City Allows Kids to Sell Lemonade, If They Sign a 3-Page Vendor Contract

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Kids with lemonade stands are an adorable and refreshing part of summer, and last year the city of Ottawa shocked and annoyed a lot of people when it shut down a couple little girls for running an unlicensed lemonade stand during its weekend bike events. This year the kids are back, though, and Ottawa has come up with a creative solution to the “children are technically operating unlicensed food stalls” problem: They’re licensing them.

From May to September the city of Ottawa operates “Sunday Bikedays,” where it closes down some roads for several hours to allow people to bike on the streets where there’d usually be cars. The bike days are a very popular event, and according to the Global News, last year two little girls decided to take advantage of all the business and sell lemonade to the bicyclists. Unfortunately, the city shut them down for operating a foodservice stand without a permit, but the public response was so furious that Ottawa just gave the kids a business permit and let them operate their stand.

Shutting down little kids’ lemonade stands for not having a license is pretty darn ridiculous, but now the city of Ottawa has taken last year’s licensing drama and turned it into a pretty cool program to help encourage and develop young entrepreneurs.

Ottawa kids between the ages of 5 and 17 who want to open lemonade stands or other businesses during the Sunday Bikedays events can get real permits allowing them to do so.

To get a permit, the kids just have to fill out a form with their information, what kind of business they want to run, and where their stand would be located. They have to pick three Sundays where they will be present, and agree to a few general conditions that include “You must be sure that the beverage or other product you sell is safe for consumption” and “You must be sure to keep your work area and kiosk clean at all times. When closing for the day, be sure to remove all litter and installation.”

It does also say that if the kids are putting up signs, the signs must be in both English and French. The kids also must keep track of how much they make and agree to donate 7 percent of their proceeds to the cause or charity of their choice.

The city is also offering optional training workshops to help kids set up and run their kiosks.

A parent or guardian also has to read and sign the contract. All-in, the contract is three pages long, and a lot of that is information for the parents.

At first the idea of making kids sign contracts to operate lemonade stands sounds ridiculous, but it’s probably a much better lesson for the kids in terms of business and entrepreneurship than just pitching a cart somewhere and selling lemonade for a dollar until they get bored, which they can still do in front of their houses if signing up for a Bikedays kiosk is more than they want to take on. But for kids who want a bigger challenge, the Bikedays Young Entrepreneur program seems like a good way for kids to learn a lot about starting a real business. For starters, the kids have learned that to start a business as an adult, permits must be obtained and contracts must be signed. They know about safety rules and responsibility. These are actually pretty great lessons for little kids about how to start a business.

The contract the kids sign is a simple, three-page version of a normal vendor contract that was simplified specifically so kids would be able to understand it. It’s not a “real” contract the way it would be for an adult, and it’s not too long or too complicated for kids.

This is a pretty neat program that helps kids feel like real businesspeople. They make plans in advance, come up with an idea, and see it through to the end. It’s all very grown-up. Hopefully they’ll also make a ton of money and get a good college application essay out of it, too.

(Image: iStockPhoto / lewkmiller)