AUSTIN, Texas — A 7-year-old Austin boy selling hot chocolate as a fundraiser caused a frenzy across the country back in February, and now his endeavor has grown into a business.
Benton Stevens is seven years old and he has always had a knack for collecting things. His mom, Jennifer Stevens, said this quickly grew into a business-like mentality.
"He's an entrepreneur," Jennifer said. "I guess it's just born in him, I don't know."
Jennifer said Benton has also always been curious, even asking about watching something on TV last year that his older brothers weren't interested in.
"We had a conversation about watching the State of the Union address," Jennifer said. "He heard the president say, 'We need to close our borders. We need to protect our country. We need to make it safer.'"
This inspired him to offer his own entrepreneurial support back in February.
"I watched it, and I saw he needed help building the wall," Benton said. "I decided I should do a lemonade stand, and then it got cold that day, so I decided to do hot chocolate."
Benton sold the hot chocolate for a total of about two hours over a two-day span. His mom said they never intended for this to be more than a small endeavor – until some videos from the stand started to spread across social media.
"I had a friend call me and say, 'Hey, do you know what's going on?' and I was like, 'With what,'" Jennifer said. "I didn't think that it would be like this."
The videos of Benton created wide-spread reaction – but also donations as well. Even though Benton stopped selling the hot chocolate, people continued to send him money to support his fundraiser.
"I understand now the term, 'Go viral,'" Jennifer said. "There was a lot of support that came from this.
Along with the national attention Benton received came negative comments, along with threats as well.
"A guy yelled at him and called him a little Hitler, so he knows that there are people against it," Jennifer said. "He still wants to do it, he stands by it and we're going to stand right by him."
His parents do worry sometimes about the things said against their family, but they don't want Benton to be afraid.
"We also have to teach our kids to stand up for what they think is right," Jennifer said. "He came home telling me that somebody was a Hillary Clinton supporter, and I said, 'Well good. What do you think of that?' He goes, 'I don't care.' That is literally as innocent as that."
"Whatever people say doesn't make you stop doing what you want to do," Benton said.
Benton has now created the website bentonsstand.com. He is selling lemonade, hot chocolate and T-shirts, with a percentage of what he makes going towards the nonprofits Securing Our Borders and Turning Point USA. There is also a place for direct donations for the We Build the Wall Inc. nonprofit Benton has raised $25,000 for. He has a goal of reaching $50,000.
"Now, in the world we live in, you're automatically an enemy if you have a different opinion from somebody else," Jennifer said. "Not everybody thinks like we do, and that's OK. That's what I want him to know."
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