Lili Malone, 8, brainstormed a front yard ice cream stand with profits split between her college fund and Milwaukee's Hunger Task Force. C.T. Kruger
Lili Malone wanted a job. One where she could help others and make a difference in the world.
The only problem was Lili's age: She was 7.
So she got creative and got to work. She dreamed up a business plan and opened an ice cream stand in front of her parents' home on North 73rd Street in Wauwatosa. Lemonade stands 'happen way too often,' Lili said.
'A 7-year-old can't go around asking for a job, but they never said anything about a 7-year-old running or making a job,' said Malone, now 8. 'So, that's what I did.'
The young entrepreneur first pitched the business plan to her parents, Sean Malone and Erika Kent, more than a year ago in the dead of winter. That following summer, in July 2015, Malone still hadn't dropped the idea, so her parents got on board.
She drew up designs for a bright pink cart that would hold the ice cream, which her uncle built. She computed margins with her dad and scoped out the ice cream selections at local grocery stores to learn where she could get the most bang for her buck. Her family purchased ice cream flags and banners online, printed business cards that read 'Lili's Ice Cream Stand' and launched a Facebook page to track the venture's progress.
Making ends meet
At least once a week, Lili sets up her stand and waits for people to stop by. Each ice cream treat (chocolate tacos, Popsicles, Creamsicles, etc.) is sold for $1, but Lili doesn't keep all the profits. She donates half of all proceeds to the Hunger Task Force, a free and local food bank in Milwaukee. The other half is deposited into her college fund.
'Having all the money to myself just didn't feel right,' Lili said. 'I decided to give it to a charity, and summer is the Hunger Task Force's hardest part of the year.'
Milwaukee's child poverty rate is 43 percent, said Hunger Task Force Executive Director Sherrie Tussler. During the month of August — notoriously the month when hunger reaches an all-time high as summer programs that would offer meals in many cases come to an end — donations from organizations like Lili's Ice Cream Stand go a long way.
'She's such a great news story,' Tussler said of Lili. 'You've got an 8-year-old girl who's not only running her own business, but donating half her proceeds to a local charity.'
To date, Lili has raised nearly $370 for the Hunger Task Force, with the same amount also collected for her college savings. She was recently invited to Ray's Wine & Spirits' 55th anniversary party July 24. She set up her stand and sat outside for about four hours in intense heat selling ice cream. She raised more than $90 that day — her most profitable day so far.
'I sold almost all of my inventory,' she said.
Determination goes far
It's not uncommon for Lili to sit outside for hours, waiting for passers-by to stop and check out the stand. Some days are busier than others, but Lili is outside, usually for two to four hours at a time, at least once a week. The job comes with its perks, too — Lili can have one ice cream treat per shift.
At night, after the sales day is over, Lili turns in and calculates her totals alongside her parents.
Lili's parents said they're proud of her efforts.
'It's also just amazing to see not just her instinct to help, which is heartwarming and wonderful, but her perseverance and the way that she does all this,' Sean Malone said.
Lili said when she grows up she'll consider a career in writing, music or acting.
'If everyone in the world acted like Lili, the world would be a much better place,' Tussler said.
Lili's Ice Cream Stand posts updates to its Facebook page when Lili will be out selling ice cream. You can find the page by searching for 'Lili's Ice Cream Stand' on Facebook.
To donate to the Hunger Task Force visit hungertaskforce.org and click on 'donate.'