Two years ago at Lemonade Day, 3-year-old Evalyn Smith stood in front of The Dispatch office on Main Street enthusiastically selling lemonade to those passing by.
Her hard work earned her $510 and the award for the greatest profits earned that day. Now, at age 5, Smith is ready to break out her marketing skills and sell lemonade again, eager to earn even more profit than the first time.
The second Golden Triangle Lemonade Day will be June 19 in Columbus, Starkville and West Point in various locations throughout the cities.
Smith’s father, Roderick Smith, said this experience was a great opportunity for his daughter to learn entrepreneurial skills at a young age. He said Evalyn, who is graduating Wednesday from New Hope Elementary School pre-K, loves earning her own money.
“(It) was a great experience for her because she learned what it takes to make her own money,” Roderick said. “She was out there selling and asking people to buy from her herself, and it wasn’t just us doing all of the work.”
Smith said along with lemonade, she plans to sell baked goods, hopefully stationed this year in front of The Dispatch again.
Lemonade Day is a national, experiential program that teaches youth how to start, own and operate a business. Program Coordinator and Director of Outreach for the Mississippi State University Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach Jeffrey Rupp said due to COVID-19, the event was canceled last year, but kids can once again participate in Lemonade Day this year.
The event, sponsored by Golden Triangle developer Mark Castleberry, Cadence Bank and the MSU E-Center, first came to Starkville in 2018 but expanded to Columbus and West Point the following year. Lemonade Day 2019 saw nearly 300 children selling goods, and Rupp said this year he hopes even more kids participate.
“It was such a huge success in Starkville, so we included all of the Golden Triangle, and that was huge,” Rupp said. “So, we’re hoping the kids come back this year.”
Participants can sign up online through the program’s website, lemonadeday.org/golden-triangle, and choose where and when to sell their goods. While many kids will “stake out downtown,” Rupp said, some will choose to have their stands in their front yard. Those who wish to organize their stand in front of a business or shop must first receive permission.
“It’s really neat to see eight to 10 (lemonade stands) lining Main Street,” Rupp said. “That’s always fun.”
After registering, participants will receive a free workbook containing the basics of creating a business and marketing plan while also teaching financial responsibility. Rupp said participants can also go to their local Cadence Bank to take out a micro-loan of $30 to $40, learning a lesson on credit. He said the majority of kids make back the money and repay the bank.
Each stand that makes the most profit throughout the day in all three areas receives a bicycle.
Products are not limited to only lemonade, Rupp said. Children can sell other drinks, food or even small craft items they have made.
The program encourages the children to not keep all of the money for themselves but to give back to the community, Rupp said, with several children giving some of their earnings to the local humane society and other area nonprofits.
“We encourage kids to do great things with the money,” Rupp said. “We encourage them to save some of the money, which makes sense. We encourage them to spend some, so they know what it feels like to spend money that they’ve earned. Then we encourage them to share some.”
Main Street Columbus Executive Director Barbara Bigelow said the point of Lemonade Day is for children to learn all aspects of being a young entrepreneur, including finances and marketing strategies.
“I just think it’s so important for kids to learn how to manage money, how to set up a business, how to be a responsible person and give back to the community,” Bigelow said. “It’s an excellent program that teaches entrepreneurship to kids. You’re never too young to learn those kinds of values in our world.”
Participating in Lemonade Day, Bigelow said, can lead to other enterprising opportunities. One young man enjoyed participating in the event so much, he decided to further his economic endeavors, selling his products at the Hitching Lot Farmers’ Market in Columbus.
“He not only handled lemonade, but he began selling lemon plants,” Bigelow said. “He would take the seeds of the lemon, ferment the plant and sell those plants at the farmers’ market on Saturdays. His mother told me he really actually did the work himself. She told me he was even reimbursing her for gas because she had carried him around so much to take care of his business.”
Along with kids learning valuable financial skills, Lemonade Day is also a great opportunity for the Golden Triangle community to engage with others. Greater Starkville Development Partnership Special Events and Projects Coordinator Paige Watson said she encourages everyone in Columbus, Starkville and West Point to support local children by buying a sweet glass of lemonade.
“It kind of reinforces the whole year we’ve had on supporting local businesses by supporting the young children who want to have a budding business,” Watson said. “It’s just such a great event for the kids and the community.”