In 2013, Anthony Roberson was 7 years old and wanting a new Nintendo DS video game to play while on vacation. Anthony’s parents told him they would ante up for half if he earned the rest.
Anthony and a couple of his pals decided to make moolah by selling (what else?) lemonade.
Krystal Anderson, Anthony's mother, got permission from a shop owner in Savannah, where the family lived at the time, for her son to set up a stand outside his place of business on a busy strip of Martin Luther King Boulevard. Anthony and his friends made well over $200 in a single day.
Some four-plus years later, Anthony, now 10 years old and a fifth-grader at Pleasantdale Elementary School in Doraville, can't remember which video he wanted to buy for his Nintendo DS. Was it a "Lego" one? He pondered aloud. No, it was "Transformers," he corrected himself. His mother recalls that, in the end, she took him to GameStop, where he bought multiple games that were priced two for one.
What is certain is that Anthony became smitten with sales.
“He caught the money bug,” Anderson said, as I sat on the couch in the family’s home in Doraville to learn how a brand called Brown Boys Lemonade came to be.
That initial Savannah lemonade stand, she explained, led to a regular gig. In the spring and summer of 2014 and 2015, a period when the family lived in Beaufort, S.C., to care for an ailing relative, Krystal would drive her son to the Laurel Bay Flea Market where Anthony peddled $1 cups of lemonade to bargain shoppers.
Meanwhile, Anthony’s 7-year-old brother, Ja’Den St. Hilaire, watched from the sidelines. Like most little brothers, Ja’Den wanted in on the action.
Things came together last September when the family turned the beverage gig into a certifiable business: Brown Boys Lemonade.
Ja’Den St. Hilaire (left), 7, and his brother Anthony Roberson, 10, are the owners of Brown Boys Lemonade. Roberson started out in 2013 with a lemonade stand to earn money for a video game. This fall, the brothers began bottling their beverage. (Photo by Ligaya Figueras)
Anthony and Ja’Den now sell their lemonade at festivals, flea markets such as the Hipster Yard Sale in Decatur, and events such as the Atlanta Track Club-sponsored Run Like Hell 5K race, held last October — at which the boys netted a respectable penny despite competing against free bottles of water that organizers handed out to participants.
Gone are the Styrofoam cups. Anthony and Ja’Den now make their lemonade available in 16-ounce bottles ($2) and half-gallon ($5) and gallon jugs ($10).
Someday, said the boys, they want their lemonade to be on shelves in stores everywhere.
For that to happen, a product has to taste great, so we chatted about theirs. They talked about how they arrived at their recipe after conducting taste tests that included versions made with varying quantities of white and brown sugars, honey, freshly squeezed lemon juice and bottled lemon juice concentrate.
The formula they settled on, said Anthony, is “not way too sweet. It’s not something you couldn’t drink on the go.”
They are currently considering other flavors to add to the lemonade lineup, mulling over the likes of strawberry, lemon-lime and cherry, as well as sweet tea.
We moved off the couch and into the dining room, where the table was set up for a lemonade-making demo.
The boys peeled off the sharp black blazers they wore when they greeted me. Underneath, they wore black T-shirts with the Brown Boys Lemonade logo bearing their faces. Under their mother’s direction, they slipped on plastic gloves and got to work making lemonade.
Once done pouring and stirring, they handed me a bottle. I took a sip before they sealed it with a cap. It’s on the sweet side, but the pucker quality of lemon shines through.
As the family quenched my thirst, fed me the backstory and shared their future aspirations, my mind wondered if this kiddie biz that holds promises and dreams is right now a lesson in family togetherness and parental support.
Ja’Den St. Hilaire (left), 7, and his brother Anthony Roberson, 10 are the owners of Brown Boys Lemonade. Here, they give a lemonade-making demonstration in their Doraville home. (Photo by Ligaya Figueras)
When asked what he likes most about Brown Boys Lemonade, Anthony said the lemonade-making process, because the prep work is done while “playing music” and “grooving around.”
Likewise, Ja’Den enjoys “making the lemonade with everyone.”
Their mother is dedicated to helping her children strive and thrive. She’s the one who juggles being the chief operating officer of Brown Boys Lemonade while working a full-time paying job and caring for three kids. (Infant son, Sincere, was on her lap or hip during most of my visit.) She’s the one who went through hoops to get the business certified with the state, and who has gotten the boys TV and radio appearances. She’s the one teaching these kids how to manage money and develop social skills that will serve them far into the future, regardless of whether Brown Boys Lemonade becomes a regional or national brand.
If it does become a hit, the boys are ready with a shtick. They gave me their spiel:
Then, in unison: “And we’re the owners of Brown Boys Lemonade!”
Before I left, the boys handed me their business card — multiple cards, actually. One or two cards was all I needed, I said.
“You can pass them out,” Anthony said, not missing a beat.
The card’s tagline reads: “Quenching thirsts everywhere.”
I wouldn’t put it past these kids to someday do just that.
In the near future, though, there’s still the business of getting an education. So before I left, I asked the boys their favorite school subject. Ja’Den scrambled to yank an honor roll certificate from his backpack. Way to go, kiddo!