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Select youths with big business ideas get chance to have Warren Buffett mentor them

By Erin Flemming, The Seattle Times –

SEATTLE — Two young brothers from Puyallup, Wash., are headed to Omaha, Neb., next week for something most CEOs can only dream of: a chance to pitch their business idea to investment mogul Warren Buffett.

Winning bidders on eBay have paid $2 million for the opportunity to attend a charity lunch with the billionaire and fabled investor. Stockholders pay big money — currently about $120,000 — for a single share in his company, Berkshire Hathaway.

But Justin and Anthony Lundberg, 9 and 12, got their opportunity by besting more than 3,000 other entries in the Grow Your Own Business Competition. The contest is held by the Secret Millionaires Club, an education program that teaches financial literacy to children using cartoons with the voices of Buffett and other public figures.

The Lundbergs, along with 13 other finalists from around the United States, will travel to Omaha on Sunday to present their business ideas in the hopes of winning a cash prize.

The brothers, both baseball enthusiasts, are both a bit shy and wriggly. Besides a height difference and a spattering of freckles across Anthony’s nose, they look alike.

The boys entered the competition as a team with the idea of “Super Clothes” — jackets that would have solar panels throughout, and a Powermat-like material lining the front pockets — enabling users to charge a cellphone by putting it in the pocket. The brothers said they got the idea from a book and also from their father.

So far, the blue jackets they sported for the contest are only a mock-up aimed at busy tech enthusiasts.

Anthony said their father, Joel Lundberg, a mortgage broker, has to deal a lot with his phone running out of power, so they wanted to find a way “to stop him from complaining so much” about this problem.

This isn’t the first time the boys have gotten creative with business ideas. Barb Lundberg, their mother, said they enjoy organizing garage sales and selling items on eBay that they’ve outgrown.

She said they also have compiled a list of invention ideas on their computers — from glow-in-the-dark silly string for outdoor parties to a new sport combining soccer and golf.

“If they think of something interesting, they just jot it down,” she said. “But this is the first time they’ve entered something in a contest like that.”

In Omaha, Buffett will meet Monday with each of the Lundberg boys separately to mentor them, Barb said. After this, the families, mentors and other finalists will eat lunch with Buffett.

The winners will be announced Monday night. If the Lundberg boys win, they will get $5,000 each.

The brothers said they’re most excited to meet Buffett.

“I just think it’s kind of cool that we get the opportunity to go meet Warren Buffett in Omaha because of our idea,” Anthony said.

After recording a video of their product pitch, the boys were named finalists in the group category, meaning their family and a mentor of their choice would be flown to Omaha for the final presentation. The boys chose to take along their longtime baseball coach.

Online voting by the public on the best ideas is part of the contest, and the Lundberg boys got second place, thanks to some publicity from local TV and radio stations, the Tacoma Rainiers and support on Twitter from TV personality Duane Chapman, better known as “Dog the Bounty Hunter.”

“People were really owning the idea and rallying for them, so that was fun,” their mom said.

This is the first year of the contest, which Ken Chaplin, senior vice president of marketing at, said grew out of the company’s sponsorship of the Secret Millionaires Club.

“(We wanted to) really incentivize these kids and teens to share their creativity and compete,” he said. “We were really pleased to see all the amazing and creative entries from some of the kids.”

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