Entrepreneurship is Dead: Gov't Squashes Sisters' Lemonade Stand

Posted by Mike Tirone - Friday, February 24th, 2012

When referring to the “American Dream” many people look at the underlying morals that are instilled in the nation; freedom, liberty, pursuit of happiness, etc. People come to our country to achieve these values while those blessed to be raised in the United States believe their nation supports whatever dreams they have by granting them an opportunity.

Verizon Wireless recently ran a commercial about "Susie's Lemonade Stand" (seen below) in a “small business” campaign for the phone company. It received rave reviews and viewers found it wholesome and fun. Sadly, that commercial is as flawed as our legal system.

The inspirational motto of being whatever you dream to be is a flawed idea as well. In a country that is so riddled with economic uncertainty, those who have the drive and perseverance are the ones who will succeed out of this financial crisis. But what about those who are trying to make a name for themselves today? Those with the ambition and determination to be the next successful entrepreneur of America have a tough road ahead...

Fox Business's John Stossel reported this week about two young sisters from Midway, Georgia; one 14 years old the other a 10-year-old. Their story is similar to thousands of others and it makes us look more closely at the distorted and tainited image the “American Dream” has become.

The two sisters were doing the right thing, being playful children with the idea of running their own business – a lemonade shop.

They sold their lemonade from the front yard for one day. That day two police officers had stopped by to buy some of their lemonade but the following day two more came by to abruptly close down their lemonade stand.

Angry and disenchanted, the two sisters hoped to have their father get to the bottom of the matter, so he went to city hall to ask why his daughters' stand was deemed unlawful. As Stossel reports:

The clerk laughed, and said she didn't know. Eventually, Police Chief Kelly Morningstar explained, "We were not aware of how the lemonade was made, who made the lemonade, and of what the lemonade was made with."

Morningstar continued to say, “We had told them, we understand you guys are young, but still, you’re breaking the law, and we can’t let you do it anymore. The law is the law, and we have to be consistent with how we enforce the laws.”

This is not a joke. And it's happening more frequently than we think. In Hazelwood, Missouri a group of young, motivated girls were ordered to stop selling Girl Scout cookies. Yes, the same Girl Scout cookies that are a staple of the American system of donation and education to young girls growing to be mature women.

With all of these tight policies and the cutting down of the entrepreneurial foundation of this country, Stossel decided to investigate on how to open up his own lemonade stand in New York City.

Here is what is required to do so:

  1. Register as sole proprietor with the County Clerk's Office in person and over the age of 18.

  2. Apply to the IRS for an Employer Identification Number

  3. Complete a Food Protection Course... that is 15- hours long!

  4. Following the course you must register for an exam which takes 1 hour and you must score at least 70% to pass. One of the sample questions on the exam is (“What toxins are associated with the puffer fish?”

  5. If you pass the exam, you must wait 3-5 weeks for delivery of the Food Protection Certificate

  6. Then you must apply for a Temporary Food Service Establishment Permit. You're required to bring copies of the previous documents and completed forms to the Consumer Affairs Licensing Center.

  7. Finally, at least 21 days BEFORE opening your establishment, you must:

    Arrange for an inspection with the Health Department's Bureau of Food Safety and Community Sanitation. It takes about 3 weeks to get your appointment.  If you pass, you can set up a business once you buy a portable fire extinguisher from a company certified by  the FDNY and set up a contract for waste disposal...

He and his crew attempted to finish this entire process but could not. He says that had they been able to schedule a health inspection and open the stand legally, it would have taken 65 days.

That means that for – 65 days, plus the process and the weeks of waiting for certificates and inspections – if any young entrepreneur is looking to create a summer job to learn about business and make an honest summer wage, that individual would need to start the process around the winter holiday break.

When I was younger, my older brother and sister ran a hot dog cart by the local lake each summer back home in New Hampshire. It was an honest and fun job to have and so I joined them for one summer before they went off to college. Never was there any zoning issues or health inspection certificates that the police were asking about. It was one of my favorite summer jobs and although that cart no longer exists – as my dad sold it as we grew older and left the house – but thanks to those summers selling hot dogs, chips and soda to all of the local boaters, fishermen, and out-of-staters, a large majority of our college education was paid for. We were able to hone in on our business skills and our people skills were enhanced.

Today politicians play the hypocritical note of saying they support entrepreneurs and their foundation to a strong economy, but the bureaucrats make it impossible!

The Federal Government adds over 80,000 page of new rules and restrictions while local government add even more. As Stossel states, “there are so many incomprehensible rules that even the bureaucrats can't tell you what is legal. In the name of public safety, politicians strangle opportunity.”

Whether it's selling hots dogs to go to college, cookies to stay a Scout longer, or lemonade to learn about responsibility, these acts of youthful entrepreneurship is what America is all about. Unfortunately, we are seeing those values being swept out onto the street and into the hands of federal bureaucrats.


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