DENVILLE, NJ -- Valleyview Middle School in Denville opened its doors for its annual TREP$ Marketplace on Dec 5. The event showcased 66 sixth, seventh and eighth graders, working individually or in pairs, who sold their own homemade products.

“It’s good to finally see it come together because I worked really hard on this,” said 11-year-old sixth grader Jack Whitney, who created his own business, LumberJack WoodWorks, to sell his own wood-carved signs of Denville and New Jersey.

“I’ve learned that when you work hard, rewards do follow.”

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These rewards included students generating a profit from their own hand-crafted items sold in their own community.

The event itself is part of a program by TREP$ ED, LLC, a nonprofit organization that provides schools, parent associations and community organizations with TREP$™, a comprehensive project-based entrepreneurship curriculum designed for students in the fourth through eighth grades. The goal of TREP$ is to encourage students to invent, improve, inspire or imitate. TREP$ has been offered at Valleyview for three years.

“It’s also a great way to get your feet wet in the world of running a business,” said 13-year-old eighth grader Calvin Chen.

“It’s a really exciting project that teaches a lot of responsibility and general work ethic.”

Chen worked together with fellow classmate, 13-year-old Sara Gomez, to create a business known as Simple String, which sells pin and threat art plaques. Even before the marketplace was halfway through, both students were able to break even on sales.

“It was hard, and we didn’t think we would make it at first,” said Gomez, who participated in TREP$ last year, selling her own candles.

“But it was fun and exciting, and in the end, we did so much more!”

Approximately 300 Denville residents attended Valleyview’s TREP$ Marketplace, held in the school’s gymnasium. There were a variety of products from which to choose, including handmade magnets, paper art and clothes. Some students even made their own Christmas-themed merchandise, like decorations, ornaments and greeting cards.

“TREP$ encourages all of us to be enterprisers and get creative with ideas by thinking outside the box, knowing your customers, how to advertise your products and how to manage your time and money,” said 13-year-old eighth grader Serena Lombardi, who sold her wood-burned ornaments, plaques and jewelry.

Valleyview parents were especially proud to see their children take charge of their own "companies" and learn the basics of business.

“It’s really awesome to see these kids start and grow a business,” said Denville Councilman Brian Bergen, whose 11-year-old daughter Samantha sold organic scented candles.

“TREP$ is a fantastic thing as they learn to talk to customers, advertise and everything else. And it feels great to see my daughter put in the work and learn life lessons that will help her go into business one day.”

Marla Jaffe, the event’s head organizer, was especially proud of the participating students.

“Every year, these students raise the bar higher,” said Jaffe, who also has served as the middle school’s gifted and talented teacher for the last 13 years.

“I never cease to be amazed by the level of their commitment and grit. It’s a true blessing to be their teacher.”


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