Alabama Mom Shocked When Her Son's Lemonade Business Is Reported to Labor Department

Lemonade Business
Eight-year-old business entrepreneur Cameron Johnson.Facebook/Cristal Johnson

Alabama mom Cristal Johnson says she wanted to hire two kids to help her son's lemonade business, and then someone reported her to authorities.

Alabama mother Cristal Johnson says she was trying to do something righteous. And then the state Labor Department stepped in.

"I was shocked to even hear that I was getting a call from them," Johnson told Inside Edition Digital on Wednesday. "It was heartbreaking and disappointing because I was trying to do a good thing."

What she did was place an online ad for two children to help her 8-year-old son, Cameron, who started his own lemonade business last year. 

Recently, she took to Facebook, offering to pay $20 to young kids for a two-hour shift helping Cam sell lemonade. Her goal was to teach the children, as she has taught her son, the value of learning to communicate, good manners, counting money and establishing self-esteem.

"Some good old fun!" was also promised.

For her efforts, someone reported her to Alabama's Labor Department. Last week, she got a call from the agency, following up on the complaint.

She had been reported for trying to employ minors, she was told. "We had a discussion. I was confused for the majority of the conversation," Johnson said.

In the end, she agreed to drop the matter, and the complaint was closed, she said. It still bothers her, because all she wanted was to help empower other kids by "working on math skills, working on customer service, working on self-esteem," she said.


She has seen her son learn those attributes ever since he came to her last summer and asked if they could take a family trip to Disney World.

Johnson, a 42-year-old single mom who works as a respiratory therapist, saw her son's request as a door to a life lesson.

"So I said, 'let's get you out there.' "I wanted to teach him some entreprenurial skills," she said, and to show he could earn enough cash to finance their trip. She also wanted him to learn, she says with a laugh, "that money doesn't grow on trees."

Johnson also learned some things along the way. Number one, she makes one fine lemonade.

At first they sold store-bought lemonade. Then Johnson started making her concoctions. She added fresh fruit. She came up with myriad flavors. She bought bottles from Amazon and printed up labels.

She and Cam went to local markets, public gatherings, anyplace someone would let her put up a table and a tent, including at the end of her mother's driveway.

Word grew and customers started telling Johnson that "Cam's Lemonade" was the best they ever tasted.


So when Johnson posted on Facebook that the Labor Department had come calling, so did a horde of local media outlets, which led to national news coverage.

"I'm still in shock, from all the places I've heard from," she said. 

She hopes that one day, she may be able to leave her overnight shift job as a respiratory therapist, which affords her little sleep and little chance to engage in after-school activities with her son because she works from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

But she is thankful she gets to take Cam to school, and pick him up after stealing a few hours of daytime sleep. Still, she feels exhausted and sometimes confused, she said. One day she arrived at work and realized it was her day off.

"I don't get hardly any sleep," she said. But driving him around to sell lemonade has been a blessing. "This just afforded me the opportunity to be with my son," she said.

Asked how much money they've raised, Johnson replies, "We've raided a good amount. We've raised enough" to make the trip to Florida, she said. 

But this was "never just about being a fundraiser to get to Disney World," the mother said. "I just did it to let him learn the value of a dollar."

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