Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lemonade Day 2011: Entrepreneurship Training or Cookie Cutter Thinking?

I've been seeing cryptic, mass-produced signs around town announcing "Lemonade Day," but I didn't really know what that meant and had little incentive to investigate.  Today I received an email from Citizens For 1 Greater New Orleans, and it seems that New Orleans will emulate Houston and hold its first "Lemonade Day" on May 7th.  It's an exercise in organized entrepreneurship for children.  Here's the website banner:

The "How it Works" page says:

Lemonade Day is Saturday, May 7, 2011. In March and April kids all over South Louisiana will learn how to start, own and operate their own business – a lemonade stand. Each kid who registers will receive a bright yellow backpack -inside is everything you need to prepare for Lemonade Day. Get a backpack, make a plan and get started making some money! Here’s how:
1. Pair Up: You must have a “caring adult” with you when you register - that could be a parent, grandparent, older sibling, teacher, scout leader or other responsible adult. You must have an adult say that it is OK for you to do Lemonade Day and operate a lemonade stand.
2. Register
Sign Up at http://southlouisiana.lemonadeday.org (After completing the online registration, you will receive an email instructing you to print out the reply and bring it with you to any Pick-Up Location to verify registration. Don’t forget this part!)
The children will pick up a "backpack" at a participating sponsor's place of business (Raising Cane's Chicken, among others, in southeast Louisiana -- and that's some mighty fine chicken and sauce and lemonade, I'm here to tell you!).  Each backpack will contain business plan materials, including an Entrepreneur Workbook and Caring Adult Guide.  There are also online "games"  the kids can play that teach them basic econ, logistics, marketing, and management.  The kids are even give pre-produced "posters."  This short video describes the program in a nutshell:

This sounds like something I would have done with my children had the program been around when they were little.  Whose children didn't have at least one lemonade (or Kool-Ade) card-table-set-up-at-the-curb-stand, mixing up concoctions that were always, "interesting?"  And I'm certainly a fan of encouraging entrepreneurship, but, I must be getting geezerish and cranky and . . . jaded. 

The big thing that stuck out for me in that video?  How very involved the "caring adults" were.  They seemed to be turning the operation into an organized-little-league-baseball operation instead of a Hey!-let's-do-a lemonade-stand-after-the-sandlot-baseball-game operation.

If done properly, this could indeed be a wonderful family opportunity that teaches kids something while they're having fun.  But, I have my doubts that most of the "caring adults" will be willing to kick back and let the kids do it (picture "perfect" Science Fair projects or Soapbox Derbies).  Or let them have much fun. 

I see competition among the "caring adults," not among the budding entrepreneurs -- and not necessarily healthy competition.

And, I wish they'd waited to do the project until the kids were out of school and bored.

I hope I'm wrong, though, and I wish all of Lemonade Day's participants a wonderful experience in commerce -- and lots of fun!

What do you think?  Am I onto something, or just growling at someone to get off my lawn?

1 comment:

  1. Am I onto something, or just growling at someone to get off my lawn?

    Personally... I think you're on to sumthin'. This sounds waaay too much like sumthin' a "community organizer" dreamed up and I wouldn't be one bit surprised to learn the Usual Suspects were behind it.

    Still and even: your heart's in the right place, Moogie. More Power to those kids, and all that.