Mason McClure is probably going to be a pretty good salesman when he grows up.
While the 8-year-old was busy hustling lemonade in uptown Normal Sunday afternoon, his mother, Rene, was telling the story of how Mason and his brother, Jackson, now 10, got their entrepreneurial start about five years ago in their neighborhood.
“I discovered through the neighbors that they had sold our neighbors homemade paint brushes,” she said. “They were made out of sticks. I was unaware that they were knocking on our neighbors’ doors selling them sticks. One of our neighbors finally mentioned it. She was very sweet and said that she had bought several of them.”
“We lived next to a cornfield and basically they were cornstalks,” Mason said with a grin.
On Sunday, though, Mason’s product was legitimate. He was participating in an experimental program that introduces students to entrepreneurship by providing them the tools and knowledge to set up their own lemonade stand.
“We had about 30 kids or so and they all seemed so energized about the program,” said Illinois State University professor Doan Winkel.
Winkel and ISU’s Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization worked with 32 students at Thomas Metcalf School in Normal and the Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington to teach basic business skills.
“I had a pretty good day,” Mason said, although his final tally of sales was unknown. A share of the sales were to be donated to the Discovery Children’s Museum, just a few feet from where he had set up his stand.
“I really learned a lot about how to set up a business because you have to make some decisions right away,” he said. “I wanted to make lemonade from freshly squeezed lemons, but then I discovered that it was too expensive. So then I decided to go with a pre-made mix.”
Lemonade Day is part of a national program organized by Prepared 4 Life. Winkel hopes to expand the program to all Bloomington-Normal students from kindergarten through high school next fall.
“We’ve had a lot of fun and it’s a great way to meet people,” said Ellie Landes, who with her sister, Faith, set up shop at Anderson Park in Normal. “We learned that when it gets busy, you have to work really hard because you don’t want unhappy customers. But, I kind of liked it when it was busy. That was the fun part.”