When grownups won’t build lemonade stands

On a recent visit home, I learned that I almost built a lemonade stand. My mother was telling a story to her friend, and indirectly informed me of an incident of which I had no memory. One afternoon, second- or third-grade Me approached the property manager of our apartment complex in a small Midwestern city and requested that he help Me construct a small lemonade stand. He later told my mother about my request and they chuckled. Mother and friend smiled at the story.

I, however, stared at my mother. First, I cross-checked the witness:

Me: “That really happened?”
Mother: “Yes.”

“And he didn’t build it?” This part of the story could have been the foundation for several more chapters to the story, and based on the blank expressions around me, I was the only one to notice.

My mother was not sure why a) he did not help build the lemonade stand, b) she didn’t backup my request, c) encourage me – or, more likely, allow me – to find an alternative solution.

I do not spend much time thinking about lemonade stands, though I hear them referenced frequently, including by politicians. Now that I know I was an aspiring lemonade entrepreneur, I thought about it, and I believe we can do better.

There may be individuals that insist and make it happen on their own: find a chair and a box, sneak some lemons and a pitcher out of mom’s kitchen, and get it done.  When she sees all the shiny quarters (revenue), it will assuage her rage over the fact that you were speaking to strangers (customers) without her knowledge, right?

Think bigger: how much better would it be if each child that expressed their first interest in doing something entrepreneurial received some encouragement and support to take a chance and try it out? Could we help each child unleash new levels of confidence and creativity by supporting this first experience in pursuing an idea?

The founder of Lemonade Day thinks we can. For four years, he works with city officials and business groups to register kids – with a parent, teacher or mentor – for a one-day event. The program provides a guide and a process that the kids and their supporting adults can follow to start their lemonade business. The program is in several states, and tens of thousands of kids have started their own stands. (More in this great Inc.com feature.)

Ashoka’s Youth Venture does not focus on lemonade stands, but it, too, is founded on the understanding that when we make a conscious effort to tell young people that they can launch their own venture to make a positive change in society, and we support them, this experience empowers them to dream and act even bigger in the future.

The lemonade stand is about kids, but it is also about adults. We can congratulate the lemonade stand owner, but we can also be attentive and ready to offer encouragement.

Note: Apparently, it may be a good idea for adult lemonade stand mentors to check in with the city clerk’s office in case there are laws that are not lemonade-friendly.

Image by New Diaspora. New Dialogue. illustration contributor.

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