Buffett's "Grow Your Own Business Challenge" for Kid Entrepreneurs is a Little Underwhelming

For the third year running, Warren Buffett is challenging budding entrepreneurs to build their own business. The “Grow Your Own Business Challenge” was created as part of Warren Buffet’s Secret Millionaires Club, an animated TV and web series that features Buffett as a secret mentor to a group of kids whose fun-filled adventures lead them through a series of financial and business problems that they have to solve. The competition is open to kids age 7-14, and offers awards of $5,000 to one individual and one team for the best new business idea.

The contest will be accepting applications through January 31, 2014, and expects about 4,000 entries.  Five individual and three team finalists will be chosen to come to Omaha to present their ideas to Buffett, and a panel of VIP judges. Finalists can also nominate an inspirational teacher to come with them, and is eligible to win up to $1,000. The Fairholme Foundation, the charitable arm of Fairholme Capital Management, sponsors the competition.

No doubt the program is encouraging to kids, teaches valuable skills, and even produces some great ideas: winning ideas in the first two competitions have included a portable, easy to assemble, customizable school store on wheels, a kit to make light-up clothing, an elastic device designed to help kids learn to write properly, and Kidtrepreneur Kits, which produces a website, newsletter, and classroom materials that provides kids with ideas, advice and instructions to help them start their own businesses. With someone life Buffett at the helm though, it’s a wonder that there isn’t a bigger entry pool, or more and bigger prizes. Although five thousand dollars might seem like a lot to these kids, whether or not it is enough to really help them get their businesses off the ground is another matter, and there doesn’t seem to be anything either that involves mentoring these kids or helping them developing partnerships.

In addition to the contest and the animated series, the Secret Millionaires Club runs a program called Learn and Earn, which develops fun and educational financial literacy and entrepreneurship materials for use at home and in the classroom. “I am proud of the difference that Secret Millionaires Club is making in the lives of today’s youth,” says Warren Buffett, CEO Berkshire Hathaway. “The skill set that all of the children who enter the competition are learning is something that they will have and build on for the rest of their lives."

For more information on the contest, visit the Secret Millionaires Club website.