Kindling flames of entrepreneurship

Monday, May 22, 2017

News-Miner Community Perspective:

The independent pioneering spirit upon which Alaska was founded and populated is still part of our state’s DNA. However, with two generations of dependence upon one primary revenue stream, you could make the argument that Alaska’s pioneer spirit has dwindled. As Alaskans, we now find ourselves at this critical juncture, redefining our economy without a sound investment strategy going forward.

Investing is not just about what we do with our money, but where we spend our time, energy, and other resources. That can take place now, in the expectation of some benefit, a profit, result or an increase in value, in the future. By investing wisely today, we can recapture and cultivate that pioneer spirit and teach our kids financial savvy and innovation to grow Alaska going forward. One way to do this is Lemonade Day.

Lemonade Day Alaska is a free, fun, experiential learning program that teaches young people how to envision, plan, start, own, and operate their own businesses — lemonade stands.

On June 10, kids from across Fairbanks will put their business plans into action, setting up and operating their lemonade stands. Parent, mentor, or teacher business partners help with logistics and guide these young moguls through the multilayered decision making process — stand location, lemonade recipe, marketing, decoration and especially how to think about their profit. Kids can choose to “bootstrap” and fund their stands with their own earnings or seek outside investment to finance startup costs. Lemonade Day encourages kids to set three financial goals for their lemonade stand proceeds, answering the questions “What will I spend?” “What will I save?” and “How will I invest in my community?”

This is a perfect way to introduce kids (ages 5 to 14) to the nuts and bolts of entrepreneurship, a vital part of Alaska’s future. By working through the steps of opening a lemonade stand kids are not only introduced to entrepreneurship but also experience it. Of particular importance is the creation of new jobs for ourselves and others that meet the wants and needs of the community (such as lemonade on a hot sunny afternoon). In planting the seeds of entrepreneurship and thinking like a “job maker”, this program also cultivates the idea of giving back by investing in efforts and opportunities that serve our community and form the underpinning of a healthy, interdependent and resilient, Alaska economy.

Lemonade Day Alaska is a program of the University of Alaska Center for Economic Development in partnership with its platinum sponsor, Wells Fargo. Here in Fairbanks, Information Insights is the community manager and the Boys and Girls Club of Fairbanks is the pick-up location for Lemonade Day bags. We also have volunteers and organizers from PDC Engineers, Alaska Small Business Development Center, the Fairbanks Children’s Museum, and Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation. Lemonade Day is part of the 2017 Year of Innovation calendar of events and part of the Innovate Alaska (2.0) collaborative effort to diversify Alaska’s economic base.

The work on Lemonade Day is not only the responsibility of parents and mentors, but it’s also the entire community’s opportunity to support kids as they try their hands at entrepreneurship, a concept that still needs to be fostered and developed in our community.

To participate:

• Parents can register their kids directly at bit.ly/2q53Poz. Youth-groups can register multiple kids by contacting Jamie Hansen at jamie@iialaska.com.

• Companies can host a lemonade stand. Many kids live in areas without high foot-traffic while many businesses and events are located in just those areas. We are recruiting businesses and event organizers to share their location with a young lemonade stand owner. Businesses and organizers can register at bit.ly/2qCwFAP.

• Find out more about upcoming events, how to register, and becoming a business host on Facebook at Lemonade Day in Fairbanks.

Remembering that this is “our community, our economy and our responsibility,” we work hard to diversify our economy in order to build a sustainable future for Fairbanks and Alaska. The payoff for all of our effort is empowering our youth to be Alaska’s entrepreneurs and business people of tomorrow. What better way to rekindle the pioneer spirit and forge a sustainable Fairbanks community going forward?

Juliet Shepherd is a project manager with the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp. & Jamie Hansen is the Lemonade Day Fairbanks Community Manager and Senior Consultant at Information Insights.