OMAHA, Neb. — Earlier this year, Warren Buffett congratulated a group of three Kentucky kids for developing kits to help their peers set up businesses.
Now Buffett is helping teach the young entrepreneurs how tough business can be by backing a competing product.
Both the new “Business in a Box” kits and the contest the Kentucky kids won in May are tied to “The Secret Millionaire’s Club” cartoon that features advice from an animated version of the billionaire investor.
Amy Heyward, one of the co-founders of cartoon-maker A Squared Entertainment, said the company started developing the “Business in a Box” kits more than three years ago, so there’s no direct link to the contest-winning idea.
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But Heyward said she immediately recognized the similarities when siblings Kennedy Sabharwal and Spencer Sabharwal and their cousin Sawyer Beeler presented their Kidtrepreneur Kit idea.
“They should come work for us. They were great,” Heyward said. “It’s amazing what comes out of kids’ heads.”
Buffett’s assistant said Berkshire Hathaway’s chairman and CEO was traveling Tuesday and wasn’t available to comment.
The kids set up their own website prominently featuring pictures of Buffett to sell their entrepreneurial kits, which contain materials to set up a lemonade stand and other businesses.
The young entrepreneurs didn’t immediately respond to a question about their new competition Tuesday, but they probably won’t hold a grudge against Buffett or the Secret Millionaire’s Club after winning $5,000 and 10 Class B shares of Berkshire Hathaway stock in May.
The Kidtrepreneur Kit makers will have a hard time competing with the professionally developed “Business in a Box,” kits even if the homemade Kentucky version is $5 cheaper.
The new $19.99 Secret Millionaire’s Club kits come with a booklet of Buffett’s business advice and a DVD with three episodes of the cartoon. The first two kits focus on setting up a lemonade stand and a carwash.
Heyward said the business kits seem to be a natural fit with the cartoon that is designed to teach kids about key financial principles such as avoiding debt, supply and demand, and the importance of pursuing your dreams. She said Buffett’s talent for simplifying issues helps the program.
“They’re simple enough messages that they resonate with kids,” Heyward said.
The kits will be sold exclusively at Toys R Us through the end of the year, before being distributed more widely next year.