Meet Jorlaney Oquendo, The 7-Year-Old Puerto Rican Who Started A Lemonade Business To Help Her Community

credit: Courtesy Of The Oquendo Family

At A Cup of Joy, a Houston lemonade stand, sweetened refreshments come with a side of community service. That’s how it’s been since 2016, when first-grader Jorlaney Oquendo opened up her award-winning philanthropic business.

“When I started this, I was five years old, and I’ve [been] doing it since,” the 7-year-old Latina who friends call Joy told FIERCE about her lemonade stand, which donates earnings to a new cause each year.

Over the last two-plus years, revenue from her stand have been gifted to Texas Children’s Hospital, her school’s library and local hurricane recovery efforts.

(Image Credit: Courtesy of the Oquendo Family)

Service-mindedness is a family affair, her mother, Sandylane Oquendo, explains. Joy was born in Fort Hood, Texas, one of the largest military bases in the world, while her parents were active duty. Her mom, born and raised in Humacao, Puerto Rico, and her father, a Puerto Rican from New York, were deployed three times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, so it was only natural they would pass on values of service onto their young daughter.

Hearing stories of family members still without power in Puerto Rico — including having to do homework with flashlights to conserve generator power — and of her half-brothers unable to get in touch with their families for weeks, struck a chord in little Joy — who is donating this year’s lemonade stand revenue to Puerto Rico relief efforts.

“She has always held her Puerto Rican roots close to her heart. She celebrated her first birthday in Puerto Rico with family,” Oquendo says.

Lemonade-making and selling is a family affair. It began with Oquendo’s involvement with Lemonade Day five years ago. The program teaches children how to start, own and operate their own business through building a lemonade stand. Participating cities hold an annual community-wide Lemonade Day the first weekend of May.

(Image Credit: Courtesy of the Oquendo Family)

Oquendo served as a mentor for the program, which started in Houston and then expanded to the rest of the country. She says it hopes to fill a gap for children who may not have the tools or resources to learn about business in the more traditional sense.

“Growing up in a low-income Hispanic family, my parents never talked to me about having a budget or financial literacy,” Oquendo shares. “That was something I had to learn the hard way when I became an adult.”

She got Joy involved with Lemonade Day as soon as she turned five years old. The program has a curriculum that teaches youth to create a business proposal, a marketing strategy and ask for sponsors, but Oquendo started slowly, given her daughter’s young age.

Joy selected the material and built her own lemonade stand with her father. “Their motto is ‘save some, spend some and share some,’” Oquendo said. Joy had to decide what causes were “near and dear” to her heart, and her parents, who act as her investors, promised to match 100 percent of what she raised.

(Image Credit: Courtesy of the Oquendo Family)

The first year, Joy selected Texas Children’s Hospital to help kids fighting cancer, like her own cousin.

“It was completely shocking for her to see a five-year-old boy with his head completely shaved going through a second round of chemo,” Oquendo said. Joy earned $116.25 after selling lemonade for two hours.

She makes lemonade with the help from her grandmother and aunt. This year’s tropical lemonade has mango, pineapple, passion fruit and guava to honor her Puerto Rican roots.

Joy’s lemonade won Best Tasting two years in a row during Lemonade Day Houston. With her résumé, she will mentor other competitors beginning next year.

In 2017, the little one participated in more lemonade sales and found sponsors, generating $457 with a 100-percent match from her investors. She is working to improve her reading and donated proceeds toward Roth Elementary’s library to support school curriculum, reading programs and student requests for specific books.

(Image Credit: Courtesy of the Oquendo Family)

To date, she has raised more than $1,500 for her school by participating in various fundraisers.

But her focus changed when hurricanes Harvey and Maria struck. She wanted to use her funds to purchase non-perishable goods for the displaced and physically volunteer at shelters.

“It is important to me that I help them with what they don’t have,” Joy says. “I can give them money and then they can get food and water when they actually need it.”

She says she feels “very sad” to hear about her family’s situation and wants to help them “so they’re not bad anymore.”

Joy has raised $646 so far and needs $354 more to reach her goal for Puerto Rico this year. The family will be accepting donations and will hold one more sale before heading personally to Puerto Rico in June.

“This will be an experience she’ll never forget. I just don’t want to drop off the donation. I want us to experience what they’re experiencing. Not only will this give more purpose to her cause but make her very down-to-earth and understand not everyone has the resources we do,” Oquendo said.

Read: How Hurricane Maria Has Impacted The Mental Health Of Puerto Rican Mothers

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