Lemonade Day offers children their first taste of business

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comMarch 19, 2013 

A program geared toward turning today's children into tomorrow's business owners is about to make its première.

Merced's Lemonade Day, which is in its first year, is a program that aims to teach kids how to start, operate and own a business -- a traditional lemonade stand.

"I would like to nurture our future entrepreneurs, and maybe some future businesses will come out of this," said John Cardenas, president of Merced County's Multi-Cultural Chamber of Commerce.

It was Cardenas' idea to bring this national event to Merced in May. "Can you imagine if a whole generation of entrepreneurs were grown here?" he said. "This community would be thriving in the future."

Cardenas said many successful business owners wish they'd had the knowledge and tools years ago -- including himself.

"I've been in business for many years, and if I had this (program) when I was younger, there's no telling where I'd be now," Cardenas said. "Who knows what kids can do if they're aware of these things from a young age."

Lemonade Day will give children from kindergarten to high school the opportunity to operate a lemonade stand anywhere in Merced on May 18. The program has been held in only two other California locations: Modesto and Humboldt County.

It's free for children to participate, he said.

Cardenas said about 200 kids are expected to be involved, and event organizers are hoping to recruit area businesses as sponsors. The businesses will have their logos appear on youth backpacks and educational materials, he said.

In groups or as individuals, the kids will determine all the logistics of their business -- where the stands are located, how much to charge per cup and how to advertise the product.

"They would select a place where they can move a lot of product, and it's up to them to advertise with signs or banners," Cardenas said. "The whole idea is for them to learn how to run a business successfully without going under or short-changing themselves."

To help along the way, each participant will receive a backpack with an informational book, covering 14 business lessons, such as inventory, advertising, building a business and how to work with investors.

In the end, the proceeds from the lemonade sales will stay with the youths, although they are encouraged to give back to the community by helping local charities.

They also are encouraged to open youth savings accounts.

Liliana Casillas, event coordinator, helped spread the word about Lemonade Day and said it will teach Merced's youth many life lessons, including saving for the future.

"We know the future is our children," she said. "Our community needs this, and most of all we need to remember our first taste of business -- a lemonade stand."

To sign up as a sponsor or register to operate a lemonade stand, contact Casillas at liliana@lemonadeday.org or visit the Merced County Multi-Cultural Chamber of Commerce office at 535 W. Main St. from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Reporter Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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