Last week, 10-year-old entrepreneur Vivienne Harr stole the show at the National Small Business Week kickoff event at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters. Harr, founder of the charitable lemonade company Make A Stand, shared her “lemonade lessons” with the crowd of small-business owners and advocates.
Harr was only 8 when she saw photographer Lisa Kristine’s image of two young Nepalese brothers carrying heavy stones down a mountain. When she learned that these boys were slaves, she immediately decided that she wanted to end child slavery. So in May of 2012, she did what many kids do, and set up a lemonade stand near her home in Fairfax, California, except the money she earned didn’t go towards candy and toys. She charged “Whatever’s in your heart” and gave all proceeds to charities fighting for her cause.
As word got out about her mission, Harr continued to sit at her increasingly popular lemonade stand every day, and in December, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg invited her to sell her lemonade in Times Square. By the end of the day, she had raised $US101,320.
She told her parents that she wasn’t going to stop until child slavery no longer existed, and they decided to help her turn her cause into a real company called Make A Stand. Five per cent of profits from every professionally produced bottle of fair-trade, organic “lemon-aid” goes toward the company’s foundation, which works towards Harr’s goal by funding organisations like Free The Slaves and UNICEF. The company says its foundation has raised over $US25,000, and UPS recently announced it would donate $US1 for every bottle sold through December, up to $US10,000.
In January, Harr’s father Eric quit his job to dedicate himself to her goal full-time, and he’s now in talks with two major grocery chains for distribution rights.
We caught up with Harr to find out how she successfully started a business and rallied people around her cause (with a little help from her parents). She shares some of her “lemonade lessons” for entrepreneurs and small-business owners below.
1. “Thinking like a kid” can help you overcome setbacks.
“Kids don’t see a lot of the obstacles in the world,” Harr says. She thinks that more adults could benefit from the idealistic optimism that comes with being a child. Failure has never once crossed her mind as she and her family worked to turn a lemonade stand into a real company. And her dad said it’s her unwavering optimism that inspired him to leave his job and work towards realising her vision.
2. Social media provides a great way to build trust with your customers.
Leave it a 10-year-old to harness the power of social-media marketing. Harr’s successful outreach to celebrities and activists on Twitter introduced her to a national audience. She says that social media provides her and her parents with a tool to reach out to customers, and that these interactions build trust because they show that her enthusiasm for the movement is genuine. When you’ve personally convinced people to support your company, they become brand ambassadors.
3. If you grow too fast, you can forget why you started.
Harr wants her business to become successful, but she doesn’t want to let too many people join and turn it into just another big company.
She wants to keep her team small enough so that she still has influence over the overall direction of the company. She says every owner has a responsibility to his or her company to “keep it pure.”
4. Giving back is a win-win situation.
Harr doesn’t expect every business owner to dedicate so much of their business to charity the way she does, but she thinks that it’s a great idea to give your company some charitable aspect. There’s the good you’re doing, and in practical terms, “it makes more people want your product,” she says.
She thinks that the charitable business model compels more people to give to charities, and since buying these products makes people feel good, sustains itself.
5. You have a shot at success if you “start with your heart.”
As a final piece of advice, Harr says that the only way entrepreneurs have a chance of being successful is if they start a business because they’re following their passion.
She believes so strongly in Make A Stand that she wants to make her foundation her life’s work. And she thinks she’ll get her first major goal completed in just a couple decades. “I plan on ending child slavery by the time I’m 30,” she says, “and then I’ll find another cause.”
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