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The recession hits your local lemonade stand

Jennifer Guerra Aug 26, 2011

The recession hits your local lemonade stand

Jennifer Guerra Aug 26, 2011

Tess Vigeland: I really don’t want to remind anyone of this, least of all myself, but next weekend is Labor Day weekend. The official end of summer. For kids, it’s back to school. Back to work!

But plenty of them spent the summer working. Some on the sidewalk just outside their houses. And it turns out the tough economy can hand you a lesson just about anywhere these days.

Michigan Radio’s Jennifer Guerra has more.

Sound of cash register

Jennifer Guerra: Molly and Lucy Prochaska have been in the lemonade business in Ann Arbor, Mich. for the past five years.

Lucy Prochaska: We sell lemonade, iced tea, Arnold Palmers and popsicles.

Their price points are pretty fair for the area. Ten-year-old Lucy says the popsicles go for 50 cents and the drinks come in different sizes.

Lucy: The large cup is one dollar and the small cup is 50 cents.

They’re serious about their lemonade business. They’ve got a cash register, lots of signage. Lucy’s older sister Molly, who’s 12, even came up with a slogan for the stand:

Molly Prochaska: “Our lemonade has swagger.”

Which they wrote in chalk — up and down the sidewalks around their block. No trademark yet, but I would not underestimate these girls. Despite their guerilla marketing tactics, Molly says business just isn’t what it used to be.

Molly: The first year was really nice, we got lots of money. But then after that, when the economy started to go down, we didn’t get as much money.

Guerra: You think it has to do with the economy?

Molly: Probably, people didn’t want to spend as much. They wanted to save their money.

Thinking that might have soured her — no pun intended — on the whole entrepreneur thing. I asked Molly if she had any ideas about what she wants to do when she grows up.

Molly: Um, I’m not really sure yet. But the whole business things pretty fun though.

Guerra: Really?

Molly: I like it.

Ellen Daniel: I’ve noticed more kids are interested in being entrepreneurs now than when I started nine years ago.

That’s Ellen Daniel. She teaches language arts at a middle school in Ann Arbor, where about half the kids qualify for free or reduced lunch. She says many students at the school have parents who have been laid off because of the economy or have had to pick up and move out of town for a job — which she thinks has made an impression on the kids.

Daniel: That whole idea that we’ve moved from an economy where you could be part of a big company and work there your whole career and retire from there. And I don’t think kids see that the same way.

Sal Barrientes teaches at the same school as Ellen Daniel. He says he hears kids talk in the hallway all the time. And often — whether they realize it or not — the tough economy is part of the conversation.

Sal Barrientes: Recession, where some kids are like, “What does that even mean?” Some kids will say, “You know what it means? It means I can’t go to the movies this weekend. It means we can’t order pizza every Friday night like we want to.”

Back at Molly and Lucy Prochaska’s lemonade stand, it’s not all doom and gloom. Despite all the economic turmoil, business was up. Molly says that could mean one of two things: Stock market be darned, the economy is on the mend…

Molly: Either that or it’s super hot out, so lots of people are coming… Yeah.

In Ann Arbor, Mich., I’m Jennifer Guerra for Marketplace Money.

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