Zoe Mack, a 9-year-old entrepreneur from Urbana Highlands, is set to serve her product at a New York gala this Sunday.
Her brand, Zoe’s Pink Lemonade Soda, is made for all to enjoy—but especially with kids like Zoe in mind, given its kid-centric gift packs, vibrant colors and plushies. It’s a dream that came together almost by accident.
It all started last year when Zoe’s parents, Jenna Mack and Jason Brown, gave their six children a choice during “bring your child to work day.” As entrepreneurs themselves, Mack and Brown hatched a plan to let their kids try a more hands-on experience.
“We told them they could stay home if they wanted, but they had to start their own business,” Mack says.
Zoe jumped right in and decided she wanted the American classic, a lemonade stand. But Zoe’s lemonade story is far from typical. She worked with her aunt to create a logo, designed marketing materials, helped her father build the physical stand, created signs, ordered supplies, distributed flyers and even created her very own recipe.
She launched her business on National Lemonade Day, May 1. After a successful first weekend, with more than 40 customers even though in the pouring rain, Zoe’s parents offered to help her expand her business—to craft soda.
Their investment in her idea led to a soda made with real cane sugar, sold online in a direct-to-consumer model that launched last July.
Leading up to the launch, Zoe and her mom found a business in Connecticut that made private labels and went up there themselves to see where they were made. Though they supported Zoe each step of the way, her parents also let her take the lead as she worked on each aspect of her business from the marketing to the packaging.
“Zoe spent a lot of time thinking about the box design,” Mack says. “The big box of soda is designed so if you cut the design out it turns into a doll-sized lemonade stand.”
Her primary customer is young girls like herself, so adding a sense of play to the shopping experience was important. Kids aren’t only getting the soda, but a way to continue the fun.
In a news release, Zoe notes that the small boxes can be reused as a storage box for little toys and doll clothes. The smaller soda packages also come with a plush toy designed to look like an adorable pink lemonade with eyes.
“She really wanted that “kawaii” look,” Mack says, admitting she didn’t know what the term meant at first. “Kawaii” is an aesthetic of being cute, tiny or lovable in Japanese pop culture.
This is all part of the plan, according to Mack. The goal for Mack and Brown as parents isn’t about the business, it’s about teaching Zoe how to take the lead and break out of her shell. At home, Zoe is a leader among her siblings but outside she can be shy.
“Business can bring a lot of things to kids. She enjoys making a little bit of money but it’s bigger than that. It’s about broadening her horizons,” Mack says.
Zoe’s leadership and creativity pair with her sister’s Taegen’s outgoing personality like lemonade and a hot summer day. Taegen, 7, loves helping her sister out at events as Zoe’s Pink Lemonade’s unofficial director of marketing.
Both sisters appreciate different parts of the business. For Zoe, the best part is selling the lemonade. For Taegen, it’s helping her big sister.
The hardest part for Zoe was making the many choices that come with designing a business. “Picking the colors for the stand and making the recipes was also pretty hard because I’m very picky,” Zoe says.
Zoe’s parents are careful not to let the pressure of business overwhelm her, though. Pink Lemonade isn’t Zoe’s only interest. She also likes going to school and riding horses. To make sure Zoe doesn’t get overscheduled, Mack says they let her do a few events this spring and summer.
First up is the gala this weekend—an exciting opportunity to not only share her business, but to support other kids, too.
The Passing It on Gala 2023 is for Rosie’s Theater Kids, an arts and education program dedicated to bringing theater opportunities to children who may otherwise not have access. The program provides dance, music and drama classes along with mentorship and academic guidance.
After the trip to New York Zoe plans to get ready for the summer season, planning weekend events and marketing her product to local shops.
Zoe hopes local stores will agree to carry her product so more people can try it and because Zoe thinks it would be “really cool” to see it when she’s out and about with her family.
To support Zoe’s business and learn more, visit pinklemonadestand.com or @ZoesPinkLemonadeStand on Instagram and @ZoesPinkLemonade on Facebook for the latest updates.