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10-year-old launches social enterprise

Ten year old Lilah McDonald is on a mission. After finding out that Auckland only has drinking fountains in 5 percent of its parks, she decided to take matters into her own hands and launch her own social enterprise, Water Us.

During Lockdown last year, McDonald realised she would need to seek funding that was not dependent on corporate generosity. Instead, she found a product she could sell through her Pledge Me Campaign that was both good for the environment and could meet the need of consumers. To gain a regular income stream from which to donate the profits to her project, McDonald sourced a tree-free toilet paper, made from fast regenerating crops of bamboo, manufactured in a totally chlorine-free process and without inks, dyes, or fragrances.

McDonald says purchasing tree free toilet paper from Water Us will not only feel good but also do good, with at least 50 percent of  profits going to purchase drinking fountains and bottle refill stations for parks and playgrounds. Her Pledge Me campaign is seeking to raise $30,000 to fund the first bulk production run and has so far accumulated an impressive $21,640.  

She says her motivation behind Water Us came from her strong connection with the ocean.

“I think that something needs to be done about the amount of plastic that enters it every day.”

The Water Us toilet paper is packaged in gorgeously designed, hygienic paper wraps and boxed in recycled cardboard boxes of 24 or 48 units. It is also sealed with paper tape to ensure that everything is recyclable. Renowned contemporary artist Reuben Paterson has also jumped on board, designing the limited edition so that Kiwis can bring beauty and art into their bathrooms and toilets.

Mum Kate O’Leary, an experienced entrepreneur, business advisor, investor and independent director, will also be giving the young entrepreneur a helping hand by packing boxes, taking photos for social media and providing guidance as McDonald grows her business.

Once Water Us has completed its first production run, McDonald will be busy shipping out customers orders. She also plans to establish an online store, so that people can continue to #wipeforwater and purchase a tree free toilet paper on an ongoing basis (either by subscription or not).

And if the ten-year-old couldn’t be more impressive, she also has a unique collaboration underway with New Zealand face mask manufacturer Meo Air. Working alongside fabric designer Maggie Lam, McDonald has created a limited edition kids face mask named “Lilah’s Dream” which will be available for purchase on 15 March with all profits from the first 2000 units sold going to the Public Water Project.

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