OTTUMWA — A new program designed to help children learn how to become entrepreneurs is coming to Ottumwa.

Lemonade Day is a national program, used in more than 70 cities in 23 states, but Ottumwa’s entry in 2020 is the first for any Iowa community. And the goal goes way beyond lemonade.

“We’re always looking for innovative ways to spread the entrepreneurial mindset,” said AJ Gevcock, director of the Regional Entrepreneurship Center at Indian Hills.

Gevcock said Chamber Director Shea Greiner brought the program to his attention, and it immediately sounded like a good option to explore. Gevcock told the city council on Tuesday about the plans, which earned praise from council members.

While the actual day arrives May 16, work will begin in early March with a kickoff celebration. The kickoff at Bridge View Center is designed to help introduce children to the program and what they can accomplish with it.

The goal is to have 30 stands this year, with two children per stand. That’s 60 children in the program for the first year. “We’re confident we can make that happen,” Gevcock said.

Children who register will receive a free backpack with an entrepreneur workbook or access to an online interactive program. They learn how to plan their businesses with mentors and seek out investors to help them get started. After they pay back the investors, the profits are theirs to keep.

Registration is open now at lemonadeday.org/ottumwa. There’s a considerable need for the community to support the event. Organizers need the youth who want to run the lemonade stands and mentors who can advise them. Sponsors are also needed to host the stands.

Getting children to think about businesses while they’re young can have a significant effect on their lives for years to come. Gevcock said a significant number of those who participate in Lemonade Day as children wind up starting their own businesses at some point later on.

“We want to make this an annual event. Why wait to high school or college to start learning about business?” he said. “Our focus is on making this an event that’s embraced by the community.”

The kickoff celebration is scheduled for March 7. Lemonade Day itself arrives May 16.

Matt Milner can be reached at mmilner@ottumwacourier.com and followed on Twitter @mwmilner

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Managing Editor

Matt Milner currently serves as the Courier's Managing Editor. Milner is a trained weather spotter and is usually outside if there are storms. He joined the Courier in 2002.

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