DJ Bailey has proven he can squeeze dozens of lemons and make some tasty lemonade.
The owner of DJ's Famous Lemonade followed his dream and now is the youngest member of the Hopkinsville-Chamber of Commerce -- at age 9.
The fourth-grader at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School has been in business for nearly two years with help and support of his parents, Deariel and Tarreka Bailey, and many family members and friends.
At age 7, while visiting his grandparents, Roberta and Robert Shelton, DJ was inspired by a YouTube video to set up a lemonade stand to raise money to help his hometown.
"So, I called my momma and asked her and she said 'yes,' " he said. "So, I could give back to my community, my children's church and my church. Then, save the rest."
His mother said she thought opening a lemonade stand would be a learning opportunity for DJ.
"My initial thought was this is a good opportunity to teach him the value of a dollar," she said. "What it has taught all of us is that it's a lot of hard work we put into the stand, but it's such a rewarding feeling you get when you watch your son inspire thousands of people. There's no words that can describe the feeling when people tell me how proud they are of him."
Growing a business
DJ's business started small with just three flavors and a lemonade stand made of crates. In two years, he has expanded his flavor choices and upgraded his stand.
"When I was 7, I had three flavors and I wanted to have more flavors. So, my mom and me and my auntie sat down and talked about what everyone else would like," he said. "Flavors are sour apple, strawberry, peach, raspberry, cherry, watermelon, passionfruit."
See Squeeze/page C6
DJ is tightlipped about the recipe for his famous lemonade, but guarantees his product with his slogan, "We Squeeze to Please!"
His most recent flavorful addition is called "junk" lemonade -- a name derived from his love of candy and "junk" food.
"We put the lemonade in. We put the candy in. Then, the Twizzler is like the straw," he said. "We started it as an experiment to see how many people would go for it. Mostly, a lot of people like it."
DJ said he personally taste-tests all of his products. When the flavor is not right, he "adds more water or sugar."
DJ's Famous Lemonade sells drinks by the cup. Cost is $2 for 16 ounces and $4 for 32 ounces of the refreshing drink.
"We hand squeeze a lot of lemons," his mother said.
In response to customer requests, he now offers lemonade in all flavors by the gallon for $6.
"That's a lot of work for Mom," DJ said.
"We are expanding," Tarreka said. "Everybody have wanted gallons since we started, but I just like the idea of the stand. We will venture into it and see what it would take. We are trying it out. We're getting good feedback."
The Hopkinsville-Christian County Chamber of Commerce officially welcomed DJ in a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday afternoon at the home of grandparents Patricia and Willie Albert, the first place he set up his lemonade stand.
"This is a celebration," said Robin Tabor, chamber director of membership and fundraising. "We're excited to have you as a chamber member."
A crowd of about 50 relatives, chamber members, friends and patrons joined the celebration, drinking several glasses of DJ's fruity concoction.
Chamber member Karen Knight sampled a glass of strawberry lemonade.
"It's very good," she said after taking a sip. "To be this young and to be this motivated and want to do what he's doing, he's been an inspiration to a lot of people -- not only kids, but adults."
DJ thanked the crowd for their support in a hand-written speech.
"Thank you all for the support you have given me on my journey as a chamber member," he said. "I want to thank my team for believing in me and my vision ... I also want to thank all my supporters. Every single person who has visited the stand, I appreciate you. My goal is to inspire other youth that they can do other things they put their mind to, set goals and work hard; you will go far.
"Thank you Christian County Chamber of Commerce for growing my business and meeting other business owners just like me. Last, but not least, I want to thank God because without him none of this would be possible."
Lee Veervoort stopped by the ribbon cutting to see the upgraded, bright yellow-and-blue lemonade stand he constructed for DJ.
"I see a young man approaching the business world at a young age," he said. "He's doing good with it. I see the potential. He's on to something good here. He's setting a good example for other kids too."
Tarreka said she has seen her son grow through his lemonade stand experiences.
"I always wanted him to grow up to be a responsible citizen, a responsible adult," she said. "I just feel like the (lemonade) stand has taught us responsibility and has molded him for the last couple of years to be a servant. It did more than we ever could have imagined. There's no amount of dollars that we can put on that. I feel like that (lemonade) stand just taught us so much."
Owning his own business makes DJ, "excited, fun, happy and a lot of other things," he said. "I like people coming and supporting me, and I like to give back."
Throughout the years, DJ has given donations to the Salvation Army, the Boys and Girls Club of Hopkinsville and Christian County, and the local Relay for Life in memory of his Aunt Vendella Leavell, who passed away in December.
As the weather gets warmer, DJ's Famous Lemonade will be available after school at the Boys and Girls Club and on Saturdays at local businesses and events. His marketing team, Aunt Cassie Davis, Joe and Tierra Leavell, posts his upcoming events on his business Facebook page.
With additional support from his grandmother Belinda Bailey, DJ said he wants to keep upgrading his stand and expanding his business. He plans to donate his older lemonade stands to other children to start their own businesses.
He offered some advice to other child entrepreneurs.
"To follow your dreams and work really hard," he said.
Reach Michele Vowell at 270-887-3242 or email@example.com.