Summertime is the season of childhood entrepreneurship. Liberated from the confines of compulsory education, children are free to let their creativity blossom for three glorious months before they are forced back into desks. And in that time, something quite remarkable occurs.
When kids are mostly free to do as they please, many discover their love of entrepreneurship. And there is nothing more symbolic of the youthful entrepreneurial spirit than the summertime lemonade stand.
Unfortunately, the front yard lemonade stand has been coming under attack over the last several years. In fact, many mini-entrepreneurs have found themselves confronted by armed police officers for failing to obtain the proper permits needed to operate a business. It would seem that in the era of increased occupational licensing, no one is safe, not even small children.
The lemonade stand problem has become so widespread, it caught the attention of a major lemonade company, who is stepping in to protect the sanctity of childhood entrepreneurship.
Country Time Lemonade just announced that it is assembling a team dedicated to protecting child-run lemonade stands. “Legal-Aide,” as it is so appropriately named, will help children launch their lemonade businesses by providing financial assistance to those met with licensing obstacles. The company is generously offering to pay up to $300 in permit fees or fines acquired as a result of operating an “illegal” lemonade stand. By removing these financial barriers, Country Time Lemonade is helping empower children to become entrepreneurs in spite of government red tape.
On its website, Legal-Aide states:
“Life doesn’t always give you lemons, but when it does, you should be able to make and share lemonade with the neighborhood without legal implications. That’s why we’re here to take a stand for lemonade stands across the nation.”
Lemonade stands play an important role in our culture. And in an era where government licensing seems to be spiralling out of control, it’s refreshing to see a private company protecting the right to freely exchange with one another.
The Sanctity of the Lemonade Stand
The lemonade stand is a rite of passage in America. In many ways, it is a person’s first exposure to the “grown up” world of voluntary exchange.
As constant spectators in their parents’ lives (especially during summer break), children quickly observe that money is the medium of exchange that makes many things possible. Accompanying their parents as they run their errands, kids regularly witness the trading of money for goods or services. Whether it is food at the grocery store or clothing at the mall, children pay attention to these transactions. They understand that in order to take the toy from the toy store out of the box or see a movie at the movie theater, money has to be exchanged first.
And even though children understand that money makes the world go round, they have not yet figured out how to make any of their own. Enter the lemonade stand.
Like all great money-making ideas, the lemonade stand is born out consumer need. Understanding that the heat of the summer makes people more thirsty than usual, many a child has experienced that light bulb moment when they first realize they have something of value to offer to adults in exchange for money. And this realization comes with powerful consequences.
And after the ingredients are gathered, the lemonade is made, and the makeshift stand is constructed, something truly extraordinary happens: commerce. A neighbor walking his dog past the front yard sees the stand, and in desperate need of a cold drink, opens up his wallet and offers to exchange a dollar for a cup of lemonade. And as soon as that the dollar bill exchanges hands, the child has learned a vital lesson about creating value in the economy. And this lesson is particularly empowering to a kid who feels fairly powerless in most aspects of their life.
By learning how to earn money by responding to consumer demand, they begin to assert their independence and gain the training needed to be financially literate and prosperous adults. But over the last few decades, occupational licensing has gotten out of control.
Solving the Licensing Problem
Instead of celebrating the entrepreneurial mindsets of these young children, local governments have taken to shutting down lemonade stands. Since the children do not hold the proper permits needed to prepare and sell food items, these stands are technically illegal. However, when journalist John Stossel set out to investigate just how hard it is to get the required licensure, he found it took over three months. This means that children wanting to operate a summertime lemonade stand would not even be able to do so before school starts again in the fall.
And to make matters worse, having an innocent business endeavor shut down sends children the wrong message that entrepreneurial risk-taking is accompanied by government force. It also instills in them a belief that one must first seek permission from the government before executing their right to pursue prosperity through hard work. Just imagine the countless innovative ideas that might be stifled as a result of this mindset.
For a long time, it was all too easy for the state to get away with this type of crackdown on market activity. But the internet has made the spread of information all too easy. Each time a child’s lemonade stand is shut down by police, the story is shared all over social media. And as it turns out, most people do not take too kindly to stories of armed police officers shutting down child-run lemonade stands. And as more stories spread, more people began to grow angry on this attack on the entrepreneur.
In Utah, many parents grew so concerned about this crackdown on childhood commerce they joined together to do something about it. As a result of their efforts, Utah is the first state to pass a law that explicitly protects childhood entrepreneurs from the long arm of the regulatory state. Other states are considering their own similar legislation as well. But as Country Time Lemonade is showing us, the private sector is taking a different approach to protecting child-run businesses.
Luckily, this lemonade stand situation seems to be trending in a positive direction. Between states like Utah paving the legislative path for entrepreneurial freedom and Country Time Lemonade’s private sector stance in favor of childhood entrepreneurs, occupational licensing’s days appear to be numbered.