interview by Jamie Lober
Get in on the Lemonade Day action!
Gaye Jackson is a woman of influence in our community who strives to make a difference among our youth. She is the city director for Lemonade Day Houston, an organization whose mission is to help today’s youth become the business leaders, social advocates, community volunteers and forward-thinking citizens of tomorrow one lemonade stand at a time. Lemonade Day 2019 will be held May 4 and 5.
Are you a Houston native and what are some things you like about the city?
I surely am a Houston native. I was born at Hermann Hospital, grew up in Spring Branch and attended Spring Woods High School. That ‘can do’ attitude in Houston is simply the best and the thing that makes the city so very special. I love the diversity and the many options of things to do on any given day.
How would you describe yourself?
Some people say I am a Southern Belle on steroids. I get a lot of comments about my energy level but who would not be full of energy drinking all the lemonade we do around here!
What do you like to do in your free time?
When I have free time, I capture those rare moments of leisure. I love to travel with my 12-year-old son Jackson. We like the outdoors and hiking. I also love cooking, reading, theater and adorable Dachshunds.
What is Lemonade Day?
Lemonade Day is the brainchild of our founder, Michael Holthouse. The mission is to prepare youth for life through fun, proactive and experiential programs infused with life skills, character education and entrepreneurship. The foremost objective is to help today’s youth become the business leaders, social advocates, community volunteers and forward-thinking citizens of tomorrow. We want to build self-esteem and new mindsets that can propel youth to success they likely would not have pursued otherwise.
How did you get involved with Lemonade Day?
I have been a successful entrepreneur and know the empowerment and freedom it can offer. Our visions are on target because I believe that children need to be taught financial literacy and need a hands-on process of what it means to plan, begin and manage a business.
Describe your role and some of your greatest accomplishments.
I had a prominent floral business in Houston for 30 years. We were recognized as one of the Top 100 Fastest Growing Businesses by the Greater Houston Partnership. We were also voted the Top Wedding Florist for 9 consecutive years.
What are the goals for the organization and how can people help?
The goals for the organization are to train children to become entrepreneurs and to teach them how to manage money. These are instrumental life lessons that will benefit today’s children for tomorrow’s successes. Involvement is what we need from our community such as mentors, sponsors and most of all parents and grandparents to sign their child or grandchild to participate in Lemonade Day. We have kids that had lemonade stands years ago that are mentors now.
What are the benefits of teaching kids about what it takes to run a business? What life skills do they learn during this experience?
It seems kids get asked about what kind of job they want when they grow up. We ask kids what they want to build. There is a fundamental and powerful difference. We open the windows and doors of possibility to children. Lemonade Day is about teaching leadership. We teach the entire process from creating a business plan to how to correctly count change back to the consumer.
Can you share a Lemonade Day success story?
At the age of 4, Mikaila Ulmer participated in Lemonade Day in Austin. What is unique about her lemonade is that it uses her great granny Helen’s recipe with all-natural ingredients including honey and flaxseed. Five years later at age 9, Mikaila pitched her product, Me & The Bees, on Shark Tank and today at age 13 her lemonade is buzzing off the shelves in Whole Foods Market locations and other natural and organic grocers across the country. Her lemonade is now stocked in more than 500 stores across the United States. Mikaila sells 360,000 bottles of her lemonade a year and is one of the youngest business owners in the United States.
Are there certain values you hope to instill in Houston families?
My goal for the future is to breathe more oxygen into the Lemonade Day events in Houston. This is an exceptional and much needed program that I want to make super great. The child who creates a lemonade stand takes pride and ownership of what he has created. We help families come together in a wholesome and fun way where it is hard to pour lemonade and conduct a transaction while also being glued to video games or texting on one’s phone. It is a hands-on family thing.