Most senior executives can only dream of mingling with business magnate Warren Buffett—but 10-year-old Pleasantville resident Grant Becker did just that, as a finalist in Buffett’s The Secret Millionaire’s Club’s “Grow Your Own Business” Challenge. The competition, which is in its third year, hails business-savvy kids for their own novel ideas, with the winner ultimately being picked by Buffett. Out of thousands of applicants, Grant was one of the 13 finalists in the 2014 Grow Your Own Business challenge and flew out to Omaha, Nebraska last month, where he got to meet Buffett. While Grant’s wheelchair bike idea, The Go Go Bike, did not win competition, the experience was “magical,” he says. We took some time with Grant to discuss his invention, the experience, and the vision for what’s next.
How did you get the idea for Go Go Bike? How did you get the money to create the bike?
GB: I like to ride bikes and there is a kid in my class who is in a wheelchair who can’t ride a bike so I decided to make a bike for kids in wheelchairs. My grandfather and I worked on the bike together using old parts we had in the garage and stuff we found in the Pleasantville recycling center. We also bought an old wheelchair from Craig’s list for $25 that my Mom paid for. I paid her back from the money that I won from the contest.
How did you make the bike?
GB: My grandfather and I built the GoGo bike from my old two wheeler. We cut it apart, welded it back together and created an attachment bar to hook into the wheel chair that can be easily removed whenever necessary. And it works by pedaling with your hands, so a lot of people will find it easy to use.
Was the school and the local community supportive of you during this whole experience?
GB: I am a fourth-grader at Bedford Road School in Pleasantville. My teacher, Lisa Rodriguez, encouraged me to enter the contest and helped me write up my idea. She also flew out to Omaha with me and my family for the contest. Everyone in Pleasantville was really great. Many people that I didn’t even know from the town and school voted for my project online. I feel very lucky to live in Pleasantville and go to such a good school.
What was it like meeting Warren Buffett What did Buffett have to say about your idea?
GB: It was really magical. I kind of felt like Charlie in the Chocolate Factory meeting Willy Wonka. They had all these fun events for us including a really cool dinner at the Omaha aquarium. We had the whole place to ourselves and a dinner in a glass tunnel with sharks swimming all around us! Mr. Buffett put his hand on the bike and said to one of the other judges, “Isn’t this fantastic?” He asked me a lot of questions about how it worked and about how my grandfather and I made it. His daughter really liked it too. She said that she has a friend who is in a wheelchair that doesn’t get much exercise and that she would definitely buy one for her friend! I think Mr. Buffett’s best advice was to work hard and save your money. He gave me 10 shares of Berkshire Hathaway stock and I plan to keep that for a long time.
What are your plans for the Go Go Bike going forward?
GB: I would like to see this bike attachment go into production to help people. We weren’t really thinking about getting rich from making these bikes. We would like to help other kids get exercise, have fun and feel good about themselves and not be ashamed that they have to be in a wheelchair. We would like to see a bike company take this idea and make it reasonably priced so most kids in wheelchairs can have a bike just like every other kid who is not in a wheelchair. If we can’t find an interested bike company, we would like to give the prototype to an organization like March of Dimes or some other nonprofit who could take the idea and help develop it for kids and adults who can use it.