Toronto woman goes part-time at work to pursue family business side hustle
A Toronto woman has actually gone part-time at her job to work on making her family's dream of running a business together come true.
And when it comes to a family business, what's a better idea than the best lemonade stand ever?
The idea for Bold Lemonaide began back in 2017, when Nacile Sharpe whipped up what she calls some "dinner juice" for her family, and her husband Keifer had an instant reaction.
"My mom made a drink with similar ingredients years ago and I remembered how much I loved it, so one evening I thought, 'I have lemon, ginger, and some sugar, I'll just serve this with dinner.' The moment my husband, Keifer, tasted it he said, 'What the heck is this? We have to sell this,'" Sharpe tells blogTO.
"I was taken aback and told him to pump the breaks because this was just some 'dinner juice.' After hounding me for months and making countless people taste it, I was sold. As our business and recipe evolved through its infancy stages, he took over the sales and I kept mixing."
They call their product "lemonaide" because it's intended to be higher quality and better for you than the average lemonade. It's made with alkaline water, fresh lemon juice, organic cane sugar, organic ginger and pear essence imported from Grenada to bring a West Indies flavour. They've also done features like strawberry lemonade.
"Ginger is tricky for most people because people instantly associate it with ginger shots, which if you don't prepare yourself to breathe fire, can be very unpleasant. When people taste our lemonade, they are skeptical at first, but that look on their faces turns into euphoria. It's such a pleasure for us to see," says Sharpe.
"In addition to that, we add a few drops of pear essence which adds a je ne sais quoi to their palate. You can taste it but can't associate it with anything you've ever tasted."
Consumed hot or cold, the drink is so fresh it has to be consumed within five days. Prices start at $12 for a 32-ounce bottle of their classic ginger lemonade without cane sugar.
When lockdowns began in 2020, the family had to move in with Keifer's mother to reduce expenses, and then just a few short months later he was off work due to an injury. Still, they decided to pursue the business.
"I was the only one making a full-time income. What a decision. We have children, bills and debt. We believed if we could give it our all and get into as many events as possible while getting it into stores and selling online, we would be better off than having nine-to-five jobs," says Sharpe.
"I went part-time. We believe in our company. We have a great thing that deserves all the attention it could get, so I left my office job and started driving trucks between five and nine at night."
Keifer now handles sales, distribution, in-person professional/business connections and picking up ingredients. Nacile is the kitchen manager but also handles digital communication, customer service, marketing, website development, contact with other companies, onboarding support staff, payroll, live event search and coordination, invoicing and bookkeeping. Their daughter Mia helps with social media.
The family works on manufacturing, packaging, content creation, communications, serving and selling at live events together. They also take on some extra helping hands at events and in the kitchen once in a while.
Though the business has been a long time in the making, Sharpe says that due to restrictions over the past years, this past summer was really their first opportunity to get out and sell their lemonade in person.
"The most memorable would have to be Gluten Free Garage at Wychwood Barns on May 29. Outdoor events can be nerve-wracking because spring weather is finicky. It was a hot, sunny day, perfect for lemonade and we were overjoyed. We prepared hundreds of 32-ounce bottles and hundreds more 20-ounce cups but we weren't ready," says Sharpe.
"As soon as the gates opened we were off to the races. Our line was a consistent 15 people deep for four straight hours. At that time I had only a moment to glance up. I told Keifer, 'I think that line's for us,' and he said, 'Isn't that the line for the vendors next to us?' We quickly learned the customers were all ours."
They worked non-stop that day without a break until everything they brought sold out, which it did with two hours still left in the day.
"Some days it's wild and we argue, are frustrated and still making orders. But most days, it's absolutely beautiful. We spend so much time together and watch each other grow out of our comfort zones. We do everything with our own hands and feel deeply accomplished knowing that we’re front and centre for our success," says Sharpe.
"We also love having the opportunity to donate our time or our lemonade to students or individuals experiencing homelessness. Relieving memorable moments like selling out at events or about the many things people say keeps us doing it every day. Most importantly, our daughters get a first-hand view of what it takes to be an entrepreneur."
As for the future of Bold Lemonaide, the family is hoping to continue to expand the business at events but also at restaurants and grocery stores but also incorporated into cocktails, mocktails and smoothies. They're also hoping to continue "giving boldly" going forward with philanthropic efforts.
Bold Lemonaide can be purchased online for pickup, shipping or delivery, or you can continue to catch them at events. Subscription packs are available. You can also find Bold Lemonaide at Nicey's Food Mart in Mississauga or Bonnick's West Indian Grocery in York.
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