If you’re on your way to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on Saturday, be sure to stop at Stallings Playground — just a block from the Fair Grounds on Gentilly Boulevard — for the fanciest glass of lemonade in the city.
“I have four flavors to choose from,” said 12-year-old Lexi Faith Turner, a sixth-grader at Jefferson Rise Charter School. “I have my Original Couture, my Sassy Strawberry, Cold Cucumber and Kutsy Kiwi.”
“Lexi’s Lemonade and Cupcakes Couture” will be among several stands in the park and 20,000 throughout the state, hawking their wares for the sixth annual Louisiana Lemonade Day.
A national program brought to Louisiana in 2010 by John Georges, who is the CEO of Georges Enterprises and owns The Advocate, and Todd Graves, founder and CEO of Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, Lemonade Day encourages young people to uncover their entrepreneurial spirit through America’s traditional first business venture: the lemonade stand.
“So many great business people got their start with lemonade stands as a kid, including our two founders,” said Jordan Piazza, executive director of Lemonade Day Louisiana for the second year and Graves’ business manager. “This program teaches kids financial literacy and walks them through 15 steps that help them set a goal, make a plan, work that plan and achieve their dreams.”
Kids as young as 5 who sign up for the free program receive a backpack that includes an entrepreneur’s workbook, a mentor guide and goodies from the various sponsors.
“We give them the tools and information they need, but the great thing is that we then encourage them to be creative, to create their own brand, really set themselves apart,” Piazza said. “It’s incredible to see what they come up with.”
For Lexi, who is participating in Lemonade Day for the fourth year, the program has spurred her to turn her love of fashion and all things sparkly into a custom brand, complete with a professional logo.
She’s developed her own lemonade recipes — all made with real fruit — and used her grandmother’s tried-and-true 7-Up pound cake recipe to branch out into cupcake sales.
In fact, after launching as a Lemonade Day project, Lexi now sells her products all summer long.
“I have a Facebook page, and I take orders for my lemonade and cupcakes through that and by phone and email,” she said. “I actually have orders in now for three dozen cupcakes and three dozen lemonades.”
Lexi’s mother, Kim Carter Evans, says her daughter has received orders through friends and family. And for the second year, the family’s church will be ordering cucumber lemonade and cupcakes for its Mother’s Day event.
The program encourages children to spend a third of their earnings, save a third and donate a third to a local cause. Lexi said she’s saving her money for a bakery.
“I want to be a chef and a fashion designer,” she said.
Seven-year-old Mariana Erickson, of Covington, will be participating in her second Louisiana Lemonade Day this year, with a stand in front of the USAgencies Low Cost Auto Insurance location where her mother works.
For her, the program has been a special experience to share with her dad.
“He helped me make my stand and has taught me how to talk to people, which I’m kind of shy about,” she said.
Mariana’s mom, Claudia Martinez-Erickson, said the program has helped her daughter learn about coins and bills and counting. “It really takes what she’s learning in school and brings it to life,” she said.
Piazza said this is exactly why he feels Louisiana Lemonade Day should be in every school in the state.
“We’re growing every year,” he said. “In six years, we’ve reached almost 100,000 kids in the state, but I’d like to see this program incorporated into the lesson plan for, say, all fifth-graders, which is the age we have found seems to benefit the most.”
For kids, however, it’s all about the present, and the present is all about selling lemonade.
While Lexi has her eye on a future culinary empire, Mariana is saving her dollars and quarters for something more immediate.
“I want to go to Disney World,” she said.