Traverse City-based Inventor and Distributor Team Up to Provide Safe Drinking Water

"We made this product to help people get clean water and we have an opportunity to do that." - Theresa Smith

A new product from a Traverse City-based inventor is designed to get clean water where it’s needed the most.

The product also has a Traverse City based distributor, and they’re working to get their new water filter to places where clean drinking water isn’t readily available.

Ola FilterCo-Inventor Theresa Smith says, “I spent 20 years at Toyota as an engineer and I wanted to do something with a little more personal impact for my next 20 years.”

Smith wanted to make a difference in the world, one drop of water at a time.

“My business partner was in Guatemala and seeing first-hand how people were struggling to get clean water. And we came together and we built this product and this company to address that,” she says. “We’re a small start-up. We just got into the market.”

Knowing that tap water isn’t always safe to drink, they went to work. But it’s not just in third world countries.  Even in Florida, where Hurricane Ian is still wreaking havoc on the water supply.

“Flooding disrupts the infrastructure. And when you have flooding situations, bacteria gets introduced into the water supply, even in municipal water. That’s why in the short-term when water levels are high… It’s safer to have the water filter,” Smith says. “The water coming out of your faucet might not be safe to drink.”

The solution? The OLA water filter.

“It’s extremely portable, it’s lightweight. It fits on any garden tap. It just screws on, to run the tap and it filters as it flows through so it’s really quick,” Smith says. E-coli and other bacteria canOla Filter Science cause water-borne diseases and illnesses like dysentery and giardia. “There’s a lot of nasty stuff in water.”

Relief efforts often include handing out drinking water. But that’s a short-term fix that causes other issues. “They’re distributing bottled water. And it’s wonderful. At the end of the day those bottles are empty. With a water filter people can refill those bottles instead of piling up all this plastic waste,” Smith says.

The OLA water filter is targeted at communities where clean drinking water is hard to come by. But it also has practical uses closer to home, like a campsite without clean water, or in communities under a boil water advisory.

Kimberly Meek is the CEO of Hacha Products, the local distributor for the OLA filter. “It removes all bacteria and parasites… it removes the need to boil the water for cooking or drinking,” she says. “The technology existed but these ladies came up with a creative, innovative design that allows this easily to be attached to a universal threaded garden hose, faucet, tap.”

Ola FiltersAnd Smith says they have already sold filters to an RV park for use on the property. Smith and Meek met after a pitch competition in 2021 though TCNewTech, and now operate together through the incubator and co-working space 20Fathoms.

“The longevity is what makes this so unique. It can go from 2 and a half to 10 years just (with) one filter. And then you can just change the cartridge,” Meek adds. She and Smith agree that gives OLA an advantage over other competitors and name-brand filters currently flooding the market. They’re already in talks with FEMA to make the OLA filter part of the routine supply list for disaster recovery efforts.

Hacha is hoping to collect donations to send 500 water filters down to hurricane-damaged areas of Florida. To learn more about how to donate, or to get a filter for your own use, click here.