When the summer sun bakes the brick rowhouses, what do people want?
Micah Harrigan settled on the same answer that kids for generations have given: lemonade.
“I like lemonade a lot, and I know other people love lemonade, too,” said Micah, who turned 10 a few weeks ago. He’s a slender kid with bright eyes, an easy smile, short locs, and the eye of the tiger.
In this, the summer between fourth and fifth grades, Micah has entered the business world with a lemonade stand. Working around the weather, he runs Micah’s Mixx, selling a half-dozen flavors of lemonade and iced tea from a folding table at 23rd and Sigel Streets in South Philadelphia.
Which might simply be a precocious boy’s passing idea — except that Micah is not playing. Not with a debit card for purchasing supplies and his own LLC for taxes, and now a growing social-media following that is boosting not only his spirits but his bottom line.
“Oh, he’s a go-getter,” said Danielle Harrigan, his mother and a second-grade teacher. “Whatever he tries to do, I try to let him. That’s how I grew up. Try to introduce him to as many things as he wants. You’re never going to find out if you like something unless you try it. He’s amazing at math. He’s creative. I told him: ‘You want to never work a day in your life? Love what you do.’”
The business idea arrived last winter, not the ideal time to sell cold drinks outside. But Micah could plan. He started selling in March. Sales seemed promising. He first packaged the lemonade in bottles and then bags — “like big Capri Suns” — but that proved too expensive. He hit upon 16-ounce clear plastic cups with lids.
And then, “COVID happened — dang,” Micah said, matter-of-factly. He and his clientele were trapped indoors. He spent his downtime playing Roblox, Minecraft, zombie games, and Fortnite (”every kid loves Fortnite”), and plotting his return. He created an Amazon wish list of products that could be used for marketing and advertising.
Nearly three weeks ago, as the city began loosening quarantine restrictions, Micah and his mom set up on the sidewalk, unfurling a blue beach umbrella to ward off the afternoon sun, and put out cups of six flavors of iced tea and fresh squeezed lemonade and a sign advertising cups for $3 or two for $4. Each cup is branded with a Micah’s Mixx sticker.
Someone posted Micah’s arrival on a neighborhood Facebook page. Micah added a post to his Instagram account, @micahsmixx.
Micah’s Mixx sold out and he came back the next day. On Instagram, his followers began creating what Micah called a chain reaction. “A hundred people would promote me, and then another hundred would find out,” he said. His audience climbed past 1,000 on June 29. Not a huge audience, but an engaged one.
Monday’s customers included chef Michael Vincent Ferreri of Res Ipsa Cafe, whose friend Sam Gellerstein told him about Micah. Ferreri finds it to be “almost a Norman Rockwell-esque thing, but it’s obvious he is taking it very seriously.”
Also back for more was Stephanie Russel, a Realtor who lives at 15th and Mifflin Streets. Her first stop at Micah’s Mixx was on June 18. She excitedly went on Instagram to write: “Meet Micah — he’s been out here every day serving our neighborhood fresh cups of lemonade. His goal is to get a lil pop-up trailer so he can do pop-ups around town. He’s 9 and I think he may be smarter than me.”
“This kid touched me,” said Russel on Monday. The stand brought back memories of her best day ever ($24) at her own childhood stand in Secane, Delaware County. “You can tell he’s real. He’s innocent. You can tell he’s passionate.”
She asked her followers to help Micah by sending donations to her Venmo account.
“I figured, I’ll raise $100 and I’ll add another hundred,” Russel said. But the donations poured in from 200 people. On Monday, she pulled up in her VW Beetle and dropped off a check for $4,000.
The day before, Micah and his mom heard from Johnny Fischer, who owns Baby Blues BBQ in University City and had caught wind of Micah on Facebook. “I saw this young entrepreneur out there working hard,” said Fischer, who hooked up Micah with 1,000 cups and lids, plus a case of lemons and 25 pounds of sugar.
“This support feels awesome,” Micah wrote on Instagram.
Danielle Harrigan, blown away by the gestures, said the money would go into his account, for now, as he saves up for the trailer. “They’re crazy expensive,” she said. “We’ll see how much he has at the end of the summer.” Come fall, he wants to deliver and perhaps sell in stores.
For now, Micah is watching the skies and keeping track of sales. He expects his next street date to be Thursday, July 2. He sets up about 2:30 p.m. and lately has sold out in an hour.
Strawberry lemonade is the big seller, followed by blue raspberry. He credits his mom’s part-time bartending job for teaching him about flavors.
Micah said his goal is “to make this successful and to pay back my mom for everything.” College costs money, too, and he wants to attend Morehouse College, though his next academic stop is Girard Academic Music Program, six blocks from his house.
“This is not your average 10-year-old’s lemonade stand,” said Ferreri. “He puts a lot of care into the product. He has the mind-set of customer service and he works very hard and he’s smart with social media. His mom is there, but he very much talks for himself. This is very much his show, and it’s amazing that he feels confident enough to do it. We were talking, and I was telling him: ‘You’ll be great. All you have to do is keep it up,' and he was like: ‘I know. Amazon was started in a garage.’”