Foreword by: Nicole Cassier-Mason, Lemonade Day National CEO
“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” Those guiding words of the late Colin Powell inspired my recent conversation with Don Harding. Don is the co-owner of Fresh Fruit Sensations. He and wife Deneen run a fresh fruit food truck and catering business in New Orleans, Louisiana. They are featured at all the area festivals and at Rouses Markets locations (as one of only two allowed businesses to do such).
They helped their grandkids participate in Lemonade Day. They watched the fun, comradery, and overall positive feeling they experienced through our lessons, activities, and the actual selling experience on Lemonade Day. But it left them wondering who in that crowd of beautiful kids will have their entrepreneurial flame ignited by this experience. More importantly, he wondered what could be offered to keep that spark alive and burn hotter as they grow older.
Don’s concern is one substantiated by Gallup’s entrepreneurial research, which is not encouraging. “With diminishing ambition, out of approximately four million high school graduates in the U.S. every year, less than 0.25% would be considered ‘builders’ — those contributing to the economic vitality of their local community,” as stated by Joe Daly, senior partner of Gallup and national board chair of Lemonade Day. Don is committed to addressing this – not only for his grandkids, but for all of those in his community.
Don: I am the CEO and co-owner of Fresh Fruit Sensations. Deneen and I also operate a workforce training program for kids 15 years and older to learn the trade and important skills. We knew we were onto another great idea!
When I was 12 years old, I started helping my grandmother make frozen cups to sell from our home, along with homemade chips and other snacks. That experience ignited my desire to run my own business. That entrepreneurial flame only burned hotter as I grew older. In my mid-20s, I started several businesses. They were explosively successful, initially. Initial sales were great, and demand increased. But no one taught me how to scale a business, which is why I had to shut them down. I moved on to another bright idea. I started a grocery delivery business in 1992. This was well before your local grocery store provided this service. Again, without the knowledge to manage the huge demand, I had to shut it down.
The recurring theme was that my enterprising spirit, drive, and determination was strong. However, I lacked the knowledge, experience, and exposure. The businesses were all doomed to fail when they reached a certain point. Through trial and error, I figured it out. I acquired the business and financial tools to address the demand and scale. Where was Lemonade Day when I was kid?!
Don: Fresh Fruit Sensations is a handmade fresh fruit drink that includes lemonades of all kinds, as well as other fresh fruit combinations. More than 100 fresh fruit combinations are all made, one at a time, by hand, directly in front of the customer. The healthy sweeteners - blue agave, honey, Stevia in the Raw, Truvia, and raw sugar - help us make healthy taste great!
Don: In helping my grandkids participate in the Lemonade Day program, I realized at some point, Lemonade Day kids move on with their interests. Some continue on their entrepreneurial path, while others lose their entrepreneurial spark.
We conceived of the idea of using Fresh Fruit Sensations as a place to foster the entrepreneurial flame ignited by Lemonade Day. We help teens and young adults operate a Fresh Fruit Sensations Stand.
Don: Deneen and I envision working with local nonprofits to help them acquire sponsorship or grant money for a Fresh Fruit Sensations stand. Along with the stand, would come our workforce training on how to successfully operate the business. This will build upon what the youth learn through the Lemonade Day program.
The sponsored nonprofit would recommend students for the program and lead a classroom learning session. Once complete, those students would work events with the Fresh Fruit Sensations stand as paid interns. They can apply what they have learned via our shared curriculum. Also, by working the events, the students would create a revenue stream for the nonprofit organization to use toward additional Fresh Fruit Sensations stands or other educational program needs.
Together, we are building our kids’ and our community’s futures. I call that a win-win!
Nicole: I was touched by Don’s entrepreneurial journey. He told me he wished he knew of efforts like Lemonade Day when he was younger. He wouldn’t have had all the struggles he encountered. We’re collaborating to maximize both of our efforts. The Lemonade Day program is a great first step for the youth in his community. As part of a continuum, those youth are better prepared to participate in the Fresh Fruit Sensations workforce training program. They will also be great mentors for younger Lemonade Day youth. This helps respond to the burning question: “What do I do now that Lemonade Day has ignited my entrepreneurial spirit?”