Lemonade Day: Teaching Entrepreneurship

Lemonade Day stand

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Lemonade Day is Sun. May 7, 2023

Lemonade Day is a powerful learning experience that reinforces the importance of individual initiative and goal-driven determination. Started by Michael Holthouse in Houston 16 years ago, the non-profit gives youth K-12 the tools of how to become entrepreneurs.

When hundreds of thousands of kids picked up one of the bright yellow backpacks, they embarked on one of the oldest methods entrepreneurs were exposed to early in life - opening their very own lemonade stand.

But this isn’t about opening a Lemonade stand. Anyone can do that…

Through a comprehensive series of ten lessons, participants acquired over 40 essential skills for real-life application. These lessons encompassed goal-setting, budgeting, site selection, advertising, bank account management, charitable giving, and more.

Regardless of weather conditions, aspiring entrepreneurs had to demonstrate resilience and adaptability, as success was not guaranteed. They may have needed to repay investors or collaborate with partners in profit-sharing. Even enlisting a sibling's assistance, such as having them advertise by the roadside, required compensation.

Participants discovered that merely showing up was insufficient; they had to confront their fears and embark on unfamiliar paths to reap the rewards.

This program was designed for individuals, not groups, emphasizing the essence of entrepreneurship. Lemonade Day participants receive only a workbook rather than a trophy day, instilling the importance of hard work and self-reliance in achieving success—just as in real life.

Lemonade Day's mantra is "Spend a little, save a little, and give a little." Over 16 years, Lemonade Day has immersed 1.5 million kids in their entrepreneurial and experiential learning program – kids who collectively have earned over $352.5 million in sales, generating $270 million in profit and $142.5 million in donations.

And that’s really great, but here’s why you should support it and bring to your community.

American Business. Small, big, and non-profit businesses, you name it, have been devolving lately.

Where once they were creating a world of abundance for employees, communities, and indeed for America itself, many have become increasingly focused on, “What can be given to me?”

That gimme attitude has created a true “lack” mentality in our culture and, most importantly, trickled down to our youth. Just because they want something, they feel they should have it. Not due to hard work, being clever or taking risks; the answer to their golden future was in someone else's hands.

I was lucky. On my own, I discovered entrepreneurialism...

In 1967, I wanted the new More of the Monkees LP, which cost $2.99. I was able to find a way to get the money by becoming an entrepreneur and getting the money. I went door-to-door selling flowers from my mom's garden. I was 9. This was at a time when kids were encouraged to go to college and get a safe job working with a big company.

In a world where “safe” jobs are disappearing due to AI, it will be up to the individual to make a living for themselves. And while the number one show families watch together is Shark Tank, if we don’t turn on that entrepreneurial spirit in kids and give them tools, we are looking at generations of people who won’t be able to start anything.

Youth turn to drugs because they are bored, uninterested, unchallenged, or given a chance to change their future.

This event is not a charity mindset of giving. It is an entrepreneurial mindset to social responsibility that means teaching kids they have to be able to think on their feet and be welcoming to others.

Lemonade Day became important to me while chatting with a contractor’s assistant working on my house. He shared that he hoped his son could grow up and get a job at the local prison because “that’s the best job he could get.”

No one ever tripped the entrepreneur switch for him, so he figures the same fate probably waits for his kid.  I was the Lemonade Day champion for Greene County, NY, that year with a goal of registering 500 kids to open stands on May 1.

We had contests for the best-tasting lemonade, the best stand, and the best business plan. The prize was an iPad; if two kids opened a stand, only one prize was still given.

This was a note I received from one of the participating parents:

Bob, at least 500 kids are walking a little bit taller today, thanks to you bringing Lemonade Day to Greene County.  We won't know the full impact for many years, but the short term affect is utterly remarkable!  Kids here need to think big and you lit that spark!!

If participating in Lemonade Day sparks them to go out and open a business eventually, we’ll have succeeded. If they learn people skills, we'll have succeeded. If they better understand costs and profits, we will have succeeded.

If we, as a society, miss the chance to show youth that making money is a good thing and takes work, not something to be vilified like in the movies and on TV, then we have indeed failed.

But if we, as business owners, could change the mindset of kids early, they’ll learn they can be rewarded for their minds, creativity, and, indeed, their entrepreneurism.

And those are some reasons you, as a businessperson, should support Lemonade Day.

Check out www.lemonadeday.org to learn about joining, supporting, or championing your city’s Lemonade Day.