When life hands you lemons, what are you supposed to do? Make a lemonade business, of course.
That may not be the traditional expression, but that’s exactly what three siblings from Wellesley village decided to do. Ten-year-old Ben Kittel, eight-year-old Ella and six-year-old Grace are the young entrepreneurs behind the aptly-named lemonade, candy and treat business.
“We’ve been in business for three years. We sell popsicles, cool-aid, pop, jumbo-freezies, lemonade, and sometimes cookies and cupcakes,” said Ben of the joint venture.
Sure to be a familiar sight to frequenters at the weekly Wellesley farmers’ market, When Life Hands You Lemons changed venues this weekend to the Waterloo Region’s first Children’s Business Fair. Held Saturday at Catalyst 137 in Kitchener, the fair saw 75 child-run businesses in the region take part this year, and was positively teaming with customers.
“It was really busy,” said Ella.
“About five times, there were people lining up at our stand,” said Ben.
To run the stand effectively over the four-hour market, Ben and Ella had to rely on the skills they’d picked up throughout their experience with the business. The youth used quick mental math to tally the orders of customers, employed their salesmanship to keep the customers coming, and practiced their business pitches, which was part of their preparation for the festival.
“When people walk by, you have say ‘Hi’, and you have to try and get them to come to your stand,” said Ella, of one of the lessons learned in business.
“And we also learned how to have awesome customer service as well,” added Ben.
“You have to be nice to them,” chimed in Grace, the youngest of the entrepreneurial team.
The siblings’ father, Cory Kittel, himself an entrepreneur and owner of Inntertainment Inc. in Kitchener, says running the lemonade stand offers a valuable, if often neglected, education in entrepreneurship and commerce.
“It’s something that you can start at any age. These are life skills,” he said. “To be able to hustle. To be able to talk to people, communication skills. The understanding the value of a dollar, the understanding that something costs money and the principal of making money. These are all fundamental life skills that we believe should be taught at a young age.”
Kittel notes the value and range of goods and services that entrepreneurs provide, but points out these skills are often not part of a child’s education.
“It’s not something that is a strong focus in education, especially for younger kids. But when you look around the world that we live in, the products and services come from someone. From an entrepreneur.”
Believing in the value of child-run business ventures, Kittel decided to volunteer his time as a mentor for the other groups participating in the Children’s Business Fair. At a launch event held two weeks before the market, Kittel helped the kids develop their pitches and marketing.
“There was an exercise where the kids basically had to, they were given this random object, and they had to basically brand it, come up with some marketing materials on-the-spot, put a pitch together,” said Kittel. “The group then had to present their ideas in this new product that they came up with to the rest of the audience.
“[It was] just another perfect opportunity to expose our kids to the idea of entrepreneurship and the lessons it brings them,” he added.
Kids in Waterloo Region already seem to have a keen sense for business, however, as the fair attracted a large interest amongst the region’s youth. A total of 75 child-led business took part in the inaugural fair, but several more had to be turned down, notes lead organizer Azra Usanovic.
“I stopped keeping a waiting list after a few just because I wasn’t going to be able to let them in,” said Usanovic, who along with her sister Dina Bajiric, organized the fair. “We were shocked, because most of these fairs start with about 12 to 15 businesses. Some of them up to about 25 or 30, so that’s what we were expecting, especially when we booked the venue space.”
With the significant success of this year’s fair, Usanovic is hoping to see the event become an annual occurrence in the region, and is planning on a larger venue to accommodate even more young entrepreneurs.
“Why are we doing this? It’s to inspire and prepare the next generation of doers and dreamers, job creators, community builders and world changers,” she said.
World changers indeed, but the crew at When Life Hands You Lemons are keeping things simple for now. The kids have savings accounts that they started filling, are learning how to keep their business going and growing (including with the addition of new products to their stand).
Asked what they enjoy most running a business, and little Grace offers a compelling answer: “I enjoy seeing people happy and eating our treats.”