Parents of little lemonade entrepreneurs find Obama's small biz advice leaves sour taste

A pair of sisters who run a thriving lemonade stand in Texas beg to differ with President Obama's message that entrepreneurs "didn't get there on your own," and several grownups who groom the next generation of small business owners say the kids are right.

Clara Sutton, 7, and little sister Eliza, 4, started CoolBlast Lemonade in their suburban Houston neighborhood, and quickly generated business brisk enough to bring on another employee, younger brother Eirik. Their father said the kids have gotten a business education right out in front of their home under the watchful eyes of their parents -- but with no help from the government.


“Nobody helped them except us," Andrew Sutton, 35, said. "They did it on their own.”

Clara Sutton didn't credit local, state or federal government for the stand's success, and said she's enjoyed learning the ropes of small business.

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“You learn how to make change," Clara said. "We learned about customer service -- that we should always be nice to customers. We learned how to advertise.

“We donate some of the money to charity to help other people out," she continued. "We use the rest for supplies. We might buy a gift for our brother since he’s our employee.”

Andrew Sutton said the children expressed an interest in running their own business and he mostly just got out of the way.

“My wife and I both run our own businesses, so running a lemonade stand with them was showing them what they do," Sutton said. "They were curious how we got money for things. It’s been a positive experience for them."

As for President Obama's take on the debt business owners owe to the government, Sutton, who has his own music instruction business, said he was steamed.

“It was not very presidential," Sutton said. "A leader should lead by being more positive. He should of said, “you guys should be the backbone of the economy.”

President Obama's comments came Friday during a speech to supporters in Roanoke, Va. He said business owners owed some of their success to help along the way, noting that government often provides the infrastructure needed for success.

“If you got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen,” Obama said. "If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."

Jeff Brown, head of Teaching Kids Business, a Seattle-based group that develops programs to teach kids entrepreneurial skills, said Obama struck the wrong chord with his claim that business owes its success to Big Brother.

“I’m not sure I agree with the comments made," Brown said. "I think there is a partnership between government and business but they are not dependant on each other.

"The government tends to justify their spending by touting job creation," he said, "but it’s a self-serving position.”

One of the programs Brown’s organization has created is a lemonade stand plan for schools or parents to use as a means to show children the basics of setting up a business from conception to fruition.

Nellie Akalp, who founded, a legal service for small businesses, told she has taught entrepreneurial values to her four kids, showing them how to operate lemonade and cupcake stands.

“My husband and I have tried to instill in them that you have to be passionate about what they do," Akalp, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., said. "We’ve tried to show them to take things they like and take it to a business concept,” Akalp said, adding that she is currently helping her oldest son Nicholas develop an idea he had for a smart phone app into a viable, real-working, business venture.

“We try to teach them the value of making money every day. We try to show them they won’t have anything handed to them. That if they want success, they will have to work for it,” Akalp said.