On a warm, sticky Saturday in May 2015, those strolling the streets of Boston could quench their thirst with a sweet, entrepreneurial treat: lemonade.
It was Lemonade Day, and in celebration of the nationwide initiative, more than 4,000 Boston-area children set up lemonade stands on popular city streets and sold the freshly squeezed drink to passers-by.
But, Lemonade Day is about more than quenching the thirst of pedestrians in exchange for a dollar; it’s about entrepreneurship. More specifically, teaching young children in cities across the United States and Canada the skills necessary to start, own, and operate their own business. It’s one of many programs and initiatives using entrepreneurship as a vehicle to teach children creative thinking, problem solving, financial smarts, and other important life skills.
The lessons take many forms; some come from books, others take shape through mentoring programs, but they all have one thing in common: using entrepreneurship to set youths up for long-term success. Here are three initiatives, far from an exhaustive list, that teach kids the framework for entrepreneurial thinking.
It began with a turtle.
As a child, Lisa Holthouse desired a pet turtle; when her father refused to pay for it, she set up a lemonade stand outside her house to raise the necessary funds herself. In 2007, she turned that memory from her youth into Lemonade Day, where kids across the country set up their own stands to raise money for whatever they choose—charity, personal savings, or even a pet turtle of their own.
The process begins with an entrepreneurial toolkit. All children who register for Lemonade Day are sent a bright yellow backpack and a workbook filled with lessons they work through with a mentor. That mentorship can take many forms. It can be a parent, a teacher, a coach, or even someone completely new. In 2015, the city of Boston partnered with Babson College; the school provided mentors and assistance in planning and implementing an entire week of entrepreneurial education programming.
Once the lessons from the entrepreneurial workbook are complete, participants are ready to start a stand of their own. Throughout the process, through the traditional lessons and the hands-on experience of selling lemonade, they learn the importance of leadership, confidence, collaboration, and responsibility as they work to make their lemonade dreams a reality.
Since its launch, more than 800,000 youths have participated in Lemonade Day. Information on summer 2017 cities and dates is available on the Lemonade Day website.
A creative anglerfish, an adventurous mouse, and a pivoting penguin are at the center of Tales of (Ad)Venture, a children’s book for the inner entrepreneur. Written and illustrated by Carlos Granados, the book offers entrepreneurial guidance in an inspiring, digestible way through its cast of seven animal characters. Each character’s fable centers around an entrepreneurial lesson. Pivot the Penguin, for example, explores product-market fit; other characters dive into the value of mentorship, creative confidence, and exploring purpose beyond profit.
The book is not just for children, says Granados. Adults should find value in the tale, too. “The lessons are crafted so adults can tap into their inner child,” he says. “Hopefully, the advice and inspiration help them tackle the impossible with a smile and succeed.”
Half of all profits generated from The Tales of A(d)Venture sales are donated to the African Leadership Academy, a program providing entrepreneurship education to develop the continent’s future leaders. Granados intends to write and illustrate more tales in the future.
As a mentoring program, WeThrive pairs entrepreneurial undergraduates with middle school students from under-resourced communities. Though entrepreneurship is at the core of WeThrive’s model, the program’s true aim is to prepare youth to accomplish goals and “navigate a path of opportunity.”
Here’s how it works: Once a week for eight weeks, youth participants meet with their assigned mentors for a blend of education and practice. The teaching portion of WeThrive includes lessons focused on life skills like goal setting, public speaking, personal finance, and entrepreneurship. The practice portion encourages action; students create business ventures of their own under the guidance of their mentors. Any profits earned from these ventures are donated to charity.
WeThrive college chapters, where the program’s mentors come from, are active in New York, California, and Massachusetts. Interested participants can learn more on WeThrive’s website.
Editor’s note: This story is one of three that explore the value of teaching entrepreneurship to young people. For more on this topic, read Youth Entrepreneurship: A Valuable Life Lesson and 5 Teen Entrepreneurship Programs Teaching More Than Business Skills.
Posted in Entrepreneurial Leadership