mauryWhat do you call a kitten that drinks lemonade?  A sour puss.

“Where is Maury going with this?” you are asking yourself.  Well, here’s another one:  What do you call a child that makes lemonade?  An entrepreneur.

While many adults spent February talking about the Oscars, 50 Shades of Grey (a friend dared me to use that in a newsletter so, of course, I had to), the weather and Super Bowl deflation, thousands of school age children all over the country were talking about setting goals, costs of capital equipment, net profits, target marketing and location.  Why?  Because they are preparing for National Lemonade Day (NLD) on May 3.

Lemonade Day is a fun, free experiential learning program that teaches youth how to start, own and operate their first business:  A lemonade stand!  As the NLD factsheet pronounces, youth around the country take to the sidewalks of their communities to open their personalized lemonade stands and put the business skills they have learned into practice. Started in 2007 in Houston, Texas, it has gone from 2,700 kids in one city to over 200,000 in 35 different cities.  Last year I was fortunate to be a part of the day and visit dozens of lemonade stands throughout Houston where I learned how many glasses of lemonade it takes to fill a bladder (that’s not a riddle). These kids were excited, creative and articulate and will be future successful entrepreneurs in their communities.

Communities bemoan the fact that children are moving away from their homes where there are no jobs for them and that they often lack math and customer service skills. Participating in National Lemonade Day may not keep them home after they graduate — there could be other variables after all — but it will empower youth,  let them take ownership of their lives and teach them to become productive members of society.  In the process they will become the next generation’s mentors to the youth after them as they develop into forward-thinking citizens.   They will also have fun while earning a good living.

Last year Dayton Middle School in Dayton, Washington launched a Lemonade Day program for sixth graders.  This year, they will be hosting a lemonade day with three mentors and 27 students.  The school, under the direction of the language arts teacher, has expanded the existing Lemonade Day curriculum so that it would span the remainder of the academic year.  In addition to the implicit goal setting, business planning, marketing and investment strategies, students will also learn via the NLD’s outstanding mentor and youth workbooks curriculum.  They will also participate in a “product development” activity as well as a business plan competition to “win” the site where their stand will be located.

The National Lemonade Day program is one of the best economic development activities in the country for our youth. It shows them that after they have explored the world they can come home and be their own boss, own their own business, work with like-minded people, keep the place where they were raised sustainable and make money doing it.  It’s not too late for you to be a part of a National Lemonade Day program.  For more details on how you can set up a program in your schools and community and be a mentor for these great young people, click here.

Economic development is not just about adults creating jobs.  It’s also about developing the next generation of entrepreneurs.  The future is closer than we realize; in fact, it is here.  That’s no joke