Young entrepreneurs learn that business can be sweet

Hailey Hertzman and Katie Vonder Haar, co-owners of Ooh La Lemon, take credit cards if you don’t have cash. This is the second business for these two 12-year-old Kentuckians. Their first: a lemonade stand.

Millions of youths across America are catching the entrepreneurial bug from programs that introduce children to the ins and outs of business.

Junior Achievement, the Girl Scouts of the USA and Lemonade Day — where Hertzman and Vonder Haar got their start — are three such programs. While each takes a slightly different approach, they all emphasize mentorship, a strong curriculum and hands-on learning.

Two girls selling Girl Scout cookies on a sidewalk (© Nova Safo/AFP/Getty Images)
Girl Scouts get creative with their marketing techniques. Molly Sheridan, 13, plays a ukulele to attract customers to her cookie stand in Chicago in 2017. (© Nova Safo/AFP/Getty Images)

The average American is most familiar with Girl Scouts because of their annual cookie campaign, which uses an exclusive line of cookies to teach girls business skills. Selling within their communities and to family and friends, cookie entrepreneurs, as the Girl Scouts call them, raise $600 million annually.

“The Girl Scout cookie program is a powerful entrepreneurship incubator for the next generation of female leaders,” says Becky Burton, chief executive of Girl Scouts of Texas Oklahoma Plains Inc., a nonprofit organization serving girls and adults in 81 counties throughout the Texas and Oklahoma plains. She said girls and young women learn goal-setting, decisionmaking and people skills.

Junior Achievement celebrates its centenary in 2019. It started as a way to prepare youth for work away from the farm during America’s industrial age. Since then, more than 112 million Americans have gone through one of its programs.

In its flagship program, high school students form their own company to create and execute a business plan, from choosing a product to allocating their earnings. Student companies receive guidance from mentors, volunteers from the local business community.

“My mentor was an entrepreneur, and he inspired me,” says Michael Taylor, who started a real estate company in Denver, Colorado, and now mentors students in the greater metro area.

Two girls at a classroom table making buildings out of paper (© Lewis Geyer/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera/Getty Images)
Junior Achievement teaches students about multiple aspects of business and finance. Here, third graders make paper buildings in a city planning class. (© Lewis Geyer/Digital First Media/ Boulder Daily Camera/Getty Images)

Lemonade Day took the classic American childhood experience of running a lemonade stand and used it as the basis of a comprehensive curriculum in entrepreneurship.

A colorful manual leads children as young as 4 through the steps of starting their own lemonade stand, making sure to instill a sense of responsibility and ownership along the way.

Hertzman and Vonder Haar were so successful with their lemonade stand that they won Lemonade Day’s National Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2017.

“There are so many good lessons in being an entrepreneur and starting your own business,” said Vonder Haar.