Learning About Life By Selling Lemonade

Published on February 6, 2010

Lessons from Lemonade: Prepared4Life Founder Holthouse
Inspires MBA Society to Make A Difference for At-Risk Kids

Prepared4Life founder Michael Holthouse, second from right, greets members of the Bauer MBA Society before his presentation to the group.

Teaching children the basic models of business has a sweet reward, entrepreneur and Prepared4Life founder Michael Holthouse told a group of Bauer MBA Society members during a presentation on Feb. 8.

Through his non-profit organization, Holthouse created Lemonade Day, an annual event designed to arm kids with the knowledge and self confidence needed to succeed both professionally and personally. In his speech, he encouraged students at the University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of Business to share what they’re learning about business to at-risk children.

“What it takes to start any corporation, in so many ways, is what it takes to start a lemonade stand,” Holthouse said. “But kids can get their arms around this.”

Launched in 2007 by Prepared4Life with guidance from Bauer College’s Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship, the first Lemonade Day launched 2,600 lemonade stands around the city of Houston. This year, in May, the event is projected to draw more than 50,000 stands in the city alone and will also be held in cities across the United States.

Lemonade stands can teach kids valuable life, business lessons, Holthouse said.

Children who participate in Lemonade Day are paired with an adult mentor. They receive an entrepreneur’s workbook with basic information about starting a business, including selecting a location, marketing your product and setting prices.

“These are kids as bright and capable as any in the world, but for a whole host of reasons, they don’t see the opportunities out there,” Holthouse said. “Through Lemonade Day, we’ve been able to help hundreds of thousands of at-risk youth by sharing the skills they need to be successful and to take control of their lives.”

He emphasized the connection between achievement through entrepreneurship and finding personal satisfaction by sharing his story with members of the Bauer MBA Society.

Holthouse began his professional career with a start-up company called Chromatics, a computer hardware business. He then helped to launch Apollo Computer, which started with $18 million in sales. It grew in five years to $800 million in revenue and was eventually sold to HP.

After selling Paranet, a network management company purchased by Sprint for $425 million, Holthouse said he wanted to use his business smarts to benefit others. The result was Prepared4Life, a non-profit organization focused on helping children develop life skills through entrepreneurship.

“I had achieved what most people would say is the ‘American dream,’ starting something that isn’t handed to you and building it from the ground up,” he said. “But I wanted to know, is there one silver bullet of knowledge to impart to our nation’s youth to help them become anything on earth they want to be?”

Seeing kids in action on Lemonade Day, he added, illustrates that lessons learned in building a business, no matter how small, can be applied to any aspect of life.

“Within the first 10 minutes of Lemonade Day, you see these shy, at-risk kids turn into these sales and marketing animals,” Holthouse said. “It’s a powerful thing to watch and be a part of.”

By Jessica Navarro