Lemonade StandLemonade Day is an event taking place on Sunday May 2nd, 2010 in cities all across the United States, including Champaign-Urbana.  The concept is pretty simple: kids will set up stands across their cities, in locations of their own choosing, to sell lemonade with the support of adults.  The idea is to encourage children to develop their business and life skills and to teach them about citizenship.  Young people up to 12th grade can participate.

The event is free.  Children are given a backpack kit which includes instructions on how to start a businesspicking a location, setting up a budget, finding investors etc.  A workbook is included for adult sponsors to work through with children. 

Illinois Lemonade Day has a website that gives details on registration, backpack distribution times, and available locations.  While the nationwide Lemonade Day is May 2nd, C-U children are encouraged to sell on May 1st as well on marathon day.  Also, kids are welcome to sell food and drinks other than lemonade. 

Contests will be held for the best-looking stand (this will be judged from a photograph), the most successful stand (money earned will be a major criteria here), and for the best-tasting lemonade (there will be a taste-testing at Worden Martin car dealership). 

A nationwide event now in C-U

Lemonade Day is the idea of Texas businessman Micheal Holthouse and is run though his nonprofit organization Prepared 4 Life.  Lemonade Day has been held in other cities in the past with great results. Holthouse founded the event in order to encourage entrepreneurship among young people, especially, in his words, "underserved" young people.  Holthouse hopes to have one million lemonade stands at events by 2013.

This is the first year the event will be held in Champaign-Urbana.  Lemonade Day is being put on locally by the Academy of Entrepreneurial Leadership at the University of Illinois.   Assistant Dean John Clarke explained, "I met Holthouse firsthand in Houston.  I was so impressed by the program and the impact it could have on young people that I brought it to Champaign-Urbana."

Clarke hopes for a good turnout and said things are going well so far: "This is our first year.  So we're really excited about signing kids up, but we're not really sure how successful it will be.  Ideally, we'd like to see 1,000 kids sign up."

How the community is helping

Illinois Lemonade Day is attracting support from a number of local businesses and organizations.  Worden Martin and Busey Bank have come through with the most support.  In addition to their other help, Worden offers one free NitroFill service to all adults who sponsor a stand. 

Not to be outdone, Buseyaccording to their websitewill pay $10 towards the cost of operating a stand if "a Youth Savings Account is opened during special registrations at 100 W. University Ave., Champaign, or 201 W. Main, Urbana during the week of April 5 through April 9."

Clarke said, "I met with the CEO of Worden Martin and he was really excited to get on board.  And also, Busey Bank was very excited.  We didn't talk to people until the January/February time frame. Next year we'll start much earlier."

Local sponsors of the event include Champaign County Illinois Economic Development Corporation, Smile Politely, Champaign Unit Four School District, and Yooser.com. 

Clarke stated that, in general, "It's been really easy to get people on board.  People like the story.  They like the concept.  A lot of people had lemonade stands when they were kids, and so, when we talk about empowering young people, about teaching them entrepreneurship, it seems to resonate really well with folks."

Why all the organization?

Kids have been putting up lemonade stands on their own since forever, so why the need now for so much organization and support?  Clarke explained: "We're trying to bring this program to kids who perhaps don't have a caring adult in their lives and perhaps wouldn't be setting up a lemonade stand on their own.  The idea of creating a free program is to enable kids who are underserved in our community.  Our hope is to bring it to kids who perhaps might not have it otherwise."

Adult supervision is a requirement to operate an official stand.

We've all seen pinewood derbies where the fastest, flashiest cars were made by the dads, but Clarke hopes this kind of thing won't happen on Illinois Lemonade Day: "Particularly with younger kids, that's quite likely to happen, but the program's open from kindergarten to 12th grade.  So for the younger kids it's going to be hard for them to go through all the steps in the book alone.  We're really focused on pushing the program out to kids in middle school.  We think that's a great age."

Adults can volunteer to help out doing organizational tasks or by even sponsoring a stand for children without a supervising adult. 

Lemonade Day is supposed to give children a chance to develop life skills by interacting with adults in a business context.  Also, while adults are encouraged to hit more than one lemonade stand, this isn't about giving something for nothing; grown-ups are expected to actually drink the lemonade they purchase.  Clarke said, "We do want people to go out and support these young people, but there's a real business transaction that will be taking place."

Citizenship and the Profit Motive

Kids keep all the money that they earn.  They are, however, encouraged to give some of what they make to charity.  Indeed, last year in Houston, youth donated around a half million dollars. 
When asked to make a prediction of how much money Clarke believes Illinois Lemonade Day participants will contribute to charity, he said, "I think it's too early to tell.  But I think what's nice about this program is that it starts with kids setting goals, whether it's buying an iPod or participating in a Boy Scout trip or to buy something for graduation.  Kids are also encouraged to open a bank account and save, and the third thing is to give back to the community.  It's hard to predict who will give back what, but the story coming out of Houston is very compelling in terms of kids giving back to the community."

Clarke believes that part of being a good citizen can come from making money, and that Lemonade Day will helps instill values in young people who participate: "I think the idea is that to be a useful member of society, you need to generate value to society, and for most people the way to do that is by generating economic value by making money. For some people, their impact on society is more through the environment, but for most of us, we're out there creating economic value for society." 

Summing up the larger purpose of the event, he explained, "And I think to be a useful citizen you need to be able to A) create value, but also recognize that there's a need to give back as well.  So that's why I think the message is wrapped around that way: one, recognize how to make money; two, learn how to save money; and three, realize that you should give back to the community."

So let's hope the weather is sunny the whole first weekend this May.