Student awarded for business idea
Fourth-grader meets billionaire investor Warren Buffett
Aria Eppinger, a fourth-grader at the Campus School at Carlow University in Oakland, took the top prize in the nationwide Grow Your Own Business Challenge student competition sponsored recently by billionaire investor Warren Buffett.
She accepted the $5,000 prize in ceremonies in Omaha, Neb. The competition drew more than 3,000 entries from students age 7-16.
Buffett also awarded Aria and the other finalists with 10 shares in his company, Berkshire Hathaway.
The 10-year-old's project centered on a way for children to make light-up clothing.
She invented a kit that includes LED lights with snap caps that fit on top, plus colored conductive thread to carry the electrical charge, with batteries and switches.
"Aria is not just an inspiration to her classmates and friends, but to her teachers as well," said her math teacher, DeAnna Kwiecinski, who also made the trip to Omaha.
Kwiecinski also won $1,000 in the contest. She was one of this year's recipients of a Golden Apple Award for outstanding Catholic school teachers.
"She dreams big, learns from her mistakes, and never gives up," she said of Aria.
"She has a tremendous work ethic, never hesitates to help her fellow classmates and truly loves to learn," Kwiecinski said. "Aria is always up for a challenge, so it came as no surprise that she took an idea, built upon it and smiled as she presented it beautifully to the panel of judges and Mr. Buffett."
Aria's mother, Francesmary Modugno, said her daughter quickly decided how to spend part of her winnings -- by aiding several charities.
Aria gave one-third of her winnings to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, the Animal Rescue League and the Montessori program at the Carlow Campus School.
The remaining two-thirds will go into building her business, Shine So Bright, to market the light-up clothing kit.
She plans one day to become a math teacher and run her own business on the side. "I want to be in business," she said.
As for meeting the master of business investment, Warren Buffett, she said "he was really nice and a lot of fun."
The family, which includes father Jeffrey Eppinger and an older brother, E.J., belongs to St. Bede Parish in Pittsburgh's Point Breeze neighborhood, where Aria is an altar server.
The contest was part of Buffett's "Secret Millionaires Club," a series offered over the Internet to give students an introduction to business and managing money.