HICKSVILLE – Not many 14-year-olds can say they’ve been a business owner the last three years, but one area teen can.
Jack Bourgeois of Hicksville has owned and operated Jacks Lemon Shake Shack, a lemon shakeup business, since he was 11.
It all started, in part, because Bourgeois wanted to see a little bit of “magic.”
“When I was 11, I was invited to go to Harry Potter World in Florida,” he recalled. There was the matter of money, however.
“My mom is a single mom, who has had a lot of health issues, and my dad took off when I was four,” Bourgeois explained. “I knew from a young age that I would need to work for any extras.”
At first, he got a job at his aunt’s and uncle’s working on a hobby flower farm.
“After 8 hours in 96 degree weather, I knew there had to be a better way,” he stated. “I went home and YouTubed Lemon Shakeups. I reached out to the Klepper’s, who run our local farmers market, and my business took off.”
Jacks Lemon Shake Shack is run mainly at the Hicksville Farmers Market on Saturdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. or until sold out. It also operates at some special events.
“This year has been really cool because I was invited to Stoetts’ 20th anniversary party, the Hicksville Day in the Park and, most recently, to the opening of the Defiance Senior Center,” he beamed.
Jacks Lemon Shake Shack has been really well received.
Bourgeois said his mom and grandparents have helped a lot with the business, but there have been so many others that have offered support.
“I’ve had so much community support that I’m afraid to mention anyone in fear of leaving someone out,” he answered. “The letters of support I get from people I’ve never met help (keep) me going too.”
Bourgeois acknowledges that he has met a lot of red tape with his business, which was “extremely frustrating.”
He was told he needed to get a permit from the health department for his lemon shake shack. Those who made food offsite at the farmers market, like bakers, did not need a permit, but because he made his fresh with three ingredients on site he needed one. Bourgeois then asked if he could get a seasonal permit instead of paying $50 to run for 5 days straight and was told he couldn’t get one since he didn't have a water hook up on site and brought water from home. After all of that, he tried to go online to apply for a permit, but couldn’t get one because as a teenager he didn’t have an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for tax purposes.
“Instead of throwing in the towel, I reached out to Commissioner Dave Kern, who immediately put me in contact with Representative Roy Klopfenstein,” he proclaimed. “They are working so that what is happening to me will never happen to another kid. For that, I’m so grateful.”
Village residents and officials also have rallied behind the teen. Others have written to him at 209 Meadow Lane, Hicksville 43526 to encourage him with his business. Letters of encouragement still are welcome, according to Bourgeois’ mom, Lindsey.
“My village of Hicksville is awesome,” Bourgeois boasted. “I’ve had nothing but community support.”
He said that Hicksville Exempted Village Schools really has helped him prepare for having a business as well.
“I can’t begin to tell you how the ‘essentials’ I’ve learned in school – like shaking hands, looking people in the eye, speaking with confidence – has helped me,” he explained.
Bourgeois has returned that community support by giving some proceeds from his business back to projects and events in the village. He has donated to the splash pad fund and Night of Lights, as well as volunteering at the Christmas Cruise Thru for several years.
“My mom had drilled in my head ‘that volunteering is essential for a thriving society,’ “ he praised. “I feel it’s important to give back to the community that has shown me so much love.”
That love has spread in ways, Bourgeois never thought possible.
Bourgeois started offering Splenda as an alternative to sugar at his business. He stated that a friend has diabetes so it was very important to have an option for him.
“Someone (in the community) tagged Splenda and within a week I got a PR box, a note and an official sponsorship guaranteeing me all the Splenda I need for the duration of my business,” he exclaimed.
Being only 14, Bourgeois has to return to school this fall.
When school begins, it doesn’t necessarily mean Jacks Lemon Shake Shack will come to an end, however.
“If a special event comes up, I’d consider it,” he stated of continuing the business. Bourgeois stated it would be a little tough considering he is a student and plays two sports, though.
While he has started as a young entrepreneur, Bourgeois said being a businessman was not his overall dream job.
“The dream is to go to the Air Force Academy – hopefully to become a drone pilot,” he reflected, adding that may not be possible. “I just found out my peanut allergy will more than likely prevent this. I’m kind of heartbroken.”
Still the future looks bright for Bourgeois. He, in turn, is optimistic about the future of his community and country thanks to what running his business has taught him.
“I know we are a divided country but please ask yourself where else can a kid without a dad start a business at 11, three years later get a corporate sponsorship and, most importantly, work with his representatives to hopefully create real and needed change?” he proclaimed. “I love the USA. May God bless you."