When I was 8 years old, I started my first Lemonade Stand. I wanted to buy a new bike, and my mom had budgeted money for it, but I decided to use it on an electronic keyboard instead. Once the coolness of the keyboard was gone (4 days) I really wanted that new bike. She said the money she allocated for the bike was gone – so I had to figure something else out.
That afternoon I sat on the porch, upset, while I watched all the neighborhood kids riding their new bikes. My summers were spent in Rocky River, OH right across from a high school. Each day I noticed hundreds of kids gather for summer tennis camp and then my mind started turning….At 50 cents per kid, times the hundreds of kids a day, surely I would produce enough cash to buy that bike.
After 5 days grueling in the sun, I made a total of ten dollars. First fifty cents was too expensive. Then I was missing kids that didn’t exit where I was set up. And I got some parents that thought I was cute…but that wasn’t sustainable.
So I went to Phase II of the business plan; find neighborhood kids to set up stands at each of the four corners where kids exit. I would geographically expand so they can’t miss me. I came up with new ideas; I added bananas, oranges, and other tasty treats. At the end of the shift I would pay out my neighborhood friends with enough money to buy ice cream, some candy and a coke (2-3 bucks). They were thrilled. And so was I.
At the peak of my enterprise, I was selling close to $25/day. And that summer, I earned enough to buy my bike and more.
From that moment on, it was never about what I couldn’t have; it was about how I could create a plan to achieve my goal. Over 30 years later, I am the CEO of Kem Krest, a $100 million company handling the global supply chain for GM, Ford, Nissan, and others.
Last year, Elkhart launched Lemonade Day. A program started by Hoosier-born entrepreneur Michael Holthouse in Houston, Texas. His daughter wanted to buy a turtle, and instead of giving her the money, he helped her build a Lemonade Stand and earn her own money. Today there are over 100 cities participating in Lemonade Day and more than 120,000 kids putting up stands and learning the fundamentals of business at a very young age.
My experience with Lemonade Day was uplifting. Teaching kids the fundamentals of business strategy, marketing, accounting, and operations would be next to impossible in a textbook. But give them an experience and an incentive – and they get “tricked” into learning.
Many of these kids are earning their first dollar. What a feeling of empowerment and freedom. It reminds me of going into a deli, dry cleaner, or other small business where they have framed their first dollar. Why do people frame their first dollar? It’s a memory of that very moment when their risk and hard work paid off. It’s when they earned wealth by something they created. And it’s a reminder of how hard it was do to.
May 5th, 2012, I spent the day driving to each stand and drinking Lemonade until my stomach turned. I asked the kids about their stands, their recipe, their experience and most importantly, what they would do with the money they earned.
I have distilled some of the responses from my interviews with these kids in a summary below:
What is the cost of ingredients for your lemonade?
“Well…I got a loan from my dad to buy the stuff, so it’s pretty much free because I don’t think he writes it down.”
“I sell it for a dollar, so I am sure it’s much less than that.”
“10 cents. I don’t use lemons since they cost so much, so I just use cheap mix from Wal-Mart. It isn’t the best tasting…but not many people will buy more than one cup anyway!”
“$1.50. I use exotic fruit, a nice cup, and special stir straws. I am going to try to sell it for $10/glass. I think it’s worth it. I wouldn’t buy it for $10, but people buy things for a lot all the time.
What have you done to advertise your stand?
“I called my grandma and asked her to tell her friends from their old person apartment to all come over – there are a lot of people there!”
“I am set up at the finish line of the American Cancer Walk…There are thirsty people everywhere.”
“Nothing! We just yell LEMONADE really loud when people walk by.”
“We handed out ads at Church at told them some of the money goes back to God; well, we are buying Hymnals, which is how we sing to God.”
What will you do with the money you make?
“Donate proceeds to Riley – because I got back surgery there when I was little.”
“Donate proceeds to dig a well in Africa, so they can have clean water and not get diseases.”
“Buy a skateboard, a PlayStation, a laptop, and an iPod…and maybe some candy with the money I have left over.”
If you read between the lines – these outcomes aren’t just cute. They have a hint of real business understanding. From an eight-year-old.
Entrepreneurship is a journey. The sooner you start it, the more natural it is. I applaud all the young entrepreneurs that have found the value and excitement in making their first dollar. I admire the creativity these kids put forth in designing colorful stands and interesting recopies and I appreciate that at a young age, they were willing to give up a sunny Saturday for the possibilities of making a buck.
Elevate Ventures is there to help those that want to create a “lemonade stand of their own.” Whatever your stand is, it is sure to be empowering and a challenge – and hopefully will result in a framed dollar on your wall with a great story of how you earned it.
For more info on Lemonade Day Elkhart visit: https://www.facebook.com/LemonadeDayElkhart