Imagine getting the chance to meet Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett and winning $5,000 all at once. That’s what happened to four young entrepreneurs at PS 175 in Rego Park, who won a national contest for students ages 7-16 on May 21, beating two other teams.
Fifth graders Lucien Mount and Alejandro Astudillo of Forest Hills, both 10, and Charles Cheng and Nataniel Natanov of Rego Park, both 11, entered the “Secret Millionaires Club Grow Your Own Business Challenge.”
Entrants had to submit a business concept and were judged on the “uniqueness of concept, depth and description of concept and feasibility of concept execution.”
The students envisioned a mobile cart called “Deals on Wheels,” as a way to raise money for cultural programs which had been cut in the budget.
Even though it wasn’t required, they brought their business into operation, which raised $3,000 for artistic programs by selling school supplies and healthy snacks.
They made it to the finals, beating 3,000 other applicants and were flown to Omaha, Neb., the hometown of the billionaire investor. In front of eight judges, all of whom are staples of the business world, they gave a nearly 30-minute presentation.
Buffett, who was not a judge, met with all the finalists and looked over their business concepts. The students were in awe when they stood face-to-face with Buffett and shook his hand. “I felt like I was going to pass out,” Mount said.
The boys won the praise of their teachers, who helped them throughout the contest. “It was probably the most incredible moment in my teaching career,” said Barbara Bialek, who teaches the Talented and Gifted program. “It was a group effort. Each child brought their own individuality.”
Computer teacher Michele Pongrantz called the opportunity “fun and exciting.”“This is everything teaching was meant to be,” she said.
The teachers don’t go home empty-handed since they also will be awarded $1,000 each.
Buffett commended all the business-minded youngsters who made it to the finals. “Today’s event shows how enterprising kids are, and how early they can learn to practice good financial habits,” he said in a statement. “All of the finalists exhibited impressive entrepreneurial zeal, creative thinking and business sense. If you can develop the right financial habits when you are young, it will serve you a lifetime.”
In a gracious gesture, he also awarded all the finalists 10 shares of Class B stock in Berkshire Hathaway, worth about $800.
As for what they plan to use their $5,000 for, each has a different answer.
Astudillo said he may invest the money in the stock market. Natanov said he will keep some for college and spend the rest. Mount wants to put some in the bank, purchase a thousand-dollar computer and buy more stock in Berkshire Hathaway, while Cheng wants to spend $400 on Berkshire Hathaway B stocks and put the rest in the bank.