Young Belair-Edison Resident is Thriving Entrepreneur

Young Belair-Edison Resident is Thriving Entrepreneur

Calling an 11-year old an entrepreneur might seem like a bit of a stretch, but Jamaria Crump is the real deal. She’s the owner, baker, and visionary behind LemonTopia, and she’s taking the idea of a lemonade stand to a whole new level.

LemonTopia sells hand-squeezed lemonade in flavors like summer rain, mixed berry, lemon-lime, and much more, along with freshly baked treats like lemon cake and lemon cookies. Its signature lemonade flavor is “Unicorn,” which Jamaria describes as a “colorful, magical, noise-making lemonade” that’s mixed with Pop Rocks candy.

“People assume that Mommy is doing all the work,” says Jasmine Hall, Jamaria’s mother and business manager. “That’s just not true. Jamaria is very independent. I’m also not a baker.”

From the very beginning, Jamaria envisioned a business that was more than just a table and a pitcher of lemonade set up outside their house, but it took her a couple of years before she was able persuade her mother to let her set up shop.

Her mother, a teacher who was also working in an after-school program, didn’t feel she had the time to devote to more than a 12 hour a day schedule and raising Jamaria and her younger sister, Jazarah, and she wanted to make sure Jamaria did.

Eventually, Hall gave in, saying “Jamaria can be very persuasive.”

Jamaria was also instrumental in persuading her mother to buy their home in Belair-Edison. At school, she was on the debate team, where she learned about the Vacants to Value program, which is spurring growth and reinvestment in Baltimore City by demolishing, rehabilitating, or redeveloping vacant properties.

As they searched for a house, the family became aware of one that had been renovated by the St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, which is dedicated to restoring and strengthening neighborhoods throughout Baltimore City by purchasing foreclosed properties and renovating them to top market standards. Belair-Edison Neighborhoods Inc. (BENI), the non-profit community organization, actively partners with St. Ambrose on home restoration throughout the neighborhood.

“I’d been looking at a house in Hamilton,” said Hall, “but this one looked out on Herring Run Park. It had great square footage, beautiful architectural arches, and it was listed for a great price.”

She adds, “I grew up in Baltimore, but the girls lived in Florida until we moved back here, and they missed having land around them. They love living so close to the park. We’ve gotten up early many spring mornings to watch the deer playing there.”

LemonTopia has a presence at events all over the city, but BENI community development manager Christina Delgado makes sure that they’re aware of and involved in Belair-Edison community events, says Hall. LemonTopia had a pop-up shop at the October Main Street Renaissance Project, participated in Small Business Saturday, and will be at upcoming holiday events like Sip and Paint, and the third annual tree lighting.

Elsewhere, Jamaria has been at events like the Red Bull Amaphiko Festival in downtown Baltimore, where she served more than 400 people, and a pop-up at the Cross Street Market in Federal Hill. LemonTopia was also the co-sponsor of Jingle Ball, a holiday pop-up market and showcase of 25 youth vendors and performers in Hamilton/Lauraville in mid-December.

Back in Belair-Edison, Jamaria also has “Lazy Lemonade Days,” where she sells LemonTopia’s wares from the trunk of the family’s car, parked near the Herring Run basketball courts.

“People drive by and then turn around and come back,” says Hall. “We meet people who live on our street that we didn’t even know, and the girls make friends with kids from the block. We feel very welcome.”

Jamaria is also very active on social media, especially Instagram, where she uses the hashtag “NotJustALemonadeStand.” She’s on Facebook too, but it was one of her mentors, Catina Smith, also known as Chef Cat, a fine-dining chef at the acclaimed Magdalena restaurant in the Ivy Hotel, who advised her to focus on Instagram, where Jamaria now has more than 1,250 followers.

Chef Cat, who recently launched Just Call Me Chef, a movement geared toward empowering female, African-American chefs, invites Jamaria to participate in VIP events, and includes her baked goods or business cards in swag bags.

Another one of Jamaria’s mentors, Patrick Rife of Pixilated, the photobooth company, is a Belair-Edison connection. She met his kids at a community camping event at Herring Run Park and he became interested in her story. Since then, he’s in touch regularly and gave her access to an empty, renovated retail space in Fells Point.

“He offered it to her for a month,” says Hall, “but it was too close to the beginning of school and I knew we just couldn’t do it, so we asked for a week. That really helped put her name out in the world as a serious business owner.”

Jamaria, who is polished and articulate, advises other young entrepreneurs not to give up, to be passionate, and to do their best.

Doing her best has led Jamaria to become a rising star, noticed and encouraged by people well beyond her age and experience. Nonetheless, she still has to finish middle school.

“She’s still a kid,” says her mother, “and Mom still says no.” It’s also clear that Hall encourages her very talented daughter to continue pursuing her dreams.

Jamaria loves having her own money and wants to travel the world. When she first started LemonTopia, she began saving for a trip to Paris and eventually bought plane tickets for the whole family. They’re looking forward to that adventure in the coming year.

She also wants a mobile café, so the family is skipping Christmas gifts this year. They’re hoping to convert a school bus that would open up in back and feature outdoor seating.

While this very enterprising family works on their latest idea, you can find Jamaria and LemonTopia at many local events. You can say you knew her when she was just a kid growing up in Belair-Edison selling lemonade at her house on Sundays.