Running a lemonade stand is a childhood rite of passage. The memories of that jar filling up with coins evoke strong feelings of nostalgia for many of us, even as adults. Lots of lessons can be learned at a lemonade stand: product development, customer service, budgeting, marketing, persistence and more. That said, how many times have you, as a parent, had the experience of suggesting a money-making idea to your child, only to find enthusiasm lags midway through the project, the adult is left to literally (or figuratively) clean up the mess or the venture is abandoned once the groundwork has been laid?
Enter Lemonade Day. Launched in 2007 in Houston, Lemonade Day now takes place in 100 cities across America, including Austin. Lemonade Day Austin is a program of the Entrepeneurs Foundation of Central Texas and has resulted in more than $1.7 million in lemonade sales and over $800,000 in donations to charity. Registration is free, and participants are provided with materials to guide them through a 14-step process that walks youth from a dream to a business plan. Inspiring kids to work hard and make a profit, Lemonade Day teaches them to spend some, save some and share some by giving back to the community. This year’s Lemonade Day Austin takes place on May 2, 2015.
The kickoff to this year’s Lemonade Day Austin was the Best Tasting Lemonade Contest, which took place at the Thinkery on Saturday, April 11. Fifteen kids brought their own creations to market and pitch their product to a panel of local celebrity judges. Among the judges was Mikaila Ulmer, Lemonade Day alum and founder of BeeSweet Lemonade, which was recently featured on the TV show, Shark Tank. Awards were given out in categories such as Best Presentation, Best Business Name and Most Creative.
We had the opportunity to ask the Contest participants what they learned during the process (and posed the same question to the parents of these entrepeneurs-in-training). We got some great words of wisdom from Kyra Jackson, age 8 and Jalin Mitchen, age 10, who won Best Tasting for K&J’s Very Strawberry Lemonade; Jacob Riemer, age 7, who won Best Presentation for his Jedi Juice and Owen Tachovsky, age 7, who won Best Customer Service for Owen’s All-Natural Lemonade. Here is what they shared:
On product development
First we wanted to come up with a name cause that would help us decide what kind of lemonade it would be. We tried a few that didn’t sound right but we knew we wanted to have strawberries. We ended up with very strawberry and just used our initials so it was “K&J’s Very Strawberry Lemonade”. We didn’t know how to make a lemonade taste just right so mom and dad helped with how much sugar to use. It was really simple though – we decided to use the frozen lemonade cans and frozen strawberries, sugar and boom! We had our lemonade. – Kyra & Jalin
Coming up with the recipe, I wanted to add unusual ingredients. I like white tea with orange blossom water and my mom thought we should put that in our lemonade. We also asked our friends at Qui if they could help. They suggested herbs, cilantro blossoms and since we couldn’t find exactly what they suggested and went with white tea, lemons, oranges, sugar, orange blossom water and mint. We learned that we had to test 3 different methods before we were 100% satisfied. The main lesson was keep testing, because you learn something new every time. – Jacob
I learned how much fun it would be! If you would like measuring stuff, then you would like cooking! You need good taste testers. You have to get a taster that says it’s good in this type of way or bad in that type of way. A bad taste tester will just say it’s bad or it’s good, but not help you figure out what to change. They won’t say the ways it’s good or bad. I learned the basic recipe at a cooking class (at Patricia’s Table). She taught us that thyme can give everything a boost and that’s why my lemonade recipe has thyme. – Owen
On selling and customer service
Giftie (a mentor from Charles Schwab) helped us make a checklist of everything we needed the night before and we checked it off in the morning. We had to make sure we had a lot of stuff and we almost forgot our sign (which we worked very hard on!) While we were talking to everyone it was kind of scary and we didn’t know everything to do, but by the end we were more comfortable and we both said we wanted to do the National Lemonade Day too! – Kyra & Jalin
It feels good to meet and talk to people about my lemonade. The experience is great because you can see people enjoying your product. When they are enjoying it, I am enjoying it. – Jacob
Be clean. It is important to keep your space neat. It is important to clean something up if it spills. Everything needs to be clean. Wash your hands! Everything has to be clean. Look nice. You have to look nice. Wear a collared shirt. Be friendly. Smile. Have eye contact. The most important part of customer service is to be friendly. Don’t worry about asking for money if you’re doing a good job. – Owen
On what they got out of the experience
We didn’t expect it to be so complicated, we just wanted to make lemonade, but there’s a lot of other stuff that goes into it and seeing the other kids lemonade and their setup was a little intimidating. It was really nice to have help from our parents because we wouldn’t have remembered a lot and both of us are kind of shy. In the end, it was totally fun for everyone to say how great our lemonade was! – Kyra & Jalin
It is fun. You get to make up new things. You don’t have to follow old recipes. You can make your own thing. – Owen
On lessons learned
I wish we knew how much more to it there was than just making lemonade! And all the questions, there were a lot of questions. We didn’t know we were going to have to talk a lot, but everyone was really nice and that made it better. – Kyra & Jalin
I wish we would have spent more time researching recipes. It take a long time to find your favorite recipe, so make sure to start early. – Jacob
I learned that cooking is fun. – Owen
On what was difficult
Once we saw all the different stations and all that they had, we got a little scared. But Giftie (their mentor from Charles Schwab) went right in and set up our table and then when we saw it all setup we felt like, okay this is going to be okay. When we had to start talking, both of us kind of didn’t want to, but we got over it. – Kyra & Jalin
I have no hesitations. When I am proud of something, its fun to talk about it. Everybody should at least try it once, you can do it more than once but at least one time in your life. – Jacob
I wasn’t nervous about the third and fourth customer, but I was nervous at first. I was nervous that they wouldn’t like my lemonade or my service. – Owen
What parents had to say
There are a million ways to make lemonade. I underestimate how hard it is to get it right. Make sure to take the time to test the product before serving. Our first batch was incredibly too tart and after a few more tries, we got it right. The entire project is a huge learning experience, from company name, product development, placement, marketing, sales and customer service.
Its hard to know when to intervene and when to guide. Two years ago, it was all me. This year, I let Jacob make all final decisions. He surprised me with his choices. Kids are very insightful. We just have to listen.
I absolutely love everything about Lemonade Day Austin. It inspires kids of all ages. – Shannan Riemer, mom to Jacob and Owner and Real Estate Agent at Riemer Residential
The most important thing is to let your kids do as much of the process themselves as possible, from the initial lemonade taste tests to set up to the customer service. The temptation is always to jump in and help, but letting our son figure out the product and customer delivery process himself made all the difference in what he learned and the confidence he gained from the experience. – Holly Tachovsky, mom to Owen and founder and president of BuildFax
Registration is still open for the May 2 Lemonade Day Austin. If you plan to participate, organizers encourage you to register soon, in order to receive your materials and have ample time to prepare for Lemonade Day.
Has your child participated in Lemonade Day Austin in the past? What advice would he or she give? What is your perspective as a parent?