Lily Cate Caldwell is a fifth-grade student with a sweet tooth and a singular mission: to bring great lemonade to Bentonville, Arkansas.
Just 11 years old, Lily Cate is already a veteran in the business of selling the beverage most associated with kids and cooling off on summer afternoons.
“Trying to start a business is very hard, but it can also be really fun,” Lily Cate says.
On May 4, for the third year in a row, Lily Cate will set up a lemonade stand at her regular location in downtown Bentonville, near a Methodist church and a parking lot where patrons of the weekend farmers market come and go.
Lily Cate is one of hundreds of budding entrepreneurs in Northwest Arkansas – and hundreds of thousands more across the country – who are showcasing their business smarts by participating in the National Lemonade Day.
The annual event, started in 2007 by Texas businessman Michael Holthouse, aims to teach kids from third to fifth grade about the power of entrepreneurship.
The goal is to give students their first taste of what it’s like to be “leaders, social advocates, community volunteers and forward-thinking citizens” by having them conceive and create their own lemonade stand business from start to finish.
Kids learn the essentials of running a lemonade stand using a curriculum that provides instruction on how to create a business plan, set a budget, find investors and develop and market their product.
“These kids are our future generation. Lemonade Day teaches them the basics of entrepreneurship in a fun way, in a way they will remember,” says Jennifer Apolskis, city director for the program in Bentonville.
“Lemonade stands have represented American entrepreneurship since Charlie Brown. Every kid loves lemonade. And it’s a product most people want to buy from a kid.”
The Walton Family Foundation is supporting Lemonade Day through a grant to Startup Junkie Foundation, the official licensee for the event in Northwest Arkansas. The foundation’s Home Region Program aims to cultivate innovators and entrepreneurs throughout the region.
This investment represents an effort to develop entrepreneurial skills in youth. Research has demonstrated that entrepreneurship education and enterprise experience prior to college have produced greater entrepreneurial characteristics in youth, increasing their long-term probability of starting a firm.
In 2018, 1,350 Northwest Arkansas students participated in Lemonade Day, 60% more than in 2015.
The event has been an annual hit in fourth-grade teacher Ricky Yordy’s class at Sugar Creek Elementary School in Bentonville.
“We love it because it is so student led,” says Ricky.
Business planning for Lemonade Day starts a couple of months before the event. Students get step-by-step instruction in establishing a business. They decide on recipes, develop a budget, set profit goals and make critical decisions about how much inventory to have for sale.
As with any business, there is trial and error.
One year, Ricky's students created a recipe that mixed lemonade with lemon-lime soda, thinking the blend would be a big hit.
“It was disgusting,” laughs Ricky. “They realized the recipe wasn’t going to work.”
The emotional payoff for students is when sales begin and they start collecting money. Ricky says her class averages between $1,900 and $2,300 in profit.
In addition to learning entrepreneurial skills, students also get a lesson in social responsibility through Lemonade Day’s “Spend Some, Save Some, Share Some” lesson. Participants are encouraged to use proceeds from their sales to pay for a celebration, save some of the proceeds and give back to the community.
Lily Cate, operating her stand independently, earned more than $350 in profit last year. Through digital marketing on Facebook, she raised another $120 in donations.
Her stand’s name, Lemons from Heaven, is a clever nod to both the church where it is located and the soul-satisfying taste of lemonade.
She has learned valuable lessons about the importance of location for a business that relies heavily on pedestrian foot traffic.
“We had to figure out where people would see our lemonade stand, and if we were able to get peoples’ attention, they would actually come over to check it out,” she says.
For Lily Cate, running a lemonade stand is just as much about helping others as it is making a profit. She has donated her lemonade stand proceeds to a charity supporting research to find a cure for multiple sclerosis.
“I think it’s important to give back when you have success at something,” she says.