Ciara Thompson and JoAnn Hegbe bobbed back and forth beneath two canopies, pouring fresh-squeezed lemonade with lime and chatting to people lounging in chairs.
The young entrepreneurs run a lemonade stand at the Shady Grove Farmers and Artisans Market in Rockville on Wednesdays along with the Briggs Chaney-Greencastle Farmers and Artisans Market in Silver Spring on Saturdays, taking requests and managing money — a tall order for 11-year-olds. But the experience of running a business teaches responsibility, JoAnn said.
“It’s like our job before we have a job,” she said last Wednesday.
Ciara and JoAnn, both of Silver Spring, participate in the Young Entrepreneurs Program, which is offered by organizers of the affiliated markets to young people interested in running a stand. This is the girls’ first year at the markets, and the first year the program has been offered. Both markets run four hours, and the pair handles the stand during that period. Youths ages 12 to 18 can submit a business plan — or a paragraph or two — and receive sponsorship and support from the market, said Gigi Goin, manager of the Rockville and Silver Spring markets.
The market will waive vendor fees, Goin said, but participating children must keep records of what they spend and earn and save 50 percent of the money they receive. Several kids have inquired about the program, but as of now, only JoAnn and Ciara participate.
The idea for the Young Entrepreneurs Program sprouted from the family-oriented Briggs Chaney market. That market features two kids tents, and Goin said she considers the program an extension of that theme. Young Entrepreneurs Program stands are considered on a case-by-case basis; if the business will fit the market, it will receive approval. The market will accept as many stands as it can reasonably accommodate.
The girls, who attend Benjamin Banneker Middle School and started selling lemonade earlier this year, prepare the summer staple themselves by hand-squeezing lemons — and sometimes limes or other fruits. Recipes change from week to week. And juicing lemons is no easy task; the girls said they sometimes enlist the help of family members when it comes time to make the beverage.
“We have to go around in circles,” JoAnn said. “It’s hard work.”
But the hard work comes with skills they’ll take with them.
“I really think it’s about developing and organizing something outside of themselves,” Goin said. “They’re developing a can-do entrepreneurial spirit.”
Goin helps the kids set up the books and shows them how to calculate expenses — an ongoing lesson throughout the market season. She also checks bank statements from savings accounts three times during the season to ensure the entrepreneurs are holding on to some money.
Both girls already had savings accounts with their parents, but they opened separate accounts for money earned at the stand.
JoAnn wants to save the money for college because she hopes to become a doctor. Ciara said she isn’t sure what she wants to do with her earnings.
“I think she’s very determined,” said Annette Ankou, JoAnn’s mother. “It teaches her how to do the bookkeeping, how to give out the lemonade. She’s excited about it.”
Ankou noted that JoAnn wakes up early the days of the markets to prepare. Her daughter likes the bookkeeping and tracking finances.
“She’s excited about it,” Ankou said.
The two entrepreneurs met in kindergarten and have wanted to run a lemonade stand ever since they saw one on TV, Ciara said.
“We didn’t think we’d be in a market,” she said, noting that lemonade stands traditionally sit on street corners.
Bartering with other vendors is a point of pride for Ciara. She trades ice-cold lemonade for rice, corn and cooked food. And because of her opportunity, she’s become better with money.
“I can learn from this,” she said. “If I work in a store, I can learn how to give change.”
Goin estimated the girls make a combined gross income of between $80 and $120 at each market. They made $210 during the Briggs Chaney Day Celebration, a community festival, JoAnn said. Because the lemonade is organic, it costs about $40 per week to make. Each glass sells for $2.50.
And when customers started asking about finding the business on the Web, JoAnn decided to create a site for the stand: www.cjslemonade.webs.com.
Ciara’s great-grandmother, Phyllis Richards, looked on as the girls smiled at customers and poured their homemade drinks.
“I’m very proud of them,” she said. “When they get old, they have to be responsible counting their money and keeping track of their receipts. And they have to enjoy every day as it comes.”