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Meet the young entrepreneurs behind Seattle's floating lemonade stand

Quinn and Kate Carner's "Lemons for Good" donates a portion of earnings to nonprofits and micro-loans

SEATTLE — This story was originally published in 2021, but the lemonade stand is back open for 2023.

Boaters, kayakers and paddleboarders on Lake Union are growing accustomed to hearing a youthful voice calling out across the water, "Come get your lemonade!”

The voice belongs to Kate Carner (age 11) and occasionally her sister Quinn (age 8) as they work their summer job: serving drinks from a floating lemonade stand.

Like lots of kids their ages, the sisters wanted to serve their neighborhood. Only problem? Lake Union is their neighborhood.

"We moved to a boathouse so we can't really have a lemonade stand because there's nowhere really to do it,” Quinn said. “So we decided to do a floating lemonade stand."

With the help of their dad Ned, the girls painted an old playhouse, secured it to floats, installed a battery-powered engine and launched their dream.

"First we usually make our simple syrup, and then we have to cut the lemons,” said Kate, prepping on the dock before heading out on a Monday afternoon.

The float is equipped with a machine that squeezes the lemons, so each cup is made from scratch. The girls also sell Italian ice popsicles.

Between the fresh-squeezed flavor and the novelty, the stand is a magnet for customers. It often starts before they even hit open water, as neighbors flag them down for a drink.

Credit: Ned Carner
Kate and Quinn painted an old playhouse for the structure on their lemonade float.

"One guy, he was on the other side of the lake and then he saw us and started paddling over really fast with the biggest smile we've ever seen,” said Quinn.

Kate agreed that he had the biggest smile she'd ever seen.

One cup of lemonade costs $3 and the girls accept cash, Venmo or Apple Pay.

Just like a regular lemonade stand, the sisters operate independently - but they're never truly alone.

Their dad follows behind on a kayak or in an electric boat and remotely drives the float, which is Bluetooth-enabled.

"The first time I went out on a standup paddleboard, so I was trying to standup paddleboard while controlling the boat. Which didn't work,” Ned said, laughing. “It is just so much fun, the smiles you get to see, and the reactions.”

Credit: Kim Holcomb
The sisters accept payment in cash, Venmo or Apple Pay - making it easier for water recreationists to pay.

But the best part may be where the profits go. After paying for their supplies, the girls split their earnings between giving, saving, and spending.

"Dad gave us a loan to start our business, so we have to give other people a loan to start their businesses,” Kate said.

The girls pay it forward by making micro-loans to women in developing countries via the website KIVA. They also donate one-third of their sales to their favorite nonprofit.

"Rainier Animal Fund gets veterinary care to animals whose owners can't always afford the money for,” Kate said.

Quinn added, "We like animals and we wanted to support the homeless."

As for their “spending money,” the girls used their earnings to take their cousins to the Space Needle.

For a schedule of when Quinn and Kate’s Lemonade Stand is on the water, follow their Instagram account “Lemons For Good.”

Credit: Kim Holcomb
After paying for their supplies, the girls split their earnings by giving, saving and spending.

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