Once upon a time not too long ago, two little girls had an idea to set up a lemonade stand.
They set up a TV tray with a pitcher of homemade lemonade and snacks. People lined up to buy their tasty beverage and drank all they had to offer. The girls, who have been best friends since they were 4, decided it was a success. So they started Curly Girl Lemonade.
“If you’re not having a good day, don’t be sad about it. You always have another day.” -Alexandria Gibson
The partners, Madison Smith of Flint and Alexandra Gibson of Grand Blanc, both 9 – who also happen to have natural, curly hair – are running a booming business. They’ve added flavors such as rosemary honey, cucumber, pineapple, strawberry, raspberry and mint, and they host pop-up lemonade stands every weekend at spas, salons, fashion shows and even in front of stores on Saginaw Street during warmer days.
Madison says plenty of advantages lie in being a child entrepreneur.
“When people come to buy our lemonade, they say, ‘Wow! I can’t believe you’re just 9 years old and you have your own business,’” she says. “They are so happy for us and they help us grow.”
It surprised Kelli Smith, Madison’s mother, too.
“It just floored me so many people would stop on the corner to buy lemonade,” she says. “From there, we just took off, creating flavors and it began to grow. Everywhere we go, if there are 20 people or 200, the girls don’t need to be coached or convinced to meet everyone in the room and tell them about their business.“
Dressed in yellow aprons, Madison and Alexandra are warming hearts while selling cups and gallons of lemonade. That may be because everything is fresh, including the lemons and other fruits and herbs, or maybe people can taste the love the girls have for their company.
Word has spread around Flint, and the girls were invited to present at Flint Soup, an event where people gather to eat, hear business presentations and vote on their favorite. Curly Girl Lemonade won the $190 award.
Alexandra’s parents, LaJuan and SaVille Gibson, support the effort by helping make lemonade, providing transportation and keeping records of the earnings.
“It’s quite amazing how this blew up,” he says. “It makes me proud for sure, and it also causes me to think about her balance, because I’m an entrepreneur. I truly want her to find her own way, but I want her to have fun it with it.”
It helps that Kelli Smith, the engine that drives the girls, has spent more than two decades as a marketing recruiter for companies such as Bank of America, Fifth Third Bank, entertainment businesses and other companies.
“She’s my only child,” Smith says of Madison, whose father, Tyrone, works 12-hour evening shifts and can’t be as involved. “For me, this is who I am and it makes sense that this would rub off on her and anyone she’s associated with, networking, talking to people and helping people in one shape or form.”
Madison says it’s easy when you’re confident in what you’re doing.
“I enjoy it because it’s nice to be a role model to other kids,” she says. “We motivate other kids and show you can do anything you put your mind to, with the help of a parent. We both know what to say and do because it’s our business.”
Because of their bubbly personalities and superb articulation, Madison says people constantly tell her and Alexandra they should be on television.
“They say we should be on Oprah, Ellen or Steve Harvey,” she says. “That seems really good.”
Madison has advice for other young people interested in being entrepreneurs. “You should keep going and go strong until you get there,” she says. “Push it and be your own role model, an example to others. You just have to really want to do it. If you want it, you can make it happen.”
If you’re interested in starting your own business, Madison has some advice:
“Start with a little thing and, trust me, it will grow.”
Alexandra says customer service and understanding how little things make a big difference has made them successful.
“You should be careful, but caring,” she says. “You’re careful about giving kids things, especially if their parents don’t want them to have another cup. You have to ask, ‘Can they have this?’ And if a kid comes up and asks for a sample, you let them try it. But if they don’t ask nicely don’t roll your eyes at them.”
One last thing, she says, “If you’re not having a good day, don’t be sad about it. You always have another day.”
Editor’s Note: This feature originally appeared in the January 2017 print issue of TheHUB