MONTVILLE, NJ – If pickles, origami, fancy soaps, or cotton candy are your thing, you were in luck if you attended Cedar Hill Elementary School’s TREPs student marketplace in April. Students had booths offering all that and more.

The students had attended the TREPs program, a series of after-school classes that taught them how to open their own small business. The classes taught them a mini lesson in marketing, how to finance their business, and helped them explore ideas on what business they wanted to start. The students could pair up or go it alone. The April 27 marketplace was the culmination of the program, when students gathered in the gym of the school to open their businesses for the day, offering a variety of goods ranging from dream catchers to Fortnite items to “Pencils with Pizzazz.”

Hailey Dragone saw three-dimensional, decorated letters on the project app Pinterest and knew that was the business for her.

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“I made about two a day, and they took me a couple of weeks,” she said about her furry, polka-dotted creations. Customers could purchase their initials or spell out their names with their purchase from her business, “Hailey’s Wacky Letters.”

Over at “Sam’s Pickled Pickles,” Samantha Dorenbush was not in a pickle. Her pickle business had done so well last year that the fifth grader decided to use pickles as her business model again this year. She was offering samples to convert potential customers into buyers.

“I got the idea for my booth from my grandfather, because he makes pickles and they’re delicious,” she said. “We decided on a price because of the size of the container. We changed the price this year, though, because the cucumbers were smaller.”

Samantha’s slogan? “Dill with it.”

At “Sofia’s Savings,” where “Your Change Is In The Bank,” fifth-grader Sofia Velez had painted Mason jars to be “piggy” banks. Stripes, solids and glittered were offered, but Sofia said that the polka dotted was the big seller. Velez said that her mom helped her come up with the idea for her booth.

“I did smoothies last year but I wanted to do something different this year,” she said. “People can add to the banks’ design with stickers to personalize them.” Velez said the banks took about two long days to make.

Isaac Pyo said his dad suggested his booth, “Isaac’s Gummy Jello Shots.” There were gummy bears in jello with beach umbrellas at the “beach,” jumping fish with marshmallow “bubbles,” and cups with jello and gummy worms – plain or sour. He said the shots took about three days to make, and he liked doing TREPs, because he considered it “learning for the future.”

One of two Harry Potter-themed booths was “Mischief Management,” with Jovana Getova, Brandon Lam and Zara Serukur as proprietors. There, one could purchase cupcakes, pencils that looked like magic wands, pencil holders, key chains and notebooks, all with the HP theme – and of course, polyjuice potion, a delicious-sounding concoction made of lemonade, lemon-lime sparkling water, lemon gelato, cherry popping boba bubbles and natural food color. They planned on donating the proceeds to orphaned pets, the Cho family, and the Tomorrow’s Children’s Fund. The kids said they split the baking and decorating duties.

Fifth grader Lia Hovaniak added to her wares this year, her second year having a booth at Cedar Hill’s TREPs.

“Last year I just had homemade granola, but this year I added homemade waffles topped with chocolate syrup and whipped cream, plus candy,” she said. “I think I learned to make a good product that people will want to buy.”

Over at Adi’s Super Samosa Hut, Aditya Patel was serving up the delicious potato and spice-filled tri-cornered pastries with ketchup and a green herby sauce.

“My mom suggested we try making something different,” the fourth grader said. “It took about three days for me, my mom, and my cousins to make them. There were 60 in this first batch and we’ve sold out [in the first 45 minutes]. But my mom is bringing more.”

And what lesson does Adi think that TREPs has taught him?

“To be different,” the successful entrepreneur said with a smile.

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