For a long time, the lemonade stand has been considered the stepping stone to a life of entrepreneurship. But is that still the case or have young entrepreneurs found new ways to build their business acumen?
In 1873, a 10-year-old Edward Bok took to the streets of Brooklyn one hot summer’s day to sell glasses of iced water to passing New Yorkers for a penny. Soon, other kids hoping to cash in opened competing stands along the street. So Bok, like every good entrepreneur, took the opportunity to pivot and added lemon and sugar to his icy water, selling the concoction for three cents a glass. And thus, the first known lemonade stand started trading.
Since then, millions have followed his example and the lemonade stand has become a rite of passage for many children. But do 21st century kids still see the value of the traditional lemonade stand, or are they pushing the boundaries of childhood entrepreneurial ambition?
As technology has developed – and as children start using it from younger and younger ages – enterprising youths are no longer limited to standing out in front of their houses with a lemonade stand. Instead, they’re starting all kinds of businesses – making apps, building websites, creating brands.
Take Henry Patterson, founder of Not Before Tea, for example. At the age of just seven, he started a trading card consultancy before creating edible mud and worm sweets, which he sold under the brand Not Before Tea – based on what his grandmother would always say to him when he asked for sweets. Now the brand has pivoted to become a children’s lifestyle brand, selling a range of products featuring characters that Henry created in a story he wrote aged 10. Now 13, Henry’s next ambition is to launch a foundation focused on encouraging other young people to pursue entrepreneurship.
Another child entrepreneur exceeding everyone’s expectations is Moziah Bridges. He launched his fashion company, Mo’s Bows, aged nine. Aged 11, he appeared on Shark Tank and was advised to forego investment to receive mentoring from Daymond John. He did and a year later, his business was worth $150,000. Now aged 15, Moziah has just signed a seven-figure, one-year licensing deal with the NBA to produce bow ties for all 30 professional basketball teams. When he graduates high school, Moziah says that he plans to go to college and study fashion design. His ambition is to “become a fashion mogul” – some would argue he’s already there.
Gabriel Mesa was just 15 when he made it on to Forbes’ prestigious 30 Under 30 list last year. He’s created the motion-powered Carbon Battery and a piezo-powered diabetic neuropathy treatment called Stumped. He’s currently commercialising his inventions, and working to make and distribute them. Already his inventions have been featured at the White House Science Fair, National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo, Xprize Competition and the Discovery 3M Young Scientist Challenge.
While these young people are all incredibly inspiring, the lemonade stand is far from dead.
Mikaila Ulmer was just four years old when she came up with the idea for her Me & the Bees Lemonade brand after she was stung by a bee. Her mum turned the bee sting into a research assignment and when Mikaila discovered that bees were under threat of extinction, she came up with a plan to use her great-grandmother’s recipe to make honey-sweetened lemonade in order to raise money to help the bees. She started out in 2009 making the lemonade and selling it at local events and from her own lemonade stand.
Over time, she developed the brand and in 2016 she secured $60,000 investment on Shark Tank. Me & the Bees Lemonade is now stocked in numerous retailers across the US, including 55 Whole Foods in nearly 20 states.
With that in mind, it seems safe to assume that lemonade stands aren’t going away anytime soon.