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It All Started with a Turtle: Revitalizing American Business

NOTE: In recognition of National Entrepreneurship Week, Spark Energy brings you the following submission from Michael Holthouse – American entrepreneur and founder of one of our key community partners, Prepared 4 Life. We are proud to support Lemonade Day 2012 in Houston and Chicago, and help “spark” dreams within thousands of participating youth.

Who knew that what started as an innocent question from a child asking for a pet turtle would turn into a life changing opportunity for hundreds of thousands of children across the country.

Four years ago when my daughter pulled me out of bed early one Sunday morning to do a lemonade stand, I had no idea what an amazing day was about to unfold. A few cups of lemonade, lots of answered questions and some real world experience, and my daughter had earned enough money to buy her now famous turtle. It was a simple lesson in entrepreneurship that had been passed on to me by my father. Instead of just giving her what she wanted, she learned how to earn it for herself. She did. She won, and I won – not the turtle, but a set of life lessons that have touched both of us. In many ways, she experienced what our great country is all about – daring to dream, making a plan, working the plan and having the guts to go out and be successful. Fulfilling the American Dream.


That one day sitting along Memorial Drive with her inspired what is now known as Lemonade Day. It is a fun and experiential learning process that culminates in a single day where literally tens of thousands of lemonade stands all over a community demonstrate what business is all about. It’s where an entire community shows its support for youth through the simple act of buying a glass of lemonade. Children from every walk of life and geographic location learn what it takes to start a business – to fulfill their own dream. Caring adults and youth learn together using a free backpack filled with materials on how to start their very own business – a lemonade stand. Lemonade Day gives them their first taste as entrepreneurs. It changes the way they see the world forever.

There is the story about the little girl with learning challenges whose dream was to be able to buy something new for her fifth grade graduation. It would be the first new thing she ever had in her life. While afraid she would not succeed, she was encouraged by a school counselor to take a chance … and she did. Today, she is not only the proud owner of a new pink dress that she bought with her own money, but a little girl whose academic progress has dramatically changed. She has now tasted success for the first time in her life, and she knows how it works. Her future story has changed forever – she is only one of thousands.

Her story is replicated in stand after stand, each of the youth with their own unique experience. In America everyone has the opportunity to become whatever they choose and are willing to work for. Lemonade Day is the spark that ignites a new passion.

Lemonade Day is a chance for parents, mentors, teachers and the entire community to work with youth and help them see a different tomorrow. They help children learn how to approach their business and are given the tools they need to succeed. They also learn how to manage their financial success by spending a little, saving a little, and sharing a little of the money they earn.

Last year, in Houston alone, 54,000 kids registered, and collectively they sold over six million glasses of lemonade. From the proceeds of those stands, children donated a portion to the charities of their choice – that is after repaying their investors, saving some for their future and spending some on themselves. This year, in 40+ cities across America, more than 250,000 youth will participate and learn what business is all about. I can’t wait to see their contribution to society – not only on Lemonade Day, but in their future.

The lemonade stand is an American icon; it is quite often children’s first business. In this challenging time in America we hope to revitalize entrepreneurship using this time honored tradition. It is our goal is to help spread Lemonade Day to hundreds of communities and, on a single day in May of 2013, do one million lemonade stands! Can you imagine what that many new entrepreneurs will mean for our country? Will you help us make this dream come true?

Lemonade stands represent the best of our country’s proud past and bright future. They represent a vehicle to take children to places many only dream about going. Children today need to know they can do it – they need to know they have control – they need to know that they can be successful – they need to know that the hope for the future is in their hands – and stands.

On Lemonade Day, we salute entrepreneurs all across America who had a dream and pursued it. It is America and it represents the hope for our future.

And, to think, it all started with a turtle.

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