Paul Nutcher The Ledger, Lakeland, Fla.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Meet the 13-year-old entrepreneur who is celebrating her 5th, yes 5th year in business.
What started as a fund-raiser to propel a 9-year-old into acting, ended up becoming a lemonade business for its founder "Queen" Michaelah Williams.
"I started out of my front yard with eight-ounce Styrofoam cups," said "Queen" Michaelah, the mini mogul behind Queen's Lemonade Palace, LLC, which has grown in ways only the energetic, personable girl could manage.
Her business has become an entity, fast approaching its 5th anniversary, with enough inertia to have a much larger impact on her life and the communities she serves. Inspiration and service could be the monarchal maven's secret ingredient.
As word spread of her business in Central Florida, she sat on a panel of experts at the Tampa Pioneer Magazine Luncheon in February and inspired other kids to start a business — spawning hair and nails enterprises by other the kids who heard her story of never giving up, according to her godfather Scott Simpkins.
Simpkins founded the I'm Proud of Me mentoring program, which offers tutoring and other services to kids in need of support to stay out of trouble and help with their homework.
"Determined, with a love of people," Simpkins said of Michaelah whom he has known for four years. About her businesses, he added, "She likes to see what a glass of lemonade can do to make someone happy."
Liquid refreshment is just part of her business model. She has a big heart, and has donated profits to an animal shelter, a homeless shelter, Lakeland Police Athletic League and The Gentlemen's Course, Inc., a nonprofit organization educating in etiquette, human rights, and human trafficking prevention awareness.
That group nominated her for its Gentlemen's Course Freedom Award last year and she was honored with the Human Rights Hero Award, according to a recent media report.
Queen's Lemonade Palace now has merchandise, including t-shirts, packaging in pouches and bottles but the burgeoning business still has a homespun touch.
"I took my grandma Cynthia's special tea recipe and used it with lemons instead of tea bags!" said the now 13-year-old, who has always preferred the title of the monarchy over a mere princess. Of the company name, it's something she has put some thought into.
"My nickname is 'Queen' (I would like to change my legal name to Queen one day), my product is 'Lemonade' and my mom has always told me 'I'm pure royalty' and that one day I'll have my own special 'palace,'" she said. "So I put those special things together because they all describe me."
"I also didn't like 'lemonade stand,' everyone uses that term and I wanted to stand out and make my products stand out just the same," she added.
Drinks by Queen's Lemonade Palace come in five flavors: Original Lemonade, Strawberry Lemonade, Tropical Lemonade, Pineapple Tea and Mango Tea.
So far, Michaelah and her mother Shawntrese Starks, who created the labels featuring Queen Michaelah's smiling face, mix and brew each five-gallon batch in their home kitchen, which takes up to an hour to perfect , adding just the right amount of a secret ingredient that Michaelah and her mom keep under lock and key.
The now-seventh grade student at Sleepy Hill Middle School started out with visits to local businesses and asking them to buy her thirst quenching products. She also went to football practices for several AAU football teams. "After a while some started calling to make orders and we would deliver to them and we still do," she said.
Now she partners with caterers for special events or grand openings, parties, baby showers, church events and weddings. One day she hopes to provide lemonade for teacher's appreciation week.
Her favorite subjects in school are art and language arts. After school she rides horses, practices archery or plays volleyball. She also often goes to the Police Athletic League to play sports.
Head Start teacher Wanda Broadnax taught Michaelah in elementary school and can recall the traits the public sees in the lemonade merchant.
"She loves people, she is an animal fanatic," Broadnax said.
Her love or reading and research must have something to do with her business acumen, Broadnax explained about how her academic strengths translate into entrepreneurial strengths.
"She has always given 110% toward what she does," she said. "She is a go-getter" "She tries for what she wants for the community," her teacher added. "She wants other girls to experience what she has experienced."
As a business-card carrying teenager, she continues to sell Queen's Lemonade Palace beverages across Central Florida. The girl has a regular pop-up retail spot most months at Poor Porkers in Lakeland where the venue guests can try her product.
"Mr. Derick known to our community as 'Deek Beats' — a local advocate for community arts and music and music developer — reached out to my mom for me to be a vendor for his monthly event 'Park Chill,'" Michaelah explained about her regular gig. "After doing a few of the events, the owner approached my mom and told us that I can sell there on any Saturdays that I don't have an event."
Queen Michaelah and Shawntrese have had brushes with entertainment industry stars in the past. Her mother took Michaelah to the Essence Festival in New Orleans several years ago, and someone walking past recognized the young entrepreneur as the little girl selling lemonade in Tampa, according to a Haven magazine report.
"After her ABC Action News interview aired in cities across the country, Queen heard from admirers from New York to Texas and everywhere in between," the report stated.
She has had the business listed with the Florida Department of State for several years. Her next milestone as an entrepreneur is she wants to develop a website. Currently, the sweet and tangy drinks are often promoted online by her mother via posts to Facebook and Instagram accounts.
"My mom does her best to make sure she is helping my business stay current and active," Michaelah said of her mom's marketing prowess. Starks also is the company's shipping department handling the logistics and completing orders so her daughter has time to stay on the honor roll as school.
While she might not have ended up in the California acting school, some celebrities know about the drinks she makes. Famous people who have tasted her lemonade, include actor Jasmine Matthews, who starred in "The Tomorrow War," "Man from Toronto" and the TV show "Sweet Bitter" as well as Latin Grammy Award-nominated Dominican-American singer Anaís Martínez, who also started on "Love and Hip-Hop New York."
She would still like to pursue acting and singing. Her favorite artists include Bob Marley, Doug E. Fresh, Slick Rick, and Michael Jackson, the Haven magazine reported.
By the new year, Michaelah has plans to both refresh and inspire others of all ages in her hometown.
"I am hosting my first Children's Entrepreneur Expo at the Poor Porker on January 29, 2022 where all vendors and entertainers will be 17 and under." she said.
Regarding the prospect of her seeing stores stocking shelves with Queen's Lemonade Palace drinks:
"Not yet, but I hope they will," she said. "Although I also want to own my own beverage trailer so that I can continue to travel with my products and introduce them to the world." ___
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.