BY DEBBIE NAZARIAN, LEMONADE DAY NATIONAL DIRECTOR
Ages 8 to 14 are critical times in the development of children’s financial behavior. During these years, they form habits on saving and spending that can last well into the future. Early financial literacy teaches kids how to have a good relationship with money- an invaluable lifelong skill.
—National Financial Educators Council
One of the many important outcomes of the Lemonade Day program is the opportunity for children and youth to learn about financial literacy as they create goals and budgets and manage their lemonade stand business profits. Charlie Hamilton, our Lemonade Day National Board Chairman, is a perfect example of how kids who are introduced to entrepreneurship and financial literacy at an early age can experience great success in life. I asked Charlie to share his inspirational story.
Charlie’s entrepreneurial spirit was first sparked at the young age of 10 when he wanted to buy a two-man tent after spending a miserable weekend camping in the rain. His father told him that he would have to earn the money to buy the tent and suggested that he gather up watermelons from their fields and sell them on the highway. So, Charlie started up the tractor, loaded up the watermelons and sold them for 50 cents each. At 12, he opened up a fireworks stand and then eventually expanded his business to include 12 locations and 45 employees. By the time he was just 15 years old, he was able to purchase his first piece of investment property. All during this time, he also sold honey from the family’s honeybees to stores throughout his hometown, and he even had a lawn mowing business.
You will not be surprised to learn that that resourceful and hard-working young boy grew up to be a successful entrepreneur who founded multiple specialty investment businesses and is a managing partner of two residential land development companies in Texas. A graduate of Texas Tech University, Charlie has given his time and talent to the university previously serving on the Advisory Board for the Rawls College of Business and Administration and as Chairman of the Chief Executive Round Table, an organization that brings renowned business leaders to speak to university students. He is also a member of YPO (formerly Young Presidents Organization).
I first met Charlie many years ago when he served as the founding city champion for Lemonade Day in Lubbock, Texas. With his lovely wife, Kate, he helped build a program there that has impacted tens of thousands of children and youth by providing them with an opportunity to learn how to start a business and make their own money— and spark an entrepreneurial spirit within them much like his experience of selling watermelons on the highway did for him. Charlie is high energy, always positive, goodhearted, generous, kind, honest, and fun. He is also a smart and charismatic leader who has been able to build a strong national board and position Lemonade Day for unprecedented growth through the development of our new digital app, My Lemonade Day. I am honored to share with you this conversation I had with him.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Charlie: Trust your gut — listen to it and act on that intuitive instinct. Don’t worry about what other people think or say about you. This is your journey, your passion to do something or do some good in the world, and it’s your uncanny ability to make decisions and craft a strategy that will make you a success in whatever endeavor you undertake.
Why do you think Lemonade Day entrepreneurs are positioned to succeed?
Charlie: Most successful people worked when they were young and there is no coincidence that Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Sara Blakely, and Richard Branson all had businesses in their teenage years. The common theme here is that starting a business, any business, at a young age helps kids build confidence. It doesn’t matter whether the business is successful or not, the skills acquired through owning a business will serve a youngster throughout their educational years and into adulthood.
I’m obviously passionate about financial literacy. Lemonade Day transforms the way kids learn financial literacy – something every young adult needs to succeed in life. It is the most innovative and engaging program that helps kids develop skills in a fun and interactive way. By making a plan and working the plan, kids achieve their dreams. I got hooked when I earned money for a two-person tent and it sparked the desire to earn more. Lemonade Day instills a confidence in kids like nothing I’ve ever seen. Financial literacy and hard work give people a way to accomplish their goals and dreams, fosters independence, and provides the tools to manage money affectively. Having these fundamentals most certainly give you a solid foundation for success.
Why is it important to provide these skills at an early age?
Charlie: In today’s world, we work hard to teach kids to be good at extracurricular activities – sports, dance, debate team, dancing, robotics, etc. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with this. Kids learn valuable lessons regarding commitment, teamwork, and responsibility. In my opinion, financial literacy is arguably the most important skill that is missing in our kid’s lives today. I realize that not every kid wants to be an entrepreneur and they don’t have to be, but to be successful they need a combination of skills that will teach hard work + discipline + initiative to be successful adults. Lemonade Day provides the tools and the experiential learning to place kids on this path to higher achievements and accomplishments.
I always ask other entrepreneurs what got them started. It’s truly a joy to hear their stories and see that sparkle in their eyes that ignited a desire toward business ownership as a young kid. I said this earlier – it’s no coincidence that successful millionaires and billionaires had a business when they were kids. Small advantages received or gained early in life become huge advantages later in life.
What could a child who has participated in Lemonade Day tell an adult business owner?
Charlie: So often, business owners get in a rut. What excites me about Lemonade Day kids is that they constantly exhibit innovation when planning their business and lemonade stand, when they open their stand and respond to business issues like competition, demand, and pricing, and work to improve their business the next time. It’s refreshing to see kids compete, change marketing plans, update pricing, and expand their product line, all to better meet customer needs.
There is a raw creativity and a twinkle in their eyes that often is missing from today’s business owners. When you’re in a forest, you can easily get lost in the trees. Kids have a 30,000-foot perspective when approaching their lemonade business.
I believe Lemonade Day kids could reignite the innovation bug in today’s business owners that would allow them to create more options for their business. Successful business owners lean into the disruptions - just look at what so many companies did in 2020 to address the needs created during the pandemic. Successful CEOs pivoted. That’s what Lemonade Day kids do.
What is Lemonade Day’s greatest accomplishment?
Charlie: If there was a Lemonade Day bumper sticker it would read: “Creating leaders of tomorrow by helping kids turn dreams into reality.” Lemonade Day has reached over one million kids. It’s a truly transformative program. We have kids who have been asked to speak at state capitol buildings in front of legislators, several who have been funded on Shark Tank, and many who have taken their Lemonade Day experiences and formed viable businesses. And they are just beginning!
What triggers a business or corporation to get involved in Lemonade Day?
Charlie: As business owners, it’s our obligation to pay it forward to others. Just like a turtle doesn’t get on top of a fencepost by itself, most of us had help getting started or had great coaches who gave us a hand up and unleashed an eagerness inside us. The secret to helping others is to give them the help they need to climb higher. It’s such a fulfilling part of my entrepreneurship journey and I hope other business leaders feel the same way. We must create the leaders of tomorrow who will go out and do good in the world.
Thank you, Charlie for being such a powerful champion for Lemonade Day. We are so proud and grateful to have you as our leader!
Please feel free to share this blog with others and share my contact information, firstname.lastname@example.org with anyone who would like to know how to help us provide our program to more children and youth or start Lemonade Day in a new city!
Thank you for reading. I welcome your comments, questions and suggestions. For more information about Lemonade Day, please visit www.lemonadeday.org.