From the latest issue of Mountain Parent Magazine…


Even if life doesn’t give you lemons … make Lemonade

Two local nonprofit organizations have adopted National Lemonade Day on July 14 giving Roaring Fork Valley kids the tools they need for turning an iconic summertime activity into a primer on how to succeed in business.

There’s nothing quite as quintessentially American as a lemonade stand.  It’s baseball, apple pie and bootstraps – all rolled up into one sweet idea, which inspired national Lemonade Day founder Michael Holthouse.

“America was built on the back of small business. Entrepreneurs take risks believing they can realize their dream if they work hard, take responsibility and act as good stewards of their resources,” Holthouse wrote. “Today’s youth share that optimism, but lack the life skills, mentorship and real-world experience necessary to be successful.”

Michael Holthouse, INK Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year and founder of the computer network services company Paranet, launched Lemonade Day to inspire tomorrow’s business leaders by giving kids an experience-based way to learn the principals needed to start any business. His lesson-based program grew in 10 years from 2,700 participants in Houston, Texas to over a million children throughout the U.S., including those who joined programs in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale. Local nonprofit consultant Heather Hicks brought Lemonade Day to the Valley more than 5 years ago after meeting Holthouse at a leadership conference.

“I knew this idea would take hold in our community because it is highly engaging. It shows kids how to start with an idea and take it to reality,” Hicks said.

During the week prior to National Lemonade Day, kids ages 11 and up can participate in weeklong classes offered by the Aspen Youth Center and Youth Entity (whose class will be taught through the Art Base in Basalt). The national organization offers an interactive online course, but those who join the local classes enjoy hands-on group activities and mentorship given by the organizations. Plus, each local program recruits contractors who donate materials and labor – providing prefab stands that the kids assemble and decorate in class during the week prior to the big day.

The curriculum covers everything from lemonade recipes to food handling, setting goals, creating a budget, managing expenses, setting prices, finding investors, understanding markets, and managing profits.

Michaela Idhammer of the Aspen Youth Center appreciates the program’s approach to financial literacy, teaching a spend-save-share balance, and emphasizing social and environmental responsibility.  “Kids are given the wherewithal to choose ingredients and to donate a portion of their profits to support what they value – from firefighters to cancer research. I love seeing the choices kids make, and how empowering it is when they learn that they can earn real money and make a difference with it.”

Aspen Youth Center and Youth Entity pave the way for success by negotiating with the cities of Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale so that the young businesspeople can set up their stands in public spaces on Lemonade Day, July 14. For example, the Town of Basalt gave the okay for participants to open shop at the finish line of the Aspen Valley Marathon, which happens to be on the same day, ending on Midland Avenue – providing a first-hand lesson in one business fundamental: Location. Location. Location.

“This isn’t just about Lemonade Day,” Peters emphasizes. “Of course, we want children to have a lemonade stand on July 14, but this is really about building skills that they can carry into any business situation. They might translate what they’ve learned into a lawn-mowing business next summer.  Or dog walking. Or babysitting. By giving kids the resources to be successful, we build confidence that will grow through each next thing they take up.”