Guilderland teen hopes to squeeze future from lemonade business

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While her kindergarten classmates aspired to become princesses, athletes, astronauts and movie stars, Mady Hamilton had her sights set on something different.

“Entrepreneur,” the five-year-old would respond when asked what she hoped to be one day.

Now at 15, the Guilderland High School student is the owner of Mady Squeeze, a lemonade business that she has grown from a small stand and pop-up tent to a licensed LLC that operates out of a trailer she purchased with her earnings.  

“I love what I do because each day is different, it’s different people and different conversations and I get to have fun,” Mady said. “I love seeing people’s reactions to my lemonade when they taste it.”  

Her business ventures began at the onset of the pandemic. As a busy student athlete (she plays varisty basketball, varsity lacrosse and junior varsity soccer), the sudden free time on her hands left the teenager bored. One day, she joined her mother on a trip to the Washington Park Farmers’ Market – and quickly noted the lack of kids at the event.

It was then that she was struck with an opportunity.

Although she always knew she would one day run her own business, Mady realized if she started now she just might be able to save up enough money to purchase her dream car, a blue Jeep Wrangler, for her sixteenth birthday.

“We told her, ‘You have to prove to us that you’re serious about this. You have to come to us with some type of plan.’” Mary Hamilton, Mady’s mother, said.

What Mary didn’t expect was her then 13-year-old daughter to come to her with a comprehensive proposal that included detailed cost projections and in-depth research on how to maximize profits. It was clear, then, that there would be no stopping Mady.

“I realized that if I bought from restaurant supply stores, I could get stuff in bulk for cheaper, like large lemons for squeezing,” Mady said. “I researched where to find the best supplies and what juicer would be most cost-effective and made sure I was getting all of the best ingredients.”

She began experimenting with myriad recipes she found online and even frequented local fairs to sample other vendor’s lemonades to compare products before settling on what she describes as the perfect cup of the lemon-flavored beverage.

In June of 2020, Mady set up her first stand at the Washington Park Farmers’ Market. The morning started off slow and she sat nervously behind the small makeshift stand, wondering if she would leave with any earnings at all. Then, one by one, people began lining up to purchase a cup.

By the end of the day, she sold out of everything.

Her first sale of the day went to Washington Park Farmers’ Market owner Scott Abraham, who had accepted Mady’s bid to set up shop at the event due to his experience seeing children thrive in the setting.

“Kids now are so consumed with electronics and not getting out of the house and not talking to people so I thought it would be a great opportunity for Mady to do this,” he said.

In reflecting on her growth from day one, Abraham said he has no doubt Mady’s future involves a CEO title for a Fortune 500 company. “I can tell just in conversations with her how successful she will be.”

Mady’s method is simple. When a customer places an order, she hand-squeezes the fresh lemons in front of them and adds in a small quantity of sugar, mixing it with the peel to maximize flavor before adding it to a cup with a heap of ice.

Unlike her Tennessean mother’s preference of sugary and sweet, Mady’s product prioritizes freshness and a milder flavor that customers have come to love on a hot summer’s day.

With the money she saved up from the past two years running the business, Mady was able to purchase a trailer for this year’s market season. The vehicle allows her to keep supplies stored more efficiently, a time-saving alternative to packing and unpacking her mother’s car each market day.

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