Young Entrepreneurs Test Their Business Skills On Lemonade Day

May 18, 2015

Cade and Callie Steelman operate their lemonade stand in West Lafayette's Tapawingo Park as part of Lemonade Day 2015.
Credit Kristin Malavenda/WBAA News

Dozens of small businesses opened across Greater Lafayette on Saturday—but just for the day.

It’s the 5th year the Greater Lafayette area participated in Lemonade Day, and, local leaders say it’s a time to get the community thinking local, especially as Lafayette and West Lafayette ponder revisions to their downtowns.

“My name is Cade and I’m 9 years old. My name is Callie and I’m 7 ½.”

Brother and sister Cade and Callie Steelman set up their lemonade stand in West Lafayette’s Tapawingo Park, complete with a small table and chairs where their pint-sized customers could sit down and enjoy watermelon-flavored lemonade—or “lemelonade.” To save money on overhead the kids and their parents used supplies they found around the house and in the community.

“We have a secret ‘partment down here with ice, sugar cookies, water," says Callie.

All your supplies, right?

"Uh-huh," says Cade. "And we use these calculators so that we can do some math and figure out how much money we’ve earned.”

Cade and Callie plan on giving some of their profits to Esther’s Children, a charity that seeks to put an end to human trafficking in Brazil.

Hanna Steelman is Cade and Callie’s mom. She says they decided to participate in Lemonade Day to support young entrepreneurship. 

“I work from home myself so this is a great lesson," says Steelman. "A great lesson of saving and giving and the hard work you have to put out to have something to spend.”

Lemonade Day is a nationwide event that started in Houston, Texas in 2007. It now includes more than 35 cities across the country, with more than 200,000 kids participating.

Kim Murray is in charge of coordinating Lemonade Day for Greater Lafayette Commerce. She says more than 400 kids took part.

“We’re trying to spark a dream with kids, teaching them about entrepreneurship, and getting the community involved," says Murray. "Whether it’s the families that do it or a Girl Scout troop or a Boy Scout troop or just a group of kids with a mentor.”

Murray says each child receives an Entrepreneur Workbook that teaches skills such as how to create a budget, serve customers, and repay investors. She says participants are encouraged to spend some of their profits, save some and give some to charity.

“It’s good to have starting at a young age that giving back so it’s easier as they grow up they’ll want to give back to the community,” says Murray.

Ten-year-old Jack Pavey also set up his stand in Tapawingo Park. Alternating yellow and green planks of wood, paper flowers, and a sun wearing sunglasses gave “Jack’s Lemon Shack” a tropical feel.  Jack says he decided to do Lemonade Day to raise money for children in Africa.

“I saw this thing online, it showed African kids starving, and I thought  it would be nice to donate most of the money to food and water for people in Africa,” says Jack.

His mother, Michelle Pavey, says Jack has a big heart and she thought this was a great way to get out into the community and raise money for a worthy cause, while also teaching him about running a business.

The majority of lemonade stands were set up in public parks in Lafayette and West Lafayette. But one was set up in front of running supply store Tri-N-Run, one of a handful of private businesses that made itself available as a location.

Owner Tami Butts says she and her husband are, in her words, “trying to live the small business dream” and they hope Lemonade Day not only gets kids interested in owning a business, but also stresses the importance of supporting local businesses.

“Even myself being a small business owner easily take for granted retail establishments where we shop and don’t think much beyond the product we want and getting it and moving on," says Butts. "And so we definitely like to get involved with the shop local campaigns.”

West Lafayette mayor John Dennis sees that connection as well. He says the city sponsors a stand in Cumberland Park each year. Dennis says beyond the lessons it teaches young people about entrepreneurship, Lemonade Day is a community-building event.

“Just having those conversations with kids that young, it’s the start of getting them to recognize local products, staying within the community, encouraging investment in the community, and having fun while doing so,” says Dennis.

Cousins Lily and Noah set up their lemonade stand in Market Square.

Noah says after they pay back relatives who put up the money for their supplies and their stand, they get to keep $10 each and the rest goes to the American Cancer Society.

“Last year in July, our Poppy died because of Stage 4 lung cancer," says Noah. "So we’re raising some money so other families don’t have to go through the stuff that we had to go through.” 

Robin Hollis is Noah and Lilly’s grandmother, and one of their investors. She says she appreciates how Lemonade Day lets the kids have fun while learning some important lessons.

“Well I hope that they learn that there’s a way that you go about making money and that you give back to others,” says Hollis.

Greater Lafayette Commerce’s Kim Murray also hopes the kids gain an appreciation for the work that goes in to owning a small business.

“It’s not easy opening your own business," says Murray. "It’s very hard and that’s why we definitely support local and buy local to keep the funds in the community.”

Murray says plans are already underway for Lemonade Day 2016.