MONTVILLE, NJ – The gym was packed with entrepreneurs. The smell of chocolate and popcorn was enticing. And the excitement of the kids showing the results of weeks of hard work was contagious.

It was the Cedar Hill 9th annual Treps marketplace, held on Saturday, April 21. Treps is short for entrepreneur, and the fourth and fifth graders had attended five one-hour workshops in which they learned how to start and operate their own business. The classes, taught by home and school volunteers, were held after school, and started late in February. They dealt with topics like product development, marketing, sales, customer service and handling money.

The students pair up with a pal if they wish, develop a product or service, create a poster advertising their product, and begin making the product. They need to find financing and estimate demand.

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The April 21 marketplace was the culmination of the lessons, with 62 students participating, according to chair Sheri Dragone.

Booths ranged from necklaces to fresh guacamole to marshmallow shooters.

Hailey Dragone was selling Harry Potter-style wands made out of dowels and clay that she had made with some help from her dad. She called her booth the “World of Wands.”

Neighbors Maana Parikh and Esha Jain had teamed up to sell the combination of bath fizzers – fizzing bathtub tinglers – and edible cupcakes. The pair thought that would make a good combination to sell, they said. Customers who bought a large bath fizzer – shaped like a doughnut – received a free cupcake.

Fourth grader Giuliana Panico spent a “long time and a lot of blood and tears” painting “Rock Pets” for her booth of painted rock pets. “Don’t worry, they don’t poop,” her sign promised. She painted 34 animals in all, ranging from cats to fish to rabbits.

Fourth graders Chase Garb and Ryan Conlon were teaming up for their first Treps experience to sell cupcakes in an ice cream cone, an idea they got from Ryan’s birthday. Each made 40 cupcakes in colors that Ryan said they picked because they thought they would be interesting. Each had a cherry on top. They called their business “Lacrosse Brothers Cupcakes.”

The smell of chocolate was strong coming from Logan McBurney and Ryan Cortes’ chocolate fountain business, “Logan and Ryan’s Chocolate Factory,” one of four chocolate fountain businesses at the marketplace that day.

“Everyone likes chocolate, and Logan’s aunt had a chocolate factory, so we thought it would be a good idea for our business,” Ryan said. The fifth graders were participating in Treps for the second time, but their first time as business partners. Customers could dip marshmallows, pretzel rods, strawberries and Twinkies. Problem solving was part of their strategy.

“We thought about what would taste good,” Logan said. “We were going to dip regular pretzels but we thought sticks would dip better. We thought about Oreos but didn't think they would work.”

Fifth grader Nick Ponikowski was trying his second year at Treps also, this time with ice cream. Last year he sold mini piñatas, but this year he thought ice cream would be better – in three flavors: chocolate, vanilla, and chocolate chip cookie dough. He offered customers sugar cones, wafer cones or dishes, plus cherries, rainbow sprinkles and several other toppings.

He was confident about how much ice cream he had purchased for the event.

“I thought, ‘people like it, so we might as well get a lot’ – and whatever I don’t sell, we can eat,” he said with a laugh.

“Peter’s Plants” was the brainchild of Peter Kapchynsky, who had planted his seeds about two months ago, he said. The fourth grader was selling basil, tomatoes, peas, sunflowers, onions, wandering Jews, and spider plants, plus containers into which they could be transplanted.

Juliana Maiella has her own Instagram account for her scented slime, slimebubblezz. Her big sister gave her the idea she said, for frosted animal cracker, cherry Italian ice and pompom slime with pompoms in it. She said the slime is a great stress reliever.

Seventh grader and Cedar Hill alumnus Zack Waltsak was visiting the Treps event. He likes to come back and see what products the students have at their booths, he said, and he is a two-year Treps veteran himself. He also bought himself a snack.

“The meatball subs are amazing!” he said.

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