Four entrepreneurs at PS 175 in Rego Park are finalists in a national contest for an opportunity to meet billionaire businessman Warren Buffett and win $5,000 each.
Fifth-graders Lucien Mount, 10, and Alejandro Astudillo, 10, of Forest Hills, and Charles Cheng, 11, and Nataniel Natanov, 11, of Rego Park, submitted a business idea to the “Secret Millionaires Club Grow Your Own Business Challenge,” competing with over 3,000 other applicants.
Their mobile shop, called “Deals on Wheels,” sells snacks and school supplies from a cart to raise money for the school.
The students will present their idea in front of judges in Omaha, Neb., the home town of the billionaire on Monday, May 21. The judges, along with an online poll, will decide if they win the contest.
“Ultimately, ‘Deals on Wheels,’ was one of the three finalists which ranked high in the following criteria – uniqueness of concept, depth and description of concept and feasibility of concept execution,” said Ken Chaplin, senior vice president of marketing for contest sponsor CreditReport.com, in an email.
The business-minded youngsters came up with the mobile shop, Lucien said, as a way to help out the school due to the budget cuts in arts programs.
The students had to find something that appealed to their peers. “We knew to create a successful business idea we would have to fulfill a need,” Lucien said. “Kids can get healthy snacks while paying for cultural arts program.”
Working alongside two of their teachers, Michele Pomegrantz, a computer teacher, and Barbara Bialek, the four startups also took the extra step to actually see their proposal come to fruition, which was not a requirement of the contest.
With a loan from Principal Linda Green, the Deals on Wheel store launched in January, was able to pay off the loan and has raised $3,000. The money has been used to fund three assembly programs.
Having the rare opportunity to meet a lionized businessman impressed all four boys, especially Alejandro, who said it would be “incredible. It feels like we won the lottery.”
Their teachers were very proud to work with them and see them get this far. “They were so enthusiastic,” Bialek said. “I’m just really proud of them. The store had really taken off and that’s what made it so wonderful.”
Pomegrantz said the opportunity was “probably one of the most exciting things I’ve done. It’s been a team effort with everybody.”
Green has been fully supportive of the students from the beginning and called this the biggest contest the school has entered.
“Once they put their mind to it, I knew they could do it,” she said. “It’s a combination of teamwork. It’s the kid’s teamwork and the grownups teamwork and the students.”
Each of the students took away something different but they concurred that a plan was necessary to get something done. “You have to have a plan,” Nataniel said. “If you don’t have a plan then, nothing will come together.”