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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

NIU student pays for school with lemonade

(Courtesy of Madison Wescott)
Madison Wescott holds an energy drink in front of her food truck, Main Squeeze. Wescott sells homemade lemonade and energy drinks to pay for her college tuition. (Courtesy of Madison Wescott)

DeKALB – It’s not uncommon for youths to raise money with a lemonade stand, but one NIU student has chosen to take it a step further.

Madison Wescott, a junior political science major with an emphasis in law, has been managing a food truck for the past year to help pay her way through school.

Main Squeeze is a local food truck owned by Wescott that sells fresh-squeezed lemonade. In addition to selling lemonade, Wescott has branched out to sell flavored energy drinks.

Wescott said she is planning on going to law school, but because the tuition for law school is so expensive, she had to find a way to raise the money.

The idea for opening a lemonade food truck came to Wescott last spring when she saw a TikTok video of a college student from a Kentucky pharmacy student selling lemonade to pay for their own tuition.

“I’ve never taken a business class a day in my life,” Wescott said. “I am not an entrepreneur at heart. I’m not – you know, business is not super my passion, but obviously, with the rising cost of college, we got to get creative out here.”

Wescott said her father told her when she was first employed to put 50% of her paycheck into a savings account. With three years worth of savings, she was able to make the initial purchase and investments into developing Main Squeeze.

Wescott found and purchased the loading trailer in 2022. With the assistance of her neighbor, Wescott was able to refurbish the trailer and bring it up to health department standards to sell lemonade out of. Wescott said she estimates the purchase and reconstruction of the trailer cost $11,000.

Wescott opened Main Squeeze Sept. 24, 2022, taking her food truck to pop-up events near her Rock Falls home to gain experience.

Main Squeeze was open starting April 29 through all of summer this year. Wescott brought her truck to 80 different events ranging from music festivals to local businesses where Wescott would cater events.

“We had a pride event in Dixon, Illinois,” Wescott said. “That was probably our biggest event for the summer. There was over like 3,000 people there. We ran out of supplies three times and had to have people run and get stuff. It was crazy.”

Main Squeeze could even be spotted on NIU’s campus, as the truck was a regular part of Food Truck Wednesday.

Wescott said she began to see a boost in requests after her employer, the Candlelight Inn Restaurant, 2907 Locust St. in Sterling, gave her a shoutout on social media. Afterwards, she began to see an influx of requests via email and social media.

Wescott is the full owner of Main Squeeze and is responsible for the managerial and financial decisions of the truck. Her mother Nicol Wescott. an elementary teacher, and her father Brian Wescott, an accountant with Candlelight Inn, also provide business advice to her, Wescott said.

Four people are needed in order to run the food truck for well-sized events, Wescott said. Wescott often asks for assistance from friends and family to help her with these events. Her friends or classmates are compensated financially, but her family doesn’t accept compensation.

“My family, it just sort of depends,” Wescott said. “Some of them take money from me, and some of them refuse it and want me to invest it back in the business.”

Wescott said she has not taken any of the profit herself, instead reinvesting the profits into Main Squeeze. Money goes into paying for expenses such as lemons, drink mixes, cups, sanitization items and food permits.

Main Squeeze has raised over $80,000 and netted an estimated $30,000 in profit after expenses, Wescott said. 

It takes roughly an hour and a half to set up and stock items before an event, Wescott said.

“When you get home, you gotta make sure you deep clean it (the food truck) because it’s a very sticky and sugary business,” Wescott said.

This past semester has been challenging running Main Squeeze while doing her coursework as an NIU student, Wescott said. On top of a high course workload, she commutes to NIU four times a week.

“Really just some late nights and caffeination are how I’ve been able to get through,” Wescott said, “It’s definitely not the easiest thing, but it’s definitely doable if you want it and you want to work hard enough.”

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