By Jenny Neyman
The sweet sound of commerce rang out across the central Kenai Peninsula and elsewhere in the state Saturday, otherwise known as Lemonade Day in Alaska, as kids learned the ins and outs of operating a business one cup of lemonade at a time.
“I usually ask if they want lemonade and then they will tell me what they want and I give them what they want and ask them, like, what kind, or how much ice they want, or if they want a lid or straw,” said Koen Pace, 9, who had a stand in front of Odie’s Deli in Soldotna.
Koen has wanted to participate in the program for a couple of years now, and his parents decided he was old enough this summer.
“He was very excited this morning,” said his mom, Kenya Pace. “It was like, ‘Are we ready to go yet? Are we ready to go yet?’ So he’s very excited. He seems to be doing pretty well, too.”
Kenya said the program has been a great way to introduce kids to principles of business.
“They had a class for them where the kids all came. Some people from the bank came and talked to them, and they explained to them about entrepreneurship and how to start a business and how to make money at it and how to market. Home Depot had it set up so he could build his stand there (with some help from Mom). So it’s just a fun thing to do,” she said. “I think going through the process of seeing how much it costs for supplies, how much to sell things for to make a profit off it, having people to support you. … I think it’s been a really great experience for him.”
One of the biggest lessons for Koen was location, location, location. He and his sister had previously tried to sell her duct tape creations in front of their house, but they live on a fairly quiet street. So he was appreciating all the traffic that came from being alongside the Sterling Highway in downtown Soldotna, especially on Kenai River Fest weekend.
“We’re doing really good. It’s a perfect place — the parking and the festival, right in between,” he said.
Across the highway in front of Wilderness Way, Parker Richards, 7, and his younger brother, Eli, 6, were learning the importance of good accounting, with the help of 15-year-old family friend, Kallie Kenner.
“You have a 20 dollars!” Eli exclaimed, dazzled by the denomination as a customer paid for his order, leaving Parker to do the counting, with Kallie’s direction.
Over in Kenai, Malcolm and Josie Fadden, ages 10 and “basically” 9, were at a bit of a disadvantage with their less-busy corner of Main Street Loop and Willow, in front of the Kenai Fire Department.
“Getting customers over,” Josie identified as the hardest part of their business.
“Yeah, it’s hard barking people in,” Malcolm agreed.
“Like, ‘Hey get over here! Lemonade!’” Josie feigned her sales pitch. “No, we’re not really like that. We’re like, ‘Lemonade, lemonade, 50 cents, baked goods.’”
They were compensating for a lower volume of lemonade stand customers by having a high volume of other offerings on which customers could spend their money.
“We have Rice Krispie treats, lemon cookies, brownies, caramel pretzel brownies, marshmallow brownies, regular brownies, chocolate-chip brownies and lemon cookies,” Josie said, longingly eyeing the inventory.
“If we don’t sell it all then we get to keep the lemonade, and whatever treats don’t get sold we pretty much get to keep those,” she explained — before Mom put the quick kibosh on that idea, stating that the leftovers would be donated.
“But can we keep the marshmallow brownies? I haven’t tried one yet. Can we split one? We can pay 50 cents,” Josie tried.
The siblings were quickly learning the unavoidable authority of a regulatory agency — in their case, their parents, which led to the concept of a chain of command.
“If you have an employee like her, she always tries to buy her own stuff,” Malcolm said, listing another business challenge.
So, little sister is the employee, not the business partner?
“Pretty much, yeah. I’m the boss,” he confirmed.
Back in Soldotna, neighbors 14-year-old Quinn Lucas and 12-year-old Spencer Kapp had a busy spot in front of Jo-Ann Fabric on the Kenai Spur Highway.
“It’s really good. Right at noon everybody flooded us, but we’ve been making business. It’s a lot of fun,” Quinn said.
“I think the best part is meeting other people and their personalities and stuff like that,” Spencer added.
They’d learned about budgeting for supplies, cutting costs wherever they could, the importance of marketing and also about setting sales goals and designating what to do with profits. They estimated that they had made about $50 as of 1 p.m., but Quinn’s goal was set higher.
“We’re hoping for whatever a repair costs, because I wrecked his ATV,” Quinn said.
Down the highway, in front of Beemun’s, 11-year-old Alexis Gomes had a goal for her profit, as well.
“Well, a few years ago I built this lemonade stand, and then I decided to keep doing lemonade stands until I earned enough to buy a car,” she said.
She now sells all through the summer, setting up for Harley-Davidson events and others in the area, and made about $1,200 last summer, said her parents, Charles and Jennifer Gomes.
“I made the mistake of telling her I’d match whatever she saves for a car. Now she’s driven to that point,” Charles said.
This year Alexis was encouraged to take on a business partner — little brother, Samuel. At age 5, he still needs some coaching.
“You’ll learn, this is your first year,” Charles Gomes reassured Samuel when he seemed a little lost after handing a customer his order.
“What do you say, Samuel, to the customer?” Gomes prompted.
“Thank you,” Samuel said.
“And smile,” Gomes reminded him.
But Samuel was having a good time, even if he wasn’t quite sure of everything the business experience entails.
“I’m happy that I make lemonade and asking some people if they want to buy some lemonade, and seeing what kind of size they want, and, hmm,” he said.
He’s got plenty of time to figure it out. This was the fifth year Alaska communities participated in the eight-year-old nationwide Lemonade Day program, from Ketchikan to Kodiak to the Kenai Peninsula, Anchorage, Delta Junction, Fairbanks, St. Michael, Unalakleet and more. With new stands being added every year, it seems there’s a buzz to this program that won’t be wearing off anytime soon, and not just from the sugar.
“This is how kids learn to be business people,” said Malcolm Fadden, as a customer queued up behind one already being served. “Holy, shoot, we’re being crowded!”