Eleven-year-old Layla Goodwin stood proudly in her bright yellow t-shirt that declared her a “Future Entrepreneur.” The Portland Elementary School fifth-grader, who someday wants to design her own clothing line, was soaking in the sunshine and the lessons in mid-April as she and her classmates ran lemonade stands on Belknap Campus to learn the basics of business.
About 50 students from the school practiced newly learned entrepreneurial skills on unsuspecting UofL students, staff and faculty. Called “Lemonade Day Louisville,” the project was run by undergraduate UofL students taking a corporate social responsibility class and was part of the ongoing Elevate Portland Initiative, a support program the College of Business launched in 2015 as a way to help give back to the community.
On a day when warm afternoon temperatures seemed to draw everyone on campus outside, the fifth-graders staffed six tables, tempting their potential $1-per-cup customers with added strawberries and paper umbrellas. Many had made signs and prepared special cheers and dances to attract attention.
Layla said she didn’t know what the word “entrepreneur” meant until her teacher explained it to the class. But now she knew that her dream of designing clothing for “famous people” (complete with “bling,” she added) could someday become reality.
Her main takeaway? “You’ve got to be respectful” to customers, she said.
Elshadai Smith-Mensah, one of the student organizers, said her fellow students went to Portland classrooms a few days earlier to give the fifth-graders lessons in success, such as how to set goals and make plans. Hopefully, the students will later “apply these steps toward future projects,” she said.
Teacher Crystal Waddell said the experience was invaluable.
“Even just being on a college campus,” is something most of them could not imagine. The fifth-graders got a special tour from their student leaders and had a chance to eat lunch in The Ville Grill.
Waddell said that the classroom lessons combined with the sales day showed the students that, “Our experiences at school carry over into life.”
That is one of the main goals of the Elevate Portland Initiative. Activities with Portland are aimed at encouraging students to stay in school, graduate and go on to post-secondary education. To achieve that goal, the college provides not only motivation but the basics, including snacks and warm clothing. Every fall, children who may otherwise not have them receive warm sweatshirts, each with their future graduation dates printed on the back.
“The Elevate Portland Initiative is a terrific example of our dedication to community service in the College of Business” said COB Dean Todd Mooradian. “Our students, staff and faculty have worked with Portland students to expose them to the wealth of opportunities available if they stay in school, graduate from high school and go to college. Teaching entrepreneurial skills is one of the things we do best, and exposing the children at this young age may light the spark of business creation in them. Best of all, the Lemonade Day experience gives students, staff, and faculty better empathy, broadens their horizons, and develops the habits of engaged citizenship.”
Jenna Haugen, assistant professor of management, whose students organized Lemonade Day, said the college was thrilled with the results.
“Students from Portland Elementary were able to learn entrepreneurial skills including business planning, marketing and sales tactics,” she said. “Our UofL students who are learning about corporate social responsibility were able to better understand the importance of giving back to strengthen relationships with the community. It was a great day filled with sunshine, lemonade and great learning opportunities.”
As the afternoon came to a close and the excited children started counting the dollar bills stuffed in plastic cups on their tables, one boy couldn’t contain himself: “Five more dollars to a hundred!” he yelled.
With their goal — pizza parties — within sight, the children cheered.
UPDATE: The students made a total of $670 at their stands. In addition to the pizza parties, the children will donate to two charities of their choosing and will provide funding for teachers to purchase school supplies.