Boom! Meet Millie, the girl who builds playgrounds in the world’s poorest countries

In the fourth story in our series celebrating the amazing things young New Zealanders do every day, meet Millie Whetu, a young entrepreneur who believes big business needs big dreams, big vision and a big heart.

Most kids would have spent time during the summer school holidays at their local playground. But not Millie Whetu. The nine-year-old from Ngaruawahia spent her days running her small business, Boom Bottles, and sending the profits overseas to help World Vision build playgrounds in developing countries.

Boom Bottles sells reusable drinks bottles and is run from Millie’s family home. A student at Southwell School in Hamilton, Millie says the idea for Boom Bottles came to her when she borrowed her mum Amy’s reusable water bottle.

”I thought it was a great idea because when I was thinking of starting a business I wanted to sell something that was sustainable, not a one-use thing,” she says. ”We were learning about sustainability at school and this got me thinking and gave me the idea to sell these bottles.”

Boom Bottles are stainless steel and double-walled thermal drink bottles. ”If you leave them in the sun for a long time they will stay cold for ages.”

But Millie’s small business is not about turning a personal profit; she sends the money to help build playgrounds overseas.

”I first started my business to earn money, but then I found a World Vision booklet at home talking about all the other people around the world and how many things they need that we all have every day, so I thought they need it more than me.”

A playground built by World Vision in Uganda (Photo: World Vision).

World Vision works to build playgrounds and install playground equipment in war-torn and developing countries. The playgrounds are often built in schools to encourage student enrollment or placed in refugee settlement areas to help children fleeing violence overcome the effects of conflict-related stress disorders.

”I decided to help build one playground for every 10 bottles I sell, which is about half of all my sales,” Millie says. ”I also have a big goal of helping to build a school when I sell all my bottles, and I am just over half way there.”

Millie says she is always thinking of other small businesses she can start and she reckons that yes, adults do underestimate kids a lot of the time.

”Kids can do anything that they put their mind to,” she says. ”It just takes time and hard work and some help from mum and dad.”

Millie and one of her Boom Bottles.

Boom Bottles come in four colours: dynamite, firestarter, blue smoke and copper fuse. One bottle is $20 or two for $35.

”Please buy a lot of bottles, thank you!,” Millie says.

You can buy Boom Bottles at Boom Bottles’ Facebook page.

Previously in Amazing Kids: 

You’re never too young to save the planet.

The boy who’s saving the elephants.

The eight-year-old soap entrepreneur. 


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