She and her 8-year-old daughter, Kylee, are building a program that teaches entrepreneurial skills to kids between the ages of six and ten, and encourages them to execute real-world projects.
“I started this because of what I witnessed in school with my children,” Antico said in an interview with VentureBeat. “It is hard for today’s public schools to go outside of the core curriculum because the test scores in reading and math or so low. But I wanted my kids to think outside of the box and be creative. I don’t really care if they ever start their own business. I want to focus work on letting a child’s mind be what a child’s mind is. They are full of spirit and creativity, and when you apply it into the real world, who knows what can happen?”
Little Ladies Inventing Fun Through Entrepreneurship
Antico began by inviting a small group of friends and neighbors over to her home in suburban Virginia for informal meetings. She has a doctorate in social entrepreneurship and founded Practica Partners, a Washington D.C. consulting firm that focuses on entrepreneurial innovation. She applied her professional expertise to break down a business plan into a format elementary schoolers could understand.
During the weekly sessions, the girls learned about how to create and sustain business ideas, iterate quickly, adapt and adjust through teamwork, and communicate effectively with coworkers, customers, and adults. They work on their own projects and present to others in the group. The informal gathering grew into lLifte, which stands for “little ladies inventing fun through entrepreneurship.” It now involves a core curriculum, a “badging” system similar to the Girl Scouts, and a revenue model.
“Selling something is simple,” Kylee said during the interview. “You go up to house in a wagon, ask if they want cookies, and of course they do, so they give you the money, and you give them the cookies. I wanted to work on real problems and ideas. I’ve got a little chest and a lot to get off it!”
The pilot program only involved 10 girls, but like true entrepreneurs, Antico and Kylee saw opportunities for expansion and growth. Kylee wanted to include boys in the program, and Antico wanted to create a scaleable model that could be replicated around the country. They sat down (over juice and cookies) to create Tomorrow’s Lemonade Stand.
Tomorrow’s Lemonade Stand
Tomorrow’s Lemonade Stand is the online version of lLifte. It is a kid-run virtual lemonade stand that teaches entrepreneurship. It is an online community of “mini-preneurs” who work together to set out and achieve business goals. On the site, kids can customize their stand and test out ideas on their peers. Antico said it has a “LinkedIn for kids” component, where kids can network and find friends with similar interests. It also has educational lessons on financial literacy, planning, organization etc…
Right now, lLifte and Tomorrow’s Lemonade Stand are in the early stages. lLifte’s club program is starting in its first school this spring and will then open up to schools, communities, and after-school programs in the Washington, D.C., and New York metropolitan areas. After that, Antico intends to expand nationwide.
For the online version, the roadmap includes building a series of online episodic games where kids can complete projects and receive awards. The games will be available as an annual subscription.
Plenty of programs across the country seek to develop kids creatively and prepare them for “the real world.” lLifte, however, falls at the interesting intersection between the need for female entrepreneurs and national discussions about entrepreneurship as a way to address America’s economic woes. Ultimately, Antico said her goal is to “teach creativity, help kids find their passion at an early age, and teach them how to take a risk.”
Kylee’s goal, on the other hand, is a little simpler.
“If you are an entrepreneur, you get to design your dreams and make your own rules,” she said. “You are your own boss. If you are your own boss, you have a pretty stinking cool life.”
Check out Kylee’s Declaration of Minipreneurship:
Photo Credit: lLifte and Tomorrow’s Lemonade Stand