MEMPHIS – When Kinyah Braddock was 6 years old, her father laid out a challenge: He asked her to come up with an idea and launch a business by her 10th birthday.
Kinyah did it at 8.
“Apparently, I met that goal,” Kinyah, now 10, told The Commercial Appeal.
Two years after the launch, her company B Chill Lemonade is still going strong. About eight weeks ago, Kinyah’s mom, Valerie Braddock, quit her teaching job to work for her daughter full time, and last month, B Chill moved into the food court of Hickory Ridge Mall near Winchester Road and Ridgeway Road.
Foot traffic at the mall is sparse. Hickory Ridge Mall has no major retailers to attract shoppers in droves, and many of the smaller storefronts inside sit empty. But instead of meeting customers all over town to drop off lemonade, Kinyah now has a shop where customers can meet her and a dedicated space to make her lemonade.
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And this is still the beginning for the young entrepreneur.
She will have accomplished everything she set out to do when her lemonade is available on every continent, she said.
A family affair
When her dad, Demetrius Braddock, challenged her years ago, he thought he was simply teaching her a lesson for her future and giving her a way to make money to pay for guitar lessons she wanted. Now, he says he couldn’t be prouder of his daughter.
He expected it to take a few tries before Kinyah landed on a winning idea and figured starting so young would give her plenty of time to try and fail a few times.
“All you really need is one opportunity to actually make it to where you’re trying to go,” he said. “I expected it to happen later. She hit a grand slam at the very beginning.”
B Chill Lemonade (online at bchilllemonade.com) may have been Kinyah’s brainchild, but success is thanks to the whole family.
Kinyah is the CEO.
Valerie Braddock is the chief operating officer. Around the time Kinyah’s challenge was extended, Valerie Braddock started law school. As a law student, she handled the legal side of B Chill. But as the business took off, she dropped out of law school to focus on building her daughter’s business, a sacrifice she said was difficult but worth it.
Demetrius Braddock, who teaches personal finance, business and entrepreneurship at Memphis School of Excellence High and has a degree in accounting, is the chief financial officer.
Their combined experiences with law, finance and teaching along with Kinyah’s public speaking skills and customer service helped their daughter get the business off the ground.
“Basically you had one baby with an idea and literally everything you need is within the parents,” Valerie Braddock said.
Kinyah’s 7-year-old brother, Demetrius Braddock II, is the store manager.
While her mom runs the business during the day, Kinyah, a fifth-grader, spends her mornings in class at Snowden School. After school, she gets her homework done and takes a short break then heads off to work for a couple of hours each evening.
Valerie Braddock usually has lemons cut and ready and Kinyah dons a hairnet – mandatory while making lemonade – and starts juicing. Between store sales and weekly special events all over town, B Chill goes through about 1,000 lemons and 200 pounds of sugar every week.
Her little brother comes to the store after school too and is learning to make the lemonade as well.
“I love spending time with my family, and this business draws us together even more,” Kinyah said.
Continuing through challenging times
Running a business at such a young age isn’t always fun. Kinyah nearly made it through the school year without her classmates knowing, which was how she had hoped it would remain.
That changed when a teacher learned that shortly after her launch, Kinyah wrote a book – “Chillin’ My Way to Success: The Phenomenal Life of an 8-Year-Old Entrepreneur” – and wanted to read it to her class.
While some of her classmates thought Kinyah’s business was exciting, others thought she might get special treatment from teachers because of it, Kinyah said.
“I don’t like them knowing,” she said. “It could be on a positive side or a negative side. I don’t want to take a chance so I just stick with them not knowing.”
Valerie Braddock said her family has had to deal with bullying, but Kinyah takes it all in stride and has learned how to keep moving toward her goal even when she doesn’t have the support of her peers.
Soon, she will launch her “Pink Lemonade” shoe line, a pink and yellow canvas shoe that will be her first step into philanthropy. A portion of sales from the shoe line – inspired by her great-grandmother’s fight with breast cancer – will go toward breast cancer research.
“There is a lot that comes with it,” Valerie Braddock said. “People see us, but they have no idea, as a family, the hurdles that we have crossed to get to the place where we are now.”
But despite the challenges, Kinyah and her family hope that others see their example and follow their lead and encourage the next generation of black children to launch businesses as well.
As for their family, Demetrius II is up next.
Last year, when Kinyah’s brother turned 6, he was given the same challenge. He already plans to start a lawn care service after his eighth birthday, and his journey is already different from his sister’s – while their parents had to pay her startup costs, because of his paid position as the manager of his sister’s store, he was able to buy most of the equipment he will need with his own money.
His launch is still a little ways off, but he is already waiting for the day when his sister will be working for him.