Forrest “Sam” Carter is used to facing a classroom of students. Usually, however, they are college-aged students and he has more than just 20 minutes to teach them about entrepreneurship and marketing.

Students in the "My First Lemonade Stand: Lessons in Early Entrepreneurship" class.

Students in the My First Lemonade Stand: Lessons in Early Entrepreneurship class at Grandparents University serve cookies and lemonade to customers. Photo by Alan Piñon

Carter’s young students learn concepts of managing, operating, and marketing a business, just like MSU students do in his courses. The difference is that there is only 20 minutes to teach concepts before the youths set up their businesses. Carter’s college students normally get a few weeks before applying the concepts.

Standing in front of a room of about two-dozen kids and their grandparents, Carter asked the young students how to get more money for their red-hot candies than the typical $1 a pound. After much discussion, with kids offering ideas for premium gifts or new flavors, Carter tells them about a company he worked with in Grand Rapids, Mich., that took an ounce of the candies and put them into a “pill” bottle with the name Baditude. The candy was transformed into a gag-gift item that delivers a message and offers entrepreneurs an opportunity to get more money for an inexpensive item.

He explained that people are willing to pay more for gifts that deliver a message to the recipient—even a message of taking care of a bad attitude.

“You need to think creatively, use your imagination,” Carter enthusiastically told the kids and grandparents. Pointing to Facebook, Google, and Apple, he explained that these companies came about because of an idea that was beyond anything like it at the time.

Carter then placed the young students into two teams—green and white. The students took on the idea of a lemonade stand to sell drinks and cookies. They had to name the business, create pricing, purchase products, keep inventory, operate the stand, and market their company.

“They’ll make decisions on location, pricing, marketing, all things,” Carter said. “It’s amazing how instinctive they are.”

The teams chose two different locations—one near a putt-putt course at the entrance of West Holmes Hall where they had the class, and the other near the bus stop in front of the hall.

The young students instantly began trying to drive traffic to their own stands. Then price wars began. The green team immediately chose lower prices, while the white team went for premium pricing. It wasn’t long before the white team adjusted prices downward, but still maintained they had a premium product and kept their pricing above the 25 cents for lemonade and 15 cents for cookies set by the green team.

“We thought about pricing to get it right. We wanted incentive to buy from us, so we thought 25 cents for lemonade and 15 cents for cookies was right,” said Cai Horn, one of the members of management for the green team.

The other team thought that being seen as a premium product—particularly since they had a monopoly for the area—was the right pricing method, according to Alexandra Blomquist, one of the white team’s young entrepreneurs.

Carter watched the teams dive into the project.

“I’ve been doing this for four years. It’s the hallmark of my summer,” he said about leading the class during Grandparents University.

In addition to the early entrepreneurship class during Grandparents University June 30-July 2, Broad College faculty led “Breakfast Cookery”; “Getting Acquainted in Your Global Neighborhood”; “Just In Time” (supply chain management); and “The Nest Egg Game.”