A shot of flavor is headed for Hy-Vee as the grocer gives a KCK-raised kidtrepreneur the chance to stock his sellout product in a limited run.
“It’s amazing,” Nelson McConnell, the 11-year-old owner of Nelson’s Flavorades, said of the opportunity to sell his lemonade blends on store shelves.
Beginning Saturday, customers can visit the Mission Hy-Vee at 6655 Martway St. to purchase McConnell’s original, watermelon, and strawberry lemonade in 16- or 32-ounce bottles. Surprise flavors in partnership with Torani Syrups are also expected to make an appearance, he said.
The product will be restocked every Saturday through March 3.
McConnell launched Nelson’s Flavorades when he was 8, born out of his desire to help friends and family cool down in the summer heat, he recalled.
“It was the hottest heat wave I have experienced personally,” he recalled. “My mom was planning our annual flea market at church and I wanted to make money like everybody else — I didn’t want to feel left out and I wanted to help people.”
Having squeezed success with the event, McConnell (with the help of his mother, Adorian Lewis) began hosting pop-ups, quickly catching the attention of customers throughout the greater metro area and earning recognition from groups that include the The Heartland Black Chamber of Commerce, which recently named him its youngest member.
McConell’s entrepreneurial skill set was further forged through participation in the Wyandotte County E-Ship Rising program, Lewis said, noting work with Sheyvette Dinkens, founder and chapter lead, poured the opportunity to partner with Hy-Vee.
“He was able to really step up the level of service and product that he provides,” she said, noting Dinkens reached out to Hy-Vee to discuss McConell’s success.
“Nelson is why E-Ship Rising exists,” Dinkens added. “There are so many youths in Wyandotte County that have the drive, grit, and hustle. However, they lack the connection to resources and mentorship. At E-Ship Rising, they’re able to craft their own life narrative and have agency over their future.”
Click here to learn more about the E-Ship Rising program, organized in partnership with Royale Cohesive Network.
For McConnell, the future includes making and serving lemonade as long as possible — a job that’s much better than going to school everyday, he joked.
“At school you don’t make any money — except maybe college, a little bit,” McConnell chuckled, pointing out his friends often ask him for work.
“I enjoy doing my business. I enjoy seeing the smiles on people’s faces when they get that sweet, refreshing lemonade. … I think I’m going to keep up with this business and try to make a career out of it.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.