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  • Tara Crutchfield

Queen’s Lemonade Palace

Royalty since birth, ‘Queen’ Michaelah Williams graces others with her positive presence and tasty lemonade. According to her mother, Shawntrese Starks, as soon as she was verbal, she would tell people, “I am not a princess. I’m a queen.”

Twelve-year-old Queen is living up to her monarchical moniker by setting an example for others with big dreams like her. Her favorite subjects in school are Art and Language Arts, and when she isn’t hitting the books, you might find her riding horses, practicing archery, or managing her own business, Queen’s Lemonade Palace.

Queen started her lemonade business when she was nine. “I needed money so that way I could go to California,” she said. She wanted to travel there to pursue acting and needed $5,000 to do it.

Her mom helped her come up with the concept to raise money. Where some parents have rigid expectations for their children, Shawntrese said, “For me, it’s what does my child want to do? And whatever she wants to do, I’m going to do whatever it takes to introduce her to that. If she likes it and that’s what she wants to do, then I’m going to do whatever it takes to make sure that continues. […] It’s a joy being able to see her doing something that she wants to do and being happy doing it.”

Queen’s Lemonade Palace held its first pop-up lemonade stand at a football game. “It did really good, and then I stopped for a little while,” said Queen. “I decided that I wanted to go back to it again, and people really liked the lemonade, so I kinda sorta had to.”

The business grew organically as Queen sold her original, strawberry, and tropical lemonade along with mango and pineapple tea across Central Florida. Shawntrese says she is often recognized when she’s out and about as ‘the lemonade girl’s mom.’

Shawntrese took Queen to the Essence Festival in New Orleans several years ago, and someone walking past recognized the young entrepreneur as the little girl selling lemonade in Tampa. After her ABC Action News interview aired in cities across the country, Queen heard from admirers from New York to Texas and everywhere in between. Shawntrese uses these moments to teach Queen always to provide the best service and do what’s right because you never know who is watching or who you might meet.

Queen missed the deadline for her California dreams, but not one to let anything take the wind from her sails, said, “I tried. That’s all that matters.” She would still like to pursue acting and singing. An old soul with a love for music, some of her favorite artists include Bob Marley, Doug E. Fresh, Slick Rick, and Michael Jackson.

Her small lemonade operation didn’t stay small for long. Queen now receives regular orders from a growing customer base which her mom is happy to deliver. Queen has developed a brand with labeled bottles and pouches displaying her smiling face. “It took some time, but I got help from family,” she said of building her business. “Everybody helped me along the way. They gave me courage and told me not to give up.”

Shawntrese and Queen are currently working through the logistics of shipping, with goals to be on store shelves one day. “Once I get to a point where I’m in stores, I’ll keep going, but I will also try to pursue my other dreams,” said Queen.

This lemonade leading lady is using her platform as a young, successful female entrepreneur of color to inspire others. One social media post with photos of her riding horses, doing archery, and selling lemonade read, “I AM Black History in the making.” Queen said, “I hope that I inspire people and let people know that no matter what the condition is or what’s different about you, you can still make history no matter what, and nobody can tell you different from what you already know and what you believe.”

A propellant for her hard-earned success is a contagiously positive perspective. “I get my positivity from people who inspire me like Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman and other business owners from back then and now,” she said. “People and rappers and stuff, they come from a hard time. Because of their positivity, they rose, and they were able to accomplish their dreams.”

What does the mogul in the making envision for her future? “My dreams are to become a veterinarian, to own lots of animals, especially exotic ones. I want to own a farm, and I want to own my own veterinarian business so I can be my own boss, and I don’t have to work for anybody else because if I do, then – chaos. […] It will also teach me the responsibility of ordering stuff on time and making sure everything’s in place.”

Queen’s love of everything equestrian started when she was a toddler. When a horse got loose in a field near her house, Queen told her mom they had to help the animal. “She was very adamant – she started crying,” said Shawntrese. “The horse walked right up to her.” They called animal control and stayed with the horse until someone could come to help. “After that, I just became infatuated with horses and other types of animals… except for rats,” she said.

When Queen was five, her grandmother took her to the Fort Pierce ranch of a horse veterinarian named Mrs. Stacey, where she started training with horses. “She’s always wanted to work with animals,” said Shawntrese. “Kids change their professions all the time, so I thought by now she would change it. Nope, she wants to be a vet, and she wants to specialize in farm animals. She wants to be like Mrs. Stacey and have this big farm and have her veterinarian’s office right on the farm. She wants to house sick animals and take care of them.”

Asked if she had expected her lemonade stand to grow into the force it is today, she said, “Actually, I didn’t. It’s small, so I thought that this is going to help me and I’m going to make a little bit of money, so it’s going to be like a small business like all lemonade stands that sit on the corner. After it progressed, and more people noticed me, I thought maybe there is some hope in this, and maybe I can make enough money to save for college and help with the community and help my mom pay the bills, so I can also do what I have to do to help the world.”

Doing her part to help her community, Queen has donated money earned through her lemonade pop-ups to the animal shelter, homeless shelter, Lakeland PAL, and The Gentlemen’s Course, Inc., a nonprofit organization educating in Etiquette, Human Rights, and Human Trafficking Prevention Awareness. She was nominated for the Gentlemen’s Course Freedom Award last year and was honored with the Human Rights Hero Award.

She discussed why The Gentlemen’s Course is especially important to her. “Because I can learn how to stay aware of my surroundings […] and to learn that I have rights too. […] It’s also to help other people learn to stay safe,” she said.

Queen says that her favorite part of selling her lemonade is “Making people happy.” And she has advice for other youth with entrepreneurial dreams, “Never give up. Keep trying. If it doesn’t work out, then try a new idea but keep that same idea but put a little twist to it. Keep trying, do your best, and if it doesn’t work, it’s okay. Just don’t give up.”

Awed by her daughter’s accomplishments like many who meet Queen, Shawntrese said, “The majority of the time I’m overwhelmed. Simply because I raise a normal twelve-year-old, a normal kid in a normal setting, and she is just so extraordinary. Everything around her is normal, it’s ordinary, and she brings out the best in everything and everybody she comes in contact with. That’s a blessing.”

To patron Queen’s Lemonade Palace, reach out on the social media linked below or give them a call. The recipe is top secret and pure magic – we recommend the strawberry lemonade!

Queen’s Lemonade Palace

FB @QLP2018

IG @queens_lemonade_palace_



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