Mother of a girl, 11, Stepmother of two girls, 13 and 15 // Owner of The Lemonade Stand

Written by Jessica Gedge // Photographed by Joelle Segal

Our perfect day includes sleeping in (pure luxury!), meeting each other for coffee at a local spot, and spending time meandering through pretty main street shops on a gorgeous summer day. We spent a near-perfect morning (it was all of the above minus the sleeping in!) at The Lemonade Stand, a gorgeous shop in Uxbridge, Ontario. Lee was so gracious in spending time with us talking about her experiences as a retail-shop owner and mother and step-mom to three girls.

We were so interested to find out that you don’t have a background in retail! Can you tell us about your career and the path that led you to The Lemonade Stand?

Before I started The Lemonade Stand I worked my way up the corporate ladder as a Human Resources Professional. I have a Bachelor of Human Resources and Labour Relations, and started my first career-oriented job out of school as an HR Assistant. Throughout the years I worked my way up to become an HR Business Partner, and eventually started an HR Consulting Company of my own. In my “other” time, I worked towards my goal of owning a creative business full-time.  

What is The Lemonade Stand?

The Lemonade Stand is a creative vintage studio that was started as a part-time venture back in 2014. I originally started painting by stumbling upon a dresser in a Style at Home magazine. It was a  gorgeous yellow colour, and I had to have this colour in my house. The colour was called Mustard Yellow, by Miss Mustard Seed. I started reading the Miss Mustard Seed blog and got very inspired! I painted a sideboard in the yellow, and kept on painting different items in my house. I took some classes and got some great guidance from other women entrepreneurs in the same industry. 

Things have evolved since that time. In early 2016 I left my full-time corporate job as a Human Resources Business Partner to pursue The Lemonade Stand full-time. A big part of my business is handmade signs and workshops. In Fall 2018, my husband and I opened up a brick and mortar in beautiful downtown Uxbridge – 26 Brock St. W. It has been a dream come true, and I am constantly growing, learning and evolving.  

What’s your favourite part of running The Lemonade Stand?

The favourite part of my work is the creative aspect. In particular, I love using the Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint (MMSMP) on items and seeing how it reacts to each piece. I have been very passionate about MMSMP since I started using it 6 years ago. It was an essential component to my store and branding. It does things that no other paint can do. I love to start with a piece and see the different effects that I can get with this paint. I also love that I have flexibility as a business owner to open my shop at 10am, meaning I get valuable time with my daughters in the morning and am able to do the school drop offs. 

Walk us through your typical day.

A typical day starts in the morning when I am at home. I take some time to identify how I am going to spend my day and write it out in my planner.  Once I get into the studio, I start with studio maintenance, paperwork and responding to emails. I then spend the rest of my day running the store and either making signs or painting furniture (this creative part is the most fun). It is always a bit of a juggling act as things always pop up in the day that we did not plan for…but that is part of the fun!  

How do you make sure to get family time?

The way I carve out family time is by planning things out in quarters. My business has a couple of different revenue streams, including workshops. I always plan the workshops in quarters, so I know exactly what I will be doing and when. This gives me the flexibility to choose the evenings I want off and plan around special events. When I am at home, I try and only do a maximum of one hour of work. After dinner, the rest of the evening is dedicated to family. I also choose to close the store on Sundays so that I am able to devote one full day to my family each week. Work-family balance is so important, and I think you need to set some real boundaries around when you are working and when you aren’t. Sunday is my family day, so I make it a rule for myself not to do any work at all on Sundays. Everybody has a different measure of success and for me, a part of the success is being able to find a balance between work and family life. 

Do you have people that inspire you?

There are many women entrepreneurs that inspire me, but I would have to say that Melanie from Mango Reclaimed is a constant inspiration for me. I met Melanie years ago when I was a customer of hers. I have watched her grow her business each year, and have learned from her knowledge and positive attitude. That girl is a rock, and I look  up to her and am very grateful for her friendship and mentoring. Not only does she have the creative mind, but she has such a great business sense as well.  And she is always smiling!!!

What’s your relationship with social media?

Instagram has been great for my business – whether that’s been through sharing store tours, featuring new items, highlighting the workshops – it’s been key to the success of the brand. Since we are a destination store, it’s allowed me to reach a wide range of audiences. I also have found it so great for sourcing new items for the store. We’ve also participated in the Digital Main Street program and with that have been able to put some money into ads online which have gotten a great response. 

There can be a downside to the social media world. The concept of community over competition hasn’t rung true for me unfortunately and I’ve experienced forms of exclusion via social media. It’s interesting to see how some people portray themselves online vs. how they actually are in real life!  

When you’re going through rough patches, how do you stay motivated throughout your retail journey? 

I stay motivated by surrounding myself with a “girl gang”. I have a small group of women friends who have very similar businesses to mine. They help to lift me up, offer great advice, and keep me going when needed. I also belong to a coaching group. This is a very specific group of creative entrepreneurs, all owning retail shops. I can ask questions at any time, and look for guidance from this group. It works through a private Facebook group and its great to bounce things off each other and get ideas. Our coach also provides us with training and a lot of information that applies specifically to our businesses. I think it is so important to surround yourself with positive people that are there to encourage you along the way. There are going to be bumps along the way…it is all about how we handle those bumps. For me, finding these special up-lifting people has been so important. 

Everywhere we looked there were beautiful gift items and treats throughout the carefully merchandised space. The Lemonade Stand truly made us feel like we were on a treasure hunt, and Lee has done a great job with layering items so that you feel like you’re rummaging through your most stylish friend’s house! To visit Lee at her shop, check here. Don’t forget she runs the coolest home decor workshops, which you can check out here. And be sure to follow her on Instagram here