BROWNSVILLE – On July 27th, thirty Brooklyn kids will get a chance to run their own business. Through the national Lemonade Day program, led in the borough by city director Bryan J. Guadagno, these children have been building their business plan, learning about financial literacy, and finally, will sell their lemonade at the Brownsville Recreation Center.
Guadagno, who is originally from New Jersey, says that the program’s teaching first starts with a need.
“For instance, I want to buy ‘x’ and ‘x’ costs $100. [We teach the kids about] identifying ways to go about getting that $100. I can either ask my parents, or I could go earn it. The kids that are participating in Brooklyn are inner city kids and don’t really have the luxury of asking their parents. It’s sort of a liberating program for them and they can get empowered on how to go about earning money for themselves,” Guadagno told Bklyner over the phone.
Participating children mostly come from the program’s partnership with the Central Brooklyn Economic Development Corporation (CBEDC), but also include some individual signups. The program offers forgivable loans to the kids participating who may not have the money at home to buy stand supplies. If they don’t make enough profit to pay back the loan, it’s forgiven, but they do need to pay it off before keeping any profits for themselves.
“When you see how inspired kids are when they actually start collecting money it’s a pretty powerful thing. It’s a day where communities come together and celebrate this entrepreneurship, because it’s something that’s very under talked about. Financial literacy is really overlooked in a class setting, and in our mind that is a travesty,” Guadagno said.
Brooklyn provides its own set of roadblocks for the program. In other cities, kids have the liberty to set up stands virtually anywhere—their front yards or in public parks. In New York, food safety and handling laws can stop the stands in their tracks.
“[The city] just creates a whole set of challenges. This is a day where they don’t have to worry about those challenges. They can just be kids and sort of walk through starting a business without [the] extra things that come in New York City,” Guadagno says.
Organizers decided to hold the event at the Brownsville Recreation Center (1555 Linden Boulevard) this year, instead of last year’s location, McCarren Park, to offset some of those challenges. According to Guadagno, it will take place on the same day as the annual Old Timers Day, so participating children will be alongside professional food vendors and will already have foot traffic for their stands.
Lemonade Day in Brooklyn has been growing slowly since its original trial run three years ago, which included about twelve kids. They are up to thirty this year from last year’s nineteen, but Guadagno says that they may be at capacity there for now, citing concerns about having too many stands in one place, which would undercut the children’s profits, and a lack of infrastructure in holding the event in more than one place.
“We’re sort of growing around our foundation. We don’t want to grow too big too fast, but the ultimate goal is for every park in Brooklyn for one day of the year to host kids in this event. For kids who have the financial wherewithal, from their parents and their backgrounds to participate on their own, [they can] have guidance with where they can set up. We’ll have individual food handlers licences on premise, and food safety licences on premise. We’ll take care of all the permitting for each individual park, and kids will have the autonomy to set up in those parks around certain areas. So, that’s really the goal, one day out of the year where we have a partnership with the Parks Department, where kids are able to do this at the park of their choosing,” Guadagno said, adding that the program would still provide support for children without the at-home finances through their after school programs, and partnership with the CBEDC.
The Brooklyn event has its own set of sponsors in addition to national donors. This year, that list includes Brother Printers, Staples, and Dawn Foods. Both Dawn Foods and Brother Printers made “very generous capital contributions,” while Staples has donated a $200 gift card to every participating child.
“It’s incredible. We want these companies to be recognized, because our goal is entrepreneurship in the area. We’d like to bring more companies into this pursuit,” Guadagno said.
To donate, or to get involved, visit here, or find them on Instagram @lemonadedaybk. You can attend the event on Saturday, July 27th at the Brownsville Recreation Center, located at 6931, 1555 Linden Boulevard.