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A sip of entrepreneurship: Vision Shared to support kids' lemonade stands

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BY CYNTHIA McCLOUD

For The State Journal

Vision Shared wants to give some West Virginia schoolchildren a taste of entrepreneurship by bankrolling their lemonade stands.

The statewide nonprofit community and economic development organization is piloting Lemonade Day, a school-based entrepreneurship project for students in third, fourth and fifth grades, said Vision Shared President Rebecca Randolph.

"The students will act as small business owners and work with banks to get financing for lemonade stands," she said. "They learn about marketing and promotion and sales. There's even a component where they donate a portion of their profits, over and above paying back their loan, to a local charity."

Lemonade Day is Saturday, May 4.

Students who participate in Lemonade Day learn to set goals, develop a business plan, establish a budget, seek investors, provide customer service, save for the future and give back to the community.

"While the national program has been well-established, this is the first time a Lemonade Day program has been piloted on a broad scale in West Virginia," Randolph said. "As this is a pilot program we will add the charitable giving component in the future as the program expands.  Our first goal is to introduce the participants to business concepts and what it means to be an entrepreneur.  Secondly we hope to spread the word about Lemonade Day and expand the program next year with the support of our schools, communities and business/banking leaders. Next year we hope not only to reach more students and communities, but also add the charitable giving component."

The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation gave $67,000 to help pilot the Lemonade Day program, but Vision Shared needs another $20,000 in corporate and community sponsorships, Randolph said.

Mythology, marketing management services company in Charleston, is also a sponsor.

"Sponsorship money will be directed to the purchase of training materials and take-away items for the participants. We will work with local banks in securing business ‘loans' for participants," Randolph said.

A variety of investment levels exist – from the $500 Lemon Drop sponsorship level to the $5,000 Main Squeeze.

All money raised through local donations and sponsorships is used directly to support Lemonade Day West Virginia.

For information about becoming a sponsor or to be a mentor or volunteer, contact Randolph at president@visionshared.com or 304-757-4840.

Houston entrepreneur and philanthropist Michael Holthouse, founder of nonprofit Prepared 4 Life that provides experiential programs infused with life skill, character education and entrepreneurship, was inspired by the lessons he was able to teach his young daughter and her friend when they set up a lemonade stand. In 2007, he launched Lemonade Day in Houston as a community-wide, educational initiative.