Group sparks business mindset in local children

Most people see lemonade stands as images of a typical American childhood. But Lemonade Day USC, a business and community service organization on campus, is using lemonade sales to teach business skills.

Lemonade Day aims to inspire entrepreneurial spirit in today’s children by exposing them to real-world experiences with the help of mentors in their cities. The kids are taught the required skills to own their lemonade stand along with financial responsibility and teamwork. At USC, this culminates in an annual Lemonade Day event, which will be held on April 8 this year — in which kids sell lemonade to members of the community.

“It is not only just hard skills but it is the soft skills too, like teaching them confidence and being able to look into a customer’s eye,” said Michelle Wolzinger, founder of Lemonade Day USC. “It is different from other programs because at Lemonade Day, they are putting everything they learn into practice and starting their actual first business.”

Wolzinger, a senior majoring in business administration, started Lemonade Day USC in 2015, the first of its kind in Southern California. During Wolzinger’s freshman year at George Washington University, she had participated in the university’s chapter, and when she transferred to USC her sophomore year, she decided to bring the club to campus.

Since Wolzinger studies business entrepreneurship, she said that teaching the kids business skills along with financial literacy and investments has been fulfilling. Last spring, she was able to recruit 60 mentors, including an executive board of 10 people. 

Lemonade Day USC interacts mostly with second to sixth graders across schools in the University Park Campus area. They interacted with over 200 students from three schools in 2016 and currently visit Foshay Learning Center and 32nd Street School once a week, according to Wolzinger.

“We start with something simple like a lemonade stand but a lot of the skills that we are teaching them and hopefully they are picking up would be able to translate into other aspects of their lives,” Lemonade Day USC Director Brian Walsh said.

Worldwide, nearly 1 million kids from elementary and middle schools in countries including Canada and South Africa are aided by Lemonade Day volunteers.

Every Thursday, Walsh goes to the Foshay Learning Center, where he interacts with second graders and takes the kids through an interactive workbook that teaches them how to create plans, set goals, make the lemonade stand, advertise and keep an account of the numbers.

“It’s something that we look forward to as mentors,” Walsh said. “Every time we go there, they are jumping out of their seats happy and they are so bummed when we are leaving.”

However, according to Wolzinger, sometimes they come across kids who are not interested or have a short attention span and see it as playtime. That is when the mentors face the challenge to try and keep the kids engaged through the workbooks.

Emily Lowe, a sophomore majoring in business administration and the vice president of university relations at Lemonade Day USC, has been a part of it since her freshman year and loves working with kids.

“I am super interested in entrepreneurships and I think it is so cool that we can introduce this to kids at such a young age, and it is a valuable experience to them,” Lowe said.

Lowe became excited because some kids don’t have a mentor in their lives and she could make a positive impact on them through Lemonade Day. Lowe leads the recruiting process and helps with the formal training of the mentors. She is also helping plan a field trip in the coming year for the students that they are mentoring.

As the vice president of external relations and fundraising at Lemonade Day USC, Walsh — along with the other members of the executive board — organized an Indiegogo campaign last year to raise money for the organization. According to Walsh, they are currently concentrating on reaching out to corporations including local banks, car dealerships and grocery chains. They have a safe stand location, a place where kids can set up their lemonade stands, so that the kids are around trusted individuals who make them feel safe and comfortable.

Though Wolzinger is moving to Japan once she graduates in May and will no longer be involved with Lemonade Day, she hopes that more people will support and sustain the organization. She believes seeing the reaction that the children have to Lemonade Day can inspire college students to help out the community.

“I just saw the kids’ faces light up, and they were very inspired to be working with college students,” Wolzinger said. “Their eyes lit up when they found out that they could actually make money and keep it for themselves.”