IT’S NOT a day for lemonade. The weather is threatening tornadoes and hail the size of lemons.
But then Kyleigh McGee, age 7, wearing a bright floral dress, comes hopping into the studio on one hot-pink-stockinged foot, and all of a sudden it feels like summer.
“You’re never too young to start a business,” says her mother, Gabrielle Williams, as she tightens the white leather straps on Kyleigh’s sandals, pulling various grooming sundries from a doughnut-print backpack. After all, when Kyleigh first took her lemonade stand mobile, moving it off her grandfather’s lawn and onto the streets of Little Rock, she was only 6. Scratch that—she was almost 7. And that makes a difference, especially when you’re a tiny entrepreneur selling 500 cups of your signature pink lemonade in a day and dreaming up new menu items like the always-a-sellout Pineapple Paradise, a snow cone served in a hollowed-out pineapple.
We ask Kyleigh how she makes the lemonade. “It’s a secret,” she says softly, looking at her reflection in the mirror as her mom brushes her hair.
Here’s what’s not a secret: Kyleigh. When asked about when things changed, when Kyleigh’s Lemonade Stand went from being a lesson in independence to a full-on viral sensation, Gabrielle says it was “after we were on the news,” though it takes a follow-up to know if she’s talking about that time Kyleigh was on the local channel—or that time she was on Good Morning America. At the exact same moment, Kyleigh is making her lemonade face for a photo, sucking in her cheeks as if she’d just gotten a mouthful of sour. She’s a natural, this kid—though her mom is quick to tell you it’s not all play. Kyleigh works hard. It takes them three days to get ready for a festival—that’s usually where Kyleigh’s Lemonade Stand sets up shop, at local events—and Kyleigh works long hours. Last summer, her seventh birthday was celebrated with a cake at Movies in the Park, in between customers.
But as both Kyleigh and her business grow, her mom, an entrepreneur herself, is determined to make a positive impact on other tiny CEOs. They’ve recently been chatting with other kid entrepreneurs, she tells us: One little girl wants to launch a lip-gloss line; another wants to sell chocolate-covered strawberries. Our ears perk up. Because if these kids ever team up, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with—and we’ll be the first to invest.
7 (turning 8 on June 7).
Heading into the third grade at Forest Park Elementary School.
The World According to Humphrey, which is about a journal-keeping hamster.
Favorite hot-dog topping?
“Blank” (aka plain).
Favorite snow-cone flavor?
“Sassy apple, pineapple and orange, and Blue Hawaii, all mixed up.”
When she’s not making lemonade?
“Making slime” (aka glue, food coloring and saline solution).
Favorite thing to do during the summer?
“Go to the pool, go down water slides and swim in the pool.”
Follow Kyleigh at facebook.com/kyleighslemonadestandandmore or on Instagram at @kyleighslemonadestand for updates on where and when she’ll be slinging Pineapple Paradises this summer.