Citrus Saturday is a refreshing lesson in fun, fulfillment and financial reward for young entrepreneurs

21 August 2013

Josh, Andrew, Daniel and Oliver set up their first business, Albalous’ Juices, on 2nd July 2011. On their one big day of trading, the entrepreneurs achieved a profit of over £100. They were thrilled with the result. “I didn’t know much about running a business before but after this my knowledge had developed much further,” says Josh.

Citrus Saturday Kids

For he and his partners, all from William Ellis School, were just 14 years old, and they made their money by selling lemonade on one of ten stands set up in various locations in Camden by pupils from schools across the borough. They had taken part in the first-ever Citrus Saturday, an initiative set up by UCL Advances, one of the partners in the Open Innovation Project, to encourage young people to consider becoming entrepreneurs.

Tim Barnes, Director of UCL Advances – the university’s centre for entrepreneurship – and the originator of the initiative, says: “Citrus Saturday is a fun, absorbing and – most importantly for the kids – financially rewarding day of setting up a lemonade stand. It is modelled to be as much like running a small business as possible and will hopefully give them a taste of how rewarding making a living this way can be.” Through a series of workshops and exercises, young people learn how to set goals, develop a business plan, establish a budget, seek investors, provide customer service, save for the future and give back to the community – not to mention earn money for themselves.

Citrus Saturday is inspired by Lemonade Day in the US: following its inception in Houston, Texas in 2007, Lemonade Day is currently in 28 cities, with plans to grow to 100 US cities and a million stands by 2013. Like its American forerunner, Citrus Saturday’s success depends on parents/guardians, teachers, youth leaders, volunteers and charity workers entering into the spirit of the occasion with as much enthusiasm and energy as the children themselves.

As Camden’s largest employer, UCL plays an important role in the community; every year around 600 students take part in charitable projects. UCL’s Volunteering Services Unit (VSU) recruited, vetted and trained 20 volunteers to lead the young people through two workshops, where they tried out different citrus recipes; learned about planning, budgeting and selling; and built and decorated their stands. Tracey Williams, Head of Learning Support at William Ellis School, says: “The boys were thrilled to be invited to the university, where they were treated as adults – something that is not possible in a school setting.” The students also accompanied the teenagers on Citrus Saturday itself.

Maria Stanoniu (BSc Mathematics and Statistics) had worked with children in her home country of Romania. She was looking for volunteering opportunities after finishing her final exams, and found the concept of Citrus Saturday “new and interesting”. She says: “Our role was to support and encourage our team members – without doing any of the work for them. It was important that they achieve the goals themselves, otherwise they would not get the most out of Citrus Saturday.”

The design of the programme and the commitment of the volunteers meant that teachers and parents/guardians had ancillary roles to play, encouraging the young people to sign up for Citrus Saturday. Many teachers and family members chose to get more involved, though, and supported the young people by turning up on the day to buy a glass of lemonade or two.

The legacy of Citrus Saturday has lasted far longer than a few hours’ frantic selling on a hot summer’s afternoon. Teachers have noticed that taking part in Citrus Saturday boosts a child’s confidence, helps them to think creatively and even get along better with their classmates. Tracey Williams says: “At school, children have a chance to do well at their studies or sports. For children who don’t fit into those categories, Citrus Saturday gives them a chance to shine at something else. A couple of the boys who are regarded as disruptive in class proved to be very good at motivating a team or engaging with the public.”

Many student volunteers will go on to become teachers after graduation, and gained invaluable experience working with young people. Others will be able to add their participation in Citrus Saturday to their CV when they come to look for a job. Moreover Josh, now 16, is keen to become a volunteer to help him gain at a place at university. Participants who reach 16 are encouraged to volunteer in the future – this is a key way to develop the programme, with mentors from past years’ participant groups working alongside next year’s budding young entrepreneurs.

Following 2011’s successful pilot, Citrus Saturday went UK-wide and beyond in 2012, with similar events taking place in Edinburgh, Somerset and Dublin. Tim Barnes hopes to introduce the concept to the rest of Europe within two years, by which time Citrus Saturday will have become a self-sustaining charity. “It’s the legacy of the funding from Interreg, without which we could not have come this far. What better tribute to the value of a programme like Open Innovation than to be able to go on without it?” he says.

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