Robert Felton started his business, Never Lost Jewelry, while still in high school to help pay for college. After graduating from the Renaissance School for the Arts inside Appleton West, he headed off to the University of Wisconsin-Stout. While there, he continued making jewelry and other items that he sells at farmer’s markets and local stores.
When he first read “Lemonade Stand Economics” by Kaukauna business owner Geof White, he knew it was right up his alley. “I’ve read a lot of business books and this one really says what needs to be said,” he says after taping a promotional video for the book in Appleton North High School’s TV lab. “Having a business can help you pay for school and also make you more confident.”
That was exactly the idea White, who owns Valley Window Cleaning, was after when he sat down and started writing “Lemonade Stand Economics” two years ago. He was watching a college football game and started thinking about college students and the amount of debt many accumulate before walking across the stage to receive their diploma. “I thought if they did what I did – go out and start my own business working for myself – then they wouldn’t be in that position,” he says. “Too many kids graduate college with an enormous amount of debt.”
White began washing windows while in high school. After learning everything he could about it, he went in business for himself, making triple what he had been when working for someone else. After graduation, he took a sales job and did that until one day when he was laid off. He got another job, but was told he would need to relocate. Unwilling to uproot his family, White returned to his roots and launched Valley Window Cleaning.
Today, he juggles that business with his new mission of educating teens about financial literacy and teaching them how to start their business. The book explains the burden of starting out their post-college life deep in debt and how students can avoid that by working for themselves. The first step is to identify something they’re good at, figure out a way to get the word out about what they’re doing (marketing) and then get to work. The payoff is graduating from college without student loans while gaining critical business skills they can use the rest of their lives, White says.
“This book is all about real life and what to do,” he says, adding that he sought feedback from high school and college students throughout the writing process.
For example, he worked with the Appleton Career Academy inside Appleton North High School on a class they had about designing book covers. Students in the class learned the theory behind Lemonade Stand Economics while they worked on designing a cover for the book. White, the father of two young sons, enjoyed working with the students and he continues to partner with them to promote the book.
Soniya Regmi, a senior in the Appleton Career Academy, runs Lemonade Stand Economic’s Twitter account. “Going through this process, I learned that I had business marketing skills, which I hadn’t realized before,” she says. “I also learned that I could run someone’s Twitter account as a job.”
Felton, who provides the graphics and illustrations for “Lemonade Stand Economics,” says it’s key that students advertise they’re using the business to pay for their education. “Go ahead and play the kid card. People really respect when you’re out there trying to raise money for your own education,” he says.
While White works to promote “Lemonade Stand Economics” to both teens and their parents (the book’s last chapter is written for them and encourages them to do what they can to support their child’s entrepreneurial spirit) primarily through social media, he also hopes that schools will pick up the book as a way to teach important financial literacy skills.
He also views “Lemonade Stand Economics” as an entire series with books written specifically for college students, eighth-graders, fourth-graders and budding entrepreneurs of any age.
“It’s real life and real ways you can get out there and start working for yourself,” he says. “I really believe in working hard and working smart to earn money for your education. It’s something any kid can do once they have the tools.”
A CLOSER LOOK
“Lemonade Stand Economics” is currently available as an e-book on both the iPad and Kindle. Author Geof White is also working with a publisher to get a printed version of the book in circulation. “E-formats are the way to go with this demographic. They read so much online,” he says.
“Lemonade Stand Economics” also has an active website with blogs and videos at www.lemonadestandeconomics.com and can be found on Facebook by searching for Lemonade Stand Economics.