SUGAR LAND FOURTH grader Sabrina Roesler lost her father when she was 6. "My dad had brain cancer and we really wanted him to get better, but they didn't have a cure," says the now 9-year-old. Even at such a young age, Roesler felt called to turn her situation into something positive — to make lemonade, if you will. After years of practice with plastic playsets and toy lemonade stands, Roesler started a real-life business called Fresh'n Juicy, and decided to donate 10 percent of all sales to the Dr. Marnie Rose Foundation, a Houston brain-cancer-research organization. "It feels like something I have to do, because I loved my dad so much, and I want others to have a second chance if they get diagnosed."
Roesler learned much of her entrepreneurial skills through Lemonade Day, a Houston-based nonprofit program that has been teaching young people the basics of starting and running a business since 2007. Its new app, My Lemonade Day, will expand the organization's reach worldwide, and aims to create an entire generation of biz-savvy youngsters — all with the help of the good ol' fashioned lemonade stand.
Participants of the program — which instructs kids of any age how to set and achieve goals and teaches the importance of financial literacy and teamwork — have gone on to achieve great success with their lemonade stands, some even appearing on Shark Tank. Austin teen Mikaila Ulmer, for example, made quite an impression on judge Daymond John when she appeared on the ABC show. The founder of BeeSweet Lemonade, which she conceived during the Lemonade Day program and got picked up by major retailers like Whole Foods, walked away from the tank with a $60,000 investment. Today, the entrepreneur is celebrating 10 years of business success — and even wrote a book, Bee Fearless, Dream Like a Kid, last year.
For her part, 2020 Lemonade Day Entrepreneur of the Year Roesler has her elevator pitch down. "There are no preservatives, and our lemonade is made with brown raw sugar, which is a healthier option," she says. The savvy marketing is just one of the many skills Roesler came by through her experience with the program. "The 'pitch your business' event gives you a chance to talk about your business and that's how I was able to start my business. I had the best mentor that helped me along the way," recalls the tiny business owner with poise and eloquence.
"It's really simple," says founder Michael Holthouse of the nonprofit's origins. "There are a whole host of kids that are as bright and capable as any in all the world. Sadly, they're growing up in an environment that is often unlikely to produce happy, healthy contributing members of our world." Holthouse set out on the venture alongside his wife Lisa, CityBook's executive publisher, who also helps run the Holthouse Foundation for Kids, after a day spent developing and running a lemonade stand with their daughter.
"That became one of the greatest days ever. We had so much fun," recalls Michael. "We were talking about revenues and profits and quality of product. Before you knew it, all these cars were coming up and she started making a whole bunch of money, and it occurred to me at that point in time that teaching kids entrepreneurship is the key to the kingdom."
Since its inception, Lemonade Day has partnered with organizations in 85 different cities and 14 countries, in addition to touching the lives of more than 55,000 Houston-area children. And the new app is destined to expand that reach even further. My Lemonade Day is available on all smart devices, and teaches four things, according to Michael: "Set a goal, make a plan, work the plan, and achieve the goal you set. A lot of kids are having to learn from home these days, and having an app that helps them learn entrepreneurship remotely will be a huge advantage."
Making all of the curriculum available worldwide was the natural next step for Lemonade Day. "Pure and simply, we wanted to do the app because we'd love for every single child on planet Earth to know how to start a business, and we think a … lemonade stand is a great place to start," explains Holthouse. "One thing that's certain is that kids are the only future we've got. So if they're prepared, our country will be better off. Investing in our future is what Lemonade Day is all about."
Jenny Roesler, Sabrina's mom, who has championed her daughter's business every step of the way, has witnessed her daughter expand her horizons in ways she never imagined. "A week ago, she was dancing and performing in recitals," says Jenny. "She said 'I want to be a dancer, actress and business owner.' Kids can change their mind all the time, because it depends on what they're interested in at the moment. Sabrina has never changed her mind on the business ownership part. It makes me so proud."
Sabrina pipes up. "My mom says I'm learning things she didn't learn until college!"