Lemonade, mentors, LaFrance, entrepreneurs

Students at LaFrance Elementary in Pendleton partnered with Clemson mentors to become lemonade entrepreneurs.
Image Credit: University Relations

A Creative Inquiry class is turning into a sweet deal for budding entrepreneurs at LaFrance Elementary School in Pendleton, and their mentors at Clemson University.

The two groups’ symbiotic relationship is enabling fifth-graders to learn the ins and outs of running a lemonade stand business. The Creative Inquiry, “Entrepreneurial Mentoring: Lemonade Day,” will culminate Saturday, April 21, when nearly 60 students put a semester of learning to work by unveiling their beverage businesses in and around Pendleton.

The class involves 27 students across many campus disciplines and is being spearheaded by two seemingly strange bedfellows – Campus Recreation and the College of Business, whose wingspans extend well beyond athletic fields and classrooms.

“Campus Recreation and the College of Business each put a strong emphasis on student engagement in the community, including service projects, so our collaboration fits the DNA of both campus entities,” said Donna Owen, assistant director of sponsorship and events for Campus Recreation. “Lemonade Day not only introduces the fifth-graders to starting a business, our students get exposure to a socio-economic group they normally don’t encounter.”

Lemonade Day, community service, entrepreneur

Clemson business major Macquon Jones works with 5th-grader Ava Robinson.
Image Credit: University Relations

Lemonade Day is an international non-profit that teaches entrepreneurship while fostering responsibility and independence – all by building a lemonade stand business. Founded in 2007 in Houston, it has reached hundreds of thousands of youth in 60 U.S. cities, and beyond.

“Through this service project, Clemson students are helping their young protégés think about the future and how they might be able to create a job for themselves someday,” said Owen, who along with Dave Frock, Campus Recreation executive director, are the Creative Inquiry’s catalysts. “The students are getting lessons in starting a business that include marketing, branding and setting goals, there is much more to it. The mentors are also reaping benefits from their younger counterparts.”

Macquon Jones, a graphic communications senior from North Myrtle Beach, has his sights set on opening a business someday and thought inspiring the next generation to do the same would be an enriching experience.

“I didn’t have a true mentor growing up, but now I’m able to be in that role for my two students, Ava and Trenton,” the 22-year-old said. “I want them to know you can chase your own dream versus the status quo. I feel I’m having an impact on their lives by giving of my time and knowledge this way.”

The College of Business has a vision for expanding Lemonade Day beyond the Creative Inquiry pilot class in Pendleton. If that happens, Campus Recreation will again be the partner in that endeavor.

“The idea is to take Lemonade Day to the Caribbean island of Dominica,” Owen said. “Campus rec has annual leadership trips on the island and has a partnership with a local school. The idea would be for the business school to teach a three-credit class where Clemson students would assimilate Lemonade Day with students at Dominica’s Orion Academy. The class would involve an online component where mentoring with Dominica students would take place online. It would culminate with Clemson students making the trip to Dominica for two weeks to help students set up their lemonade stands at cruise ship docks.”

Lemonade Day, LaFrance, entrepreneurs, mentors

Finance major Kelly Schoustra mentors a team of fifth-graders at LaFrance Elementary.
Image Credit: University Relations

Judson Jahn is the College of Business liaison to the Creative Inquiry and sees great value in expanding the service project abroad. The practicing attorney and senior lecturer in taxation and legal studies in the School of Accountancy leads annual study abroad programs to Oxford University and Rome.

“Lemonade Day is an opportunity for business students to learn something by teaching it. By taking it abroad, it’s also a lesson about how you must engage a global community if you’re going to be successful in any business,” Jahn said. “Beyond the business acumen, our students are building inter-cultural skills with young people who come from very different backgrounds. Lemonade Day in a global environment offers a valuable learning experience.”

Owen said the Pendleton students’ profits must first cover their expenses, and a third must go to a charity before they decide how to spend the remainder any way they see fit. As much as anything, Owen said, the exercise teaches them empowerment and responsibility.

“Some of the fifth-graders come from very modest backgrounds and being mentored like this is something they’ve never encountered before,” she said. “It’s eye-opening and shows them they can do anything if they have a good plan and know how to execute on it.”

Macquon is fully vested in his work and relationship with Ava and Trenton. The mentoring has been gratifying, but their meetings every Tuesday morning have also become eye-opening for

“They seem just as happy to see me as I am to see them. You can tell this is very special to them,” he said. “Focus is one thing I’ve learned from the experience, because we only have 40 minutes together each week. If you get off point, they’ll lose their focus and there’s no time for that. But we still manage to find time to mix a little fun into their learning.”

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