Elon senior brings ‘Lemonade Day’ to Alamance County
Running a lemonade stand can be the first step toward a business career, as hundreds of children will discover Saturday when they set up shop across Alamance County as part of the national ‘Lemonade Day’ project. For Tim Porter, however, Lemonade Day means so much more, and the Elon University senior believes what kids have already learned through his efforts will stay with them forever.
Porter, an entrepreneurship major and Doherty Scholar in the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business, wanted to provide local children an opportunity to feed their entrepreneurial spirit, and over the past year he has coordinated with the NAACP Youth Program, the Boys & Girls Club, Burlington Christian Academy and Ebenezer United Church of Christ Youth Ministry, among other county organizations, to generate interest in the local arm of the national program.
As of Thursday, more than 600 children, ranging from 4 to 17, have registered to sell lemonade at neighborhood corners, businesses and public spaces across the county. Porter and nearly two dozen other Elon volunteers will travel the region throughout the day to collect stories, answer questions and take photos.
The Alamance County participants will be among the 150,000 youth in 28 cities from California to Maine running their own unique operations.
First started by a Houston entrepreneur in 2007, Lemonade Day teaches more than just the nuts and bolts of owning a business. There’s financial responsibility. Personal responsibility. Setting goals. Perhaps most important of all? Learning from failure. That’s part of why introducing the annual event to Alamance County appealed to Porter.
“Kids have an opportunity to change and do better (from year to year),” he explained earlier in the week over coffee in Irazu. “It’s important they become comfortable with constructive criticism. When you make a mistake, the best thing you can do is admit it, learn from it and move on.”
At Burlington Christian Academy, fifth grade students working on a “mini economy” unit saw two benefits to Lemonade Day, and their enthusiasm quickly spread to other elementary grade levels.
“They wanted the purpose to be two-fold. Students could plan, organize, strategize, work independently or as a team to develop and set up their own lemonade stands with the ultimate goal being to raise money - not for themselves, but for a classmate that is fighting cancer,” said Burlington Christian Academy elementary school principal Marcia Cauthren. “The students know that they have the opportunity to put forth a little bit of work on their end and ultimately make a huge difference for this family.
“These students are working along side family and friends and learning a valuable lesson to carry with them through life. You can always find a way to help someone in need.”
Porter developed his own ventures growing up in Massachusetts. The second of five children, the avid sports fan shoveled snow and mowed lawns for a real estate agent who found him to be more affordable than hiring commercial services for neighborhood properties on the market.
His early experience is why Porter cautions not to think of Lemonade Day as simply business. He is quick to emphasize that it encourages children to step outside of their comfort zones, where they will strengthen their self-confidence and learn to take risks in other aspects of life, whether by challenging themselves in advanced school classes or trying out for a sports team.
“For some kids, this may have them thinking about applying to college, or saving money for college,” Porter said. “They can take this wherever they want to go. It’s more of a thought process than just starting a business.”
Porter’s faculty mentor echoes a similar sentiment.
“Entrepreneurship as a thought process can be developed at a very young age,” said Gary Palin, executive director of the Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at Elon University. “Our desire is to provide these fledgling entrepreneurs with a vision of the possibilities they can achieve in their future as they enter a very competitive global economy.”
Lemonade Day is Porter’s own opportunity to give back to a community he’s called home for the past four years. Studying entrepreneurship boosted his self-confidence and risk-taking, both of which helped in job interviews and prepared him for his career after Commencement in two weeks.
That same spirit is what Porter taps into when discussing Lemonade Day, and his professors took note. The Love School of Business honored Porter in April with its Student Achievement in Entrepreneurship Award, given each year to a senior entrepreneurship major who has shown enthusiasm and success in his or her major as well as promise for future achievement.
“Tim’s vision, energy, focus and dedication were key factors as he led the success of this inaugural Lemonade Day in Alamance County,” Palin said. “He will graduate this month with a diploma in hand and will have left a legacy at Elon that will benefit numerous children in future years.”