COMMENTARY: When the economy gives you lemons, support Lemonade Day

The childhood experience of setting up a lemonade stand and engaging with customers brings back memories for many of us; perhaps it was your very first business transaction, customer service experience, or the first time you learned the correct lemon-to-water ratio for that perfect batch of lemonade.

The lessons gained from an early introduction to business can provide young people with an enthusiasm for entrepreneurship that has the potential to grow with them, developing into a passion for business that could spark a dream.

Now, more than ever, we need to help plant these dreams of entrepreneurship within our children. As most Alaskans are aware by now, our state is in an economic downturn, spurred by the plunge in the price of oil.

We’re seeing the growing impact of this across industries. But as we move forward, addressing the economic challenges that our state faces, we must continue to advocate for programs that instill financial literacy and business skills that prepare Alaska’s future leaders.

By making a long-term investment in Alaska’s future entrepreneurs, we are in turn creating new business opportunities, generating employment and a more diversified economy.

Lemonade Day Alaska is an example of one such investment. On Saturday, June 11, more than 3,400 youth in urban and rural communities across the state will participate in Lemonade Day Alaska — a record number for our state.

Children from all socio-economic backgrounds are currently learning how to build a stand, operate it and then determine what to do with the money they make. Lemonade Day — a free, experiential program with participants nationwide — encourages students to save a little, spend a little and share a little, giving a portion to the charity of their choice. An average of 80 percent of participants deposit a share of their earnings in a savings account while 60 percent also donate to a nonprofit.

This year, the community of Bethel will join more than 30 other participating communities across Alaska, when it holds its Lemonade Day on July 4. I am encouraged and excited to see this program grow, especially among the state’s remote and rural communities.

Inspiring entrepreneurship among our youth in rural areas of the state is known to foster economic development and healthy, sustained communities. Entrepreneurship can generate employment and can help encourage residents to remain in Alaska.

Lemonade Day also instills community and civic mindedness — characteristics that are crucial for the next generation of business, local and state government leaders, and ultimately, all citizens.

A 2007 study of businesses in rural Alaska, conducted by the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research, found that many successful entrepreneurs learned about business as children, whether from commercial fishing or stocking shelves at their local store.

This reinforces that entrepreneurship is a learned behavior; risk-taking as well as falling and getting back up again, in the business sense, are difficult behaviors to learn as an adult.

The University of Alaska Center for Economic Development, which coordinates the statewide effort every year, not only encourages participation in Lemonade Day, but also assists children through all aspects of managing a small business. With the help of Wells Fargo, a Lemonade Day Alaska sponsor, the program offers financial literacy workshops that provide participants with a guide for managing their money—from pricing out raw materials to paying back investors to saving for the future.

We all can agree that diversifying Alaska’s economy will require creativity, long-term thinking and action right now. The creation of new businesses, with the potential to grow quickly and create in-state jobs, must be part of our plan for a healthy state economy. And the entrepreneurial efforts of Alaska’s young residents could turn out to be the major employers in our state in the years to come.

From small villages to the state’s capital, lemonade stands will pop up for one day, June 11, in most participating communities across Alaska. To see a map of locations in your area or to “Brand your Stand,” visit https://alaska.lemonadeday.org/stands-on-the-map.

Not only should we encourage our youth to get involved, but all of us can support the program as Lemonade Day consumers, helping Alaska’s youth gain valuable life skills and experience in entrepreneurship that can set our children up for success and perhaps even spark a dream.

And with the fiscal challenges our state faces today, that’s more important now than ever.

Nolan Klouda is the executive director for the University of Alaska Center for Economic Development.

 

Updated: 
06/08/2016 - 3:17pm

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