Sharing a Drink of “Lemonaid”

Ever wonder what’s going in Opus College of Business classrooms these days? What are students learning? How are they applying that knowledge? How can you get involved and help them reach their desired outcomes?

You now can see results of student learning and help them as they grow, thanks to the creation of two St. Thomas entrepreneurship students. Tommie sophomores Justin Thunstrom and Mike Dungan created Lemonaid Stand in their Foundations of Entrepreneurship class, highlighting businesses created by students in the class. The website is a donation-based crowdfunding platform designed to connect these startups with the broader St. Thomas community.

“We saw a unique opportunity to create a simple, yet powerful connection between students and those who are interested in supporting St. Thomas entrepreneurs,” said Thunstrom. “Bringing this website to Tommie business entrepreneurs and prospective contributors allows us to help other students raise revenue through donations and, as a result, create meaningful connections that can advance their companies.”

The site currently links to nine other student businesses started in the entry-level entrepreneurship class. People can read about the businesses, donate and reach out to offer advice to these budding entrepreneurs.

“Like other business founders, student entrepreneurs need concept validation, awareness and often times, funding,” said Dr. Jay Ebben, associate professor of Entrepreneurship. “On the other side of things, there are a lot of alumni interested in student initiatives but don't have a good way to find out about them. Justin and Mike are building a platform to facilitate this connection, and the response has been phenomenal. This platform has the potential to create a lot of value in testing concepts and facilitating connections of students with mentors and influencers.”

“We believe alumni are the key to our success,” said Dungan. “As we continue to build a network of people who have interest in the website and reach out with advice and donations, the site will grow and benefit any number of St. Thomas startups. Alumni are critical to our model, in that, many of them have been in this position before and have a lot to offer.”

Thunstrom and Dungan hope to expand their model beyond entrepreneurship classmates to any St. Thomas student with a business. If that’s successful, they’d like to bring the business model to other colleges and universities.

As part Foundations of Entrepreneurship, the first course all entrepreneurship majors take, students must create a business that brings a value to the public. The businesses are small, but are required to earn revenue within the semester. The idea is these students are operating businesses for the first time, much like a child operating a lemonade stand. The class is open to all sophomores and juniors on campus.

In its first few weeks of operation, Lemonaid Stand raised about $250 for the various student businesses, through 10 donations. The website generates its income by charging a five percent fee.