Leroy's LipSmack'n Lemonade: How a boy with special needs turned sour odds into something sweet
BATON ROUGE - When life gave him lemons, he made lemonade. Then he took that lemonade and became one of the youngest entrepreneurs in Louisiana at 6 years old.
Leroy Hayward III, founder of Leroy’s LipSmack’n Lemonade, has been successful selling his lemonade at Tiger Stadium, the PMAC and even on campus at Mathernes. But, in recent years, he and his family took the business to the next level.
The business was created for several reasons. First and foremost was giving Leroy an opportunity to be successful in something he loved doing.
“It was something that he could do and not have to worry about not being able to hear what people are saying because Leroy has hearing loss," said Sherilyn Hayward, Leroy's mother. "We thought that being an entrepreneur would be something great for him because the world may not give him a chance to be a CEO or be somewhere high in a company because he has a special need."
As it turned out, being an entrepreneur came naturally to Leroy, and the business quickly spread to the far reaches of Baton Rouge.
“Just a month ago, we launched our 16oz bottles, and we are now in pretty much all of the local stores,” Mrs. Hayward said.
Selling the lemonade in stores wasn’t the original plan, though. Leroy made his start selling on LSU’s Campus. Now, with COVID still prohibiting a lot of close contact, a new way of selling to people had to be made. It came in the form of a trailer they can sell from at events while still staying socially distanced.
“The mobile truck will just be another addition to Leroy’s Lip Smack’n Lemonade. It’ll give people an experience just in case they can’t get to a store or they may not be able to come to a game,” Mrs. Hayward said.
Leroy’s father, who oversees a lot of the production and delivery of the lemonade, firmly believes that when it comes to special needs children, you have to find what they’re good at and help them go in that direction to become even better at it.
“To have a special needs kid is very, very challenging, and we have fun doing it,” said Leroy Hayward Jr., Leroy's father. “Leroy works in the business, you know. He puts his bottles on the shelves. He rolls his cart in. We don’t tell him he can’t do that. We want him to be a part because this is for him."
But by far the most important thing for the Haywards is charity. A huge portion of their profits is donated to hospitals treating children in the area, emphasizing how this is so much more than just a business.
“Children’s Hospital has done so much for Leroy. That hospital operates on donations. And the work that they do, the caring that they have, you would think that they were getting paid millions of dollars," Mrs. Hayward said.
Leroy’s lemonade has changed lives, including the ones of those closest to him.
“He brings out the best in me and some things I didn’t think I could do, that I learned I could do if put to the test... It made me love my son even more... I’m better with him than without him,” Mr. Hayward said.
In the end, Leroy’s parents want other people to see what he has accomplished and to let that serve as a reminder that nothing is impossible, especially for a child with special needs.
“If Leroy’s difference had not been what it is, we may not be donating to children’s hospitals, helping other children or encouraging other parents to [not] give up on those children. That’s the message we want to portray, you know. Don’t give up on a child with a special need. They just need a little more help,” Mrs. Hayward said.
When you buy Leroy’s lemonade, you not only support him and his business, but you support a cause that changes lives. And what’s more? Try it for yourself and see just how lip-smack’n it really is.
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