Few things could be better on a hot Mississippi summer day than a refreshing glass of ice, cold lemonade. And, if you’re lucky, you might just find a smiling face selling lemonade during your travels.
Lemonade stands are one of the great American traditions. For generations, boys and girls turn into aspiring entrepreneurs making and selling lemonade. The young children are able to earn money, whether it’s for a special toy they have been wanting or to save for a future purchase.
Without even realizing it, the children simultaneously learn valuable lessons. They learn that money comes from work. That you have to plan, and then produce a stand, signs, and lemonade. Introducing kids to the valuable concepts of marketing, costs, customer service, and profit motive.
That’s why the lemonade stand has always been celebrated in our society.
But lemonade stand entrepreneurs began to meet a force that strikes fear in the hearts of even the most seasoned professionals: the government regulator.
By now, you have probably heard the stories, but they bear repeating because of the sheer lunacy of feeling the need to shut down a lemonade stand operated by kids. And because these stories highlight the over criminalization of our society – thanks to laws we have adopted to fix every supposed issue or problem.
In Colorado, three young boys, ages two to six, had their lemonade stand shut down by Denver police for operating without a proper permit. The boys were selling lemonade in hopes of raising money for Compassion International, an international child-advocacy ministry. But local vendors at a nearby festival didn’t like the competition and called the police to complain. When word of this interaction made news, the local Chick-Fil-A stepped up as you would expect from Chick-Fil-A. They allowed the boys to sell lemonade inside their restaurant, plus they donated 10 percent of their own lemonade profits that day to Compassion International.
In Texas, two sisters, seven and eight years-old, had their lemonade stand shut down by the local police, also for lacking the proper permit. The city, kindly, for lack of a better word, agreed to waive the $150 “Peddler’s Permit,” but the young girls would still need an inspection from the health department before they could proceed. The girls were hoping to raise money so they could go to a local water park with their dad, who is often away from home because he works in the oil field, for Father’s Day. The water park and a local radio station donated tickets after hearing the story.
Since these stories, and others like it, we have seen a shift away from the ludicrous. The lemonade stands are fighting back. Common sense seems to have prevailed.
Texas and Colorado have now become two of the first three states to legalize lemonade stands for children. Utah became the first state to pass such a law in 2017. These laws, which have passed with overwhelming, bi-partisan support, allow minors to run “occasional” businesses, such as a lemonade stand, without needing a permit.
If you run into a regulator in a state that doesn’t enjoy such lemonade friendly laws, Country Time Lemonade has launched “Legal-Aide.” For those who receive a fine for operating an unlicensed stand, they will cover your fine up to $300. They also have a handy website that will help you contact lawmakers and get engaged in the fight to legalize lemonade stands in all 50 states.
At the same time, Lemonade Day is national program that has grown considerably in the past several years. Participating cities, including Jackson and cities in the Golden Triangle, give children in the area the opportunity to run a business during a community-wide Lemonade Day.
What these stories have shown is that when the government has overreacted, the private sector has stepped up and provided opportunities for children.
Hopefully, these stories raise more than a few eyebrows. Perhaps they will cause people to recognize the downside of our regulatory burden and maybe even cause legislators to review more than a few of the laws, rules, and licensing regimes that are stifling growth, innovation, and capitalism.
If we want a thriving and growing economy, we’ve got to have more entrepreneurs – including those future ones who sell lemonade in their neighborhoods today.