Teen founder of OOMPHER Jake Millar sells his startup, turns down $40k scholarship in favour of his entrepreneurial dream

Picture sourced from OOMPHER's website
Teen entrepreneur Jake Millar turned down a major scholarship to chase his entrepreneurial dream. He has just scored his first major success, selling his website OOMPHER to a crown entity.

His business heroes include Virgin founder Richard Branson, Paypal founder Peter Thiel and Graham Hart. Teen entrepreneur Jake Millar had the guts to turn down a major scholarship to chase his entrepreneurial dream.

He left school with a huge dose of vision and persistence. His vision: to set up a website to inspire ordinary people to achieve extraordinary feats.

OMMPHER, derived from the word oomph, was started in 2014. Millar knocked on many doors, and didn’t let ‘no’ get him down. His persistence paid off. The young entrepreneur has just sold his website to Careers New Zealand for an undisclosed sum. Careers New Zealand is a crown entity set up under the Education Act, 1989, to build a connection between education and training, with employment.

Millar made the connection with Careers New Zealand through CEO of Sir Peter Blake Trust, Shelley Campbell.

Early supporters

Early supporters, those who gave him time included former Reserve Bank governor Don Brash and former mayor of Christchurch Bob Parker.

His biggest supporters – in time and resources – came from real estate entrepreneur Mike Perot and advertising strategist  Geoff Cranko, he says. BNZ came on board as his first corporate sponsor, he says.

A year is a long time. Since May last year, when OOMPHER did its first interview with AJ Hackett, who gave the world bungy jumping, Millar has learnt many things, and a host of new business skills. The website has 55 interviews of high profile and inspirational people, and is set to do 84 by the end of the year.

How to be successful

Millar says: “I started OOMPHER on a spark of inspiration and not much else. I had no media training, no skills. It was pretty bad -- our first video. It is a bit of a cringe now, looking back at what we did, but we have since learnt a lot.”

He says from day one, the website had firm goals to show other young people what can be achieved by profiling people who’ve built wildly successful careers and companies, and become real influencers in their fields simply because they had the vision and the drive to carry it out.

Millar now has plans to invest his money in other projects in the tech space, including building an app, and investing in a tech startup in the US.

He feels he has a lot yet, to learn, and is taking small steps as he continues to chase his business dreams.

Careers New Zealand Chief Executive Keith Marshall says the site complements other Careers New Zealand work aimed at helping young people make good career decisions which benefit both themselves and the country.

Millar who is now 19, has filmed video interviews with high flyers such as butchery mogul Sir Peter ‘The Mad Butcher’ Leitch, MasterChef winner and co-founder of My Food Bag Nadia Lim, rowing gold medallist Mahe Drysdale and more than 80 other luminaries.

Start yesterday philosophy

Millar was the 2013 head prefect of Christchurch Boys’ High School. “I have a ‘start yesterday’ approach because there’s no use waiting for success to find you. While I have huge respect for knowledge and learning, I feel those years it would’ve taken to get a degree will be better spent doing my own projects.”

The West Coaster from Greymouth was dealt a blow as a 15-year-old, when his father, Skydive NZ director Rod Miller, was one of nine people killed in the 2010 Fox Glacier plane crash.

“My dad's death really brought home the fact that you can be living life to the full one minute, then gone the next – so there’s no use wasting time on things you don’t absolutely love.”

Next phase

He says he is hugely excited about the next phase of OOMPHER’s development, where Careers New Zealand will take the site, to its next level and discover new and amazing distribution channels.

Marshall of Careers New Zealand says the site complements other Careers New Zealand work.  The Career New Zealand website has over 4 million unique visits each year offering visitors a range of career-related services.

“Over the next few months Careers New Zealand will be looking at how we maintain both the motivational aspect of OOMPHER, and its ‘by youth, for youth’ focus," he says.