SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — Lemonade stands are often depicted as the startup of choice for neighborhood youngsters, but traditionally those business plans consist of finding a good-sized cardboard box and a nice sidewalk location.
For South Portland Boys and Girls Key Club members, however, the iconic first business is a lot more complicated, although they still have to come up with a table and good location to set it up. As part of Maine Entrepreneurship Week and a program organized by Lemonade Day Maine, young participants worked through budgeting, finding investors, advertising and future planning while setting up their lemonade stand.
South Portland High School junior Christine McAloon and Mahoney Middle School eighth-grader Jacob Noone manned the stand at noon Wednesday in the South Portland headquarters of program sponsor Wright Express, selling lemonade and brownies to company workers.
“ Karen Mills [head of the U.S. Small Business Administration] gave a speech here a few weeks ago and she said 97 percent of businesses in Maine are small businesses,” Lemonade Day Maine Executive Director Kate Gooding said Wednesday. “Yet we have no formal entrepreneurial education program. The spirit of entrepreneurship starts at a young age — 8 to 13 [years old] is our target group.”
Gooding said Lemonade Day Maine’s program is free to the children who take part, and with the help of partnering businesses — such as founding sponsor Bangor Savings Bank — aims to capture the business imagination of children while it’s still fresh.
She said younger entrepreneurs are natural risk takers, and are willing to test new ideas for the sake of innovation. The colorful Lemonade Day workbooks, with step-by-step lessons on the administrative side of things, help them manage their risks without dampening their spirit.
Wednesday’s lemonade stand, set up for 90 minutes, is a preview of a more public stand to be set up on June 3 outside El Rayo Taqueria on York Street in Portland. Between now and then, Gooding said, program participants will be honing their business plan and preparing for the big, refreshing sale.
Lemonade Day Maine and its sponsors hope Mainers who catch the entrepreneurial bug and learn some business fundamentals at a young age will grow up to build a community of innovators and trendsetters.
“We see the future of our state starting young, and this is a great way to interact with our youth,” said Frank Douglass, assistant treasurer at Wright Express.