Lemonade Day Detroit Teaches Kids Entrepreneurship

Ellisa Hill, age 9, dreams of being a doctor and is a big fan of Judy Blume books. She’s also interested in being an entrepreneur, which is why she was manning a booth in Eastern Market and selling lemonade along with her brother, William, and her parents, Jill and Bill.

Ellisa was one of thousands of young participants in this year’s Lemonade Day Detroit, an intiative sponsored primarily by Huntington Bank to teach kids how to run a business through the time-honored tradition of a lemonade stand. Lemonade Day harnesses the natural resourcefulness and hustle of Detroiters and fills a gap by offering lessons the city’s stuggling school system probably doesn’t.

Each participant gets a workbook with lessons on capital equipment and consumables, credit, debt, return on investment, and supply and demand. The idea is to teach kids about financial literacy by having them take part in something fun. The kids are also given the instructions to save a little, spend a little, and, and share a little in the form of a donation. (Ellisa is spending her money on books and donating to the ALS Foundation in her grandfather’s memory.)

Lemonade Day started in Houston in 2007, when the founder’s daughter asked him for some money and he suggested she earn it herself.  That morphed into lessons about entrepreneurship that anybody launching a startup business would need, as well as basic instruction in math, financial literacy, customer service, civic responsibility, social skills, and self-confidence. Last year, 120,000 kids in 31 cities across the U.S. and Canada participated. For now, metro Detroit is the only area of Michigan that participates in Lemonade Day, but organizers say that might change next year.

“It’s a wonderful holistic approach to building a business,” says Mike Fezzey, vice-president of Huntington Bank and the spokesman for Lemonade Day Detroit. “Most of us never receive any practical knowledge of what it is to build a business or any first-hand experience. This gives kids a full view of sales and marketing.”

The kids were encouraged to think creatively about the products they offered—flavored lemonades, snacks, and other items. At one stand, we bought a homemade fan similar to the kind churches give out to try to get some relief from the 90 degree weather. The kinds of things kids in Detroit wanted to use the money for was wide-ranging: building schools in Haiti and Africa, the Sickle Cell Foundation, a trip to Disney World, and to finish a comic book. “These kids have an amazing appetite to help others,” Fezzy notes. “Last year, they donated 70 percent of their profits.”

This is the second year for Lemonade Day Detroit, and nearly 4,000 kids registered to take part. Only one group event was held in preparation, at Second Ebeneezer Church, but Fezzey says that will change next year. “We want the kids who participate in this to learn practical business modeling that will serve them their whole lives,” he says. “We want to inspire kids to think about being entrepreneurs and to believe that their dreams can become reality.”

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2 responses to “Lemonade Day Detroit Teaches Kids Entrepreneurship”

  1. I remember selling candy door-to-door for school fundraisers and other
    early entrepreneurial projects like this growing up in Detroit. 

    Kudos to Huntington Bank for helping these kids learn the way.

  2. Rob Shaw says:

    Awesome. For more ideas about encouraging entrepreneurship, check out: http://www.truesmarts.com