By David Gushue
On Saturday, July 9th, young entrepreneurs all around the City of Lomita woke up early to decorate stands, squeeze lemons, and pour glasses in preparation for a full day of commerce.
Lemonade Day is a free and fun experiential learning program designed to provide youth from third to fifth grade a hands-on opportunity to be a small business owner for a day. The program teaches children how to start, own, and operate their very own business through the quintessential starting point for every American small business—the almighty Lemonade Stand.
The National Lemonade Day program was founded in 2007 by Michael Holthouse, an INC. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year and a two-time “Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Company” winner. The program shows the youth how to take their ideas from a dream to a business plan while teaching them the important principles required to start any company, not just lemon-focused ones, and give back to their community in the process.
After getting its start in Houston, Texas in 2007, Lemonade Day now takes place in more than 80 markets and municipalities around the United States, Canada, Bermuda, and six U.S. military bases. In California specifically, Lomita is one of just five communities and the University of Southern California (alongside Humboldt County, Redding, Sacramento, and Tustin) that run Lemonade Day programs for their communities.
Lemonade Day 2022 marked the second annual event in Lomita. The Lomita Chamber of Commerce brought Lemonade Day to the city after first hearing about the program through a chamber of commerce located in the Pacific Northwest. Through enrolling in the nationwide program, Lomita shows its commitment to helping children of all backgrounds become entrepreneurially literate. The Chamber brought Lemonade Day to the community as an opportunity for today’s youth to develop the necessary life skills, mentorship, and real-world experience to be successful as a business owner.
“We found this program to be especially impactful for these children with the backdrop of the Covid-19 Pandemic in their lives,” said Heidi Butzine, President and CEO of the Lomita Chamber of Commerce. “After a year of home school and being stuck behind a screen, the kids really valued getting out there and working on their socialization skills with real-life interactions.”
This year in Lomita, thirty-seven total stands sprawled across the small community, each one creatively and insightfully doing their best to market themselves. Stands with names like “Amazing Aaliyah’s Super Punch” and “3 Flamingos Lemonade” took their place in parks, in front of bank buildings, and even outside sushi restaurants. One particularly prudent entrepreneur set up outside of a local brewery, Project Barley, and for only one dollar more, the business owners would top off the (of-age) customers’ drinks, turning them into summer shandies.
In addition to the Chamber of Commerce, the LA County Health Department also provided help, educating the participants on how to properly clean their utensils, abide by proper health guidelines, and stay safe in regards to Covid-19, and the City of Lomita worked with the participants to issue Business Licenses and talk about the importance of zoning and community participation. Participants were even offered “Lemon Loans” (which are ultimately forgiven, of course) by the South Bay Credit Union to help start their business enterprises.
Like any successful small business launch, it takes more than just opening the business and selling a product. Before the big day arrived, the Lomita Chamber held several introductory sessions in which young entrepreneurs met their sponsors – real world business owners from the community, went over lessons, and prepared for lemon-flavored success in the weeks to come. Learners took part in and studied 17 different lesson plans including Saving Goals, Planning and Budgeting, and Business Results and Accounting, as well as the importance of giving back to the community around them through charity and support. With Lomita-Harbor City Kiwanis Club sponsoring the learning events and providing snacks and drinks, each child was well equipped to engross themselves in the business learning process.
“The Lomita community has really taken the message and mission of Lemonade Day to heart.” said Lomita City Manager Ryan Smoot. “The program gives our young people a strong belief in the entrepreneurial spirit our country was built on, and is an invaluable lesson they can carry with them as they go out into the world, and hopefully back here to Lomita as our next generation of business owners. No place in the world provides a better opportunity for success, and there is no better place to start a business than right here in Lomita.”
With nearly twenty other sponsors from throughout the Lomita community, the widely-supported event draws praise from businesses, government and families alike. Parents, city leadership, Chamber volunteers, and business owners put in countless hours and energy into the process, but all contributors understand the importance of providing children with an opportunity to build the skills that will make them successful partners in the community. Attendees for the Lemonade Day kickoff included Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Supervisor Janice Hahn, and Lomita Mayor Cindy Segawa as well as Lomita Councilmembers Mark Waronek, Barry Waite and Bill Uphoff
“The most beautiful part about Lemonade Day is setting the children up with the tools they need, then letting their creativity run wild,” noted Butzine.
To culminate the entire learning experience, participants are asked to share their results back with the organizers at the Lomita Chamber of Commerce and a Youth Entrepreneur of the Year is chosen by the Lemon Council. Each community can then submit their winner to the National Lemonade Day organization to be considered for the National Youth Entrepreneur of the Year award. In 2021, Lomita’s first year participating, Brianna (pictured below), the owner of Bri’s Frozen Lemonades, won both the 2021 Lemonade Day Lomita Youth Entrepreneur of the Year and went on to win National Youth Entrepreneur of the Year. She has since kept her business going providing catering services for special events, and parties and she returned for Lemonade Day 2022 this year as well.
Along with the national competition, the Lomita Chamber and the City of Lomita will host their very own “Lemmy Awards” at the end of August for all participants, sponsors, and parents to attend. Volunteers and mentors will present young entrepreneurs with awards based on their revenue, profit, revenue, community giving and creativity in what is sure to be a fun-filled night for all.
“In giving the children of Lomita a venue for their creativity and innovation, I feel that Lomita City leaders are accomplishing the highest duty of any elected official: preparing the next generation for future success,” said Waronek. “Community leaders all over the country should see the amazing accomplishments of not just Brianna, but every young entrepreneur who took part in Lomita’s Lemonade Day as a sign that children still have the drive and passion to become successful; they just need the opportunity and the tools. I hope that more cities get involved with Lemonade Day for the future of their communities.”
The Lomita Chamber of Commerce and the City wants to emphasize the importance of this event to cities all across California. With its ready-to-go nationwide program and preset framework, each community need only to reach out to volunteers and local businesses for their time and effort to bring this important entrepreneurial experience to the kids, one glass of lemonade at a time.
To learn how to bring Lemonade Day to your community, contact their national office at LemonadeDay.org.