the next few years."
Flintside: It's a rare occurrence to meet someone who's into the hard sciences—much less someone scientific enough to create their brand of water. Were you always into science?
I play around and joke, but since I was a kid, I always wanted to be a scientist. I always wanted to work in somebody's laboratory. I loved chemistry at Northern High School, and I was really in tune with that. I ended up going to Tennessee State University, and I took chemistry as my major. Garden of Y.O.U.T.H. Water is basic chemistry. The first thing you learn is pH. What is the acidity or the base? It's a learning experience."
"A garden is a place where life is cultivated—it's an ecosystem. Things are poured into a garden, and nutrients are taken out. It sounds like Flint to me."Flintside: Growing up, I remember Bill Nye, but I rarely remember any Black people in chemistry, physics, biology, etc. However, times have changed with people like astrophysicists Neil deGrasse Tyson and Katherine Johnson through movies like Hidden Figures. Were you nervous about creating a business like this, especially being from Flint?
I was nervous about presenting this to my hometown, but I'm able to get down on a humble level to walk amongst the people. If I didn't look like one of us, talk like one of us, and wasn't authentic being from [Flint], I don't think this would be as successful as it can be. I wanted to start here because Flint deserves clean water. I don't look like a traditional chemist or scientist. That's why I'm doing this so other people can realize what I learned that [Black people] invented this. Science and all of this come from us. It's in me, in my brain, in our blood. I can do it with ease now with that understanding that it's implanted in my DNA."
Flintside: What became the catalyst to create Garden of Y.O.U.T.H. Water?
I was getting my Master's in Public Health when the Flint Water Crisis hit. Everybody from home was calling me while I was in class saying, 'man, you smart enough to do something about this.' I'll get to laugh like I'm not Obama. I'm not a Sergeant General—nobody that's an authority. Then [more] called, and that's when I started to accept that I am smart enough to do something. A month later, I came up with the name and bottling water, testing it, and doing all of that by hand."
Flintside: Your brand of water is unique in that it has your face on it and is called Garden of Y.O.U.T.H. What's the story behind the name and putting your face on every bottle?
A garden is a place where life is cultivated—it's an ecosystem. Things are poured into a garden, and nutrients are taken out. It sounds like Flint to me. When you think of a garden, you think of something growing, abundance, and anticipate something good coming. Then there's youth. A young Black male, young Black youth, there's a negative connotation. My face on the bottle is trying to comfort people to understand and recognize that I wasn't trying to hurt them. Y'all know and could trust me, and we don't have a lot of people that we can trust."
"I play around and joke, but since I was a kid, I always wanted to be a scientist. I always wanted to work in somebody's laboratory."Flintside: Having that understanding of trying to combat stigma and build that trust takes years. So, in that sense, how do you envision Garden of Y.O.U.T.H. Water blossoming?
I can see this as Coca-Cola, Aunt Jemima, or Uncle Ben. A lot of people create brands, and you never meet them. It's amazing that you can see somebody create something out of nothing. I want to encourage other people to use what stuff is provided to you in the garden of Eden. They went up there, grabbed it, and put it together to make sugar, butter, and flour. God blessed us with a brain. Knock the dust off that brain and think some stuff out."
Flintside: Although Garden of Y.O.U.T.H. Water is relatively new when you look back at your journey thus far, is there something you want people to take from it?
Y'all can do something as big as this. Go in the store and look around and know that's you. Put a product in there. I'm challenging y'all to use y'all brain to come up with the next or a million things. Flint is a good motivator. There's ghetto gold up in here."
You can find Alex Love and Garden of Y.O.U.T.H. Water on Facebook, Instagram, and its website. You can purchase Garden of Y.O.U.T.H. Water at the following stores around Flint: Premier Wealth Market on Welch and Chevrolet; Dawn’s Donuts on Pasadena and Clio Road; Prime 810 on Pierson Road; The Vets on S. Saginaw Street; Davison Road Market on Flint’s eastside.