If you looked around the central Kenai Peninsula on Saturday, you might have felt heavy pressure to buy a glass of lemonade. Dozens of entrepreneurs were trying their hands at all kinds of advertising, from sign-spinning to price undercutting, on the streets of Kenai and Soldotna.
All of them were kids. For many, this was their first swing at retail. The annual Lemonade Day, hosted by the Kenai and Soldotna chambers of commerce, encourages kids to try their hands at business by running the most classic of first ventures — a lemonade stand. The weather didn’t play along — Saturday featured intermittent rain showers and overcast skies — but plenty of people still took the time to support the little businesses.
Convincing people to buy lemonade is one thing, it’s another when there are about 25 other businesses doing the exact same thing, some just a few yards away. That makes Lemonade Day an exercise in marketing and branding, as well.
Driving down the Kenai Spur Highway in Soldotna, you could have spotted a unicorn-themed stand and a Star Wars-themed stand, among many other decorations. Kids greeted customers enthusiastically, calling out their wares, which ranged from the basics of cool lemonade to complex baked goods.
Eight-year-old Lexie Caswell operated a busy stand with a decorated wooden bar and tent inside the Around the Corner market on Kobuk Street.
"We have blueberry lemon muffins, we have cake lemon cookies and we have classic lemonade and strawberry lemonade and healthy suckers," she said.
True business owners keep close track of their accounts and Caswell took a page from their book. Using a highlighter and a sheet covered with lemons, she figured she had served 100 customers between Friday and Saturday.
Across the street, Allivia Grossl and Mia Hannevold were serving customers headed in and out of Trustworthy Hardware and Fishing. They made the lemonade themselves from fresh lemon juice and strawberries and attracted customers by adding baked goods, like Reese’s cup cookies, brownies, cake pops and fresh-baked macarons. They hand-made their tie-dyed T-shirts and screen-printed their business name and logo on them, too. Grossl has been baking for a long time and enjoyed the challenge, coming up with ideas from Pinterest.
"I’ve been into baking for a few years, so every time I see something I want to make I just put it on this [Pinterest] board and just scroll through the board and pick out four or five things," Grossl said. "And that’s what we did."
"Almost every single time we go over to her house, we cook," Hannevold added.
Like all first-time entrepreneurs, they said there are things they’d do differently a second time. They wished they had made more brownies, since they sold out of those faster than they expected. Hannevold said a little wrench in their plans came from scheduling.
"All of our stuff we actually had to freeze for a week because [Grossl] went to a camp," Hannevold said. "She actually just got back from Solid Rock this morning, so we had to freeze everything. I made the lemonade last night. It was pretty easy, but it was very sticky."
Despite having a competitor just a few yards away on the other side of Trustworthy’s front door, the girls said they thought business was going well. Hannevold said they had a sponsor that helped with buying the supplies for baking, and that they set their prices to help them make a profit. They said they were planning to use the proceeds to buy school clothes.
About midway through Saturday they were pretty sure they’d make a profit. After all, they were completely sold out of brownies.
Reach Elizabeth Earl at email@example.com.