One proposal suggested targeting a market of soda pop buyers in an age group from 13 to 24. Kent's response was, "What? Are you stupid? That would mean I couldn't drink my own soda."
Next, Kent's father took Kent and his soda pop idea to a business "incubator without walls" project at the college. Kent got help from faculty members Ann Nygard with the incubator project, Rodney Jacobs with a business plan and Barclay Tucker, whose students helped with graphic arts and the design of a bottle label.
As the 9-year-old came up with more ideas and more plans, his parents began to realize this was something that could actually work.
Aaron Melville cited as a model Paul Newman, who established very successful, very profitable businesses with a social mission. Those businesses ended up accomplishing a great deal of good. He also cited Tom's Shoes, a company that donates a pair of shoes every time it sells a pair of shoes.
A bottler was signed up and the first 24 cases of Kent's soda was turned out by the Walpole, N.H., company, which says he can keep up with 25,000 bottles at a time, but may have to rework things if sales really take off.
For every bottle sold, a portion of the proceeds will go to a social club that helps area families and children with autism by providing such social interaction as bowling, movies, whale-watching excursions and going to the Montshire Museum in Norwich. In the long term, if Kent's soda really takes off, the Melvilles will be ready.
Kent hopes to come up with a special soda once a year, and his first pick will be orange and root beer mixed, since those are his favorite flavors.
"I tried it," he said. "It was delicious." He knows the project has to keep some of the money, Kent says, "because I have employees I have to pay." Another of Kent's marketing plans is a giant root-beer volcano.
Kent has four brothers and sisters who are not autistic, but Kent's autism can be isolating for him. The social club helps Kent and others who are isolated by their autism by bringing the children and families together.
"Having a social club has been a lifesaver for Kent and for us," Arron Melville said. His family has been given so much by the autism community that he's really excited by the opportunity to give back. For several months, Kent has worked with Michael Spence, a St. Johnsbury Academy student who will be going away to college this fall. Jean Metivier is is a psychotherapist who is the director of the Integrated Therapy Institute in St. Johnsbury. She's helped Kent and has encouraged him as he works on his business ideas. Kent's soda has a Facebook page and the Integrated Therapy Institute has a web page at itihealth.org.
On April 29, there will be a conference on autism held at Catamount Arts on Eastern Avenue with about 75 people. The theme of the conference will be how to manage a crisis with someone with autism.
And Kent's soda will be served.