Our 6-year-old daughter has been planning the details of her very first lemonade stand for the last week. Today we finally let her loose. I was excited about her entrepreneurial spirit and to see what lessons she’d learn through the experience. Little did I know that I’d be learning plenty of lessons of my own along the way.
The Business Plan
We don’t live on a busy street. While this is great for most aspects of raising kids in the suburbs, it’s a less-than-ideal situation when you’re looking to set up a lemonade stand. I asked my daughter if she could think of some ways to get to more customers and we finally settled on a fun solution - a mobile lemonade stand.
Rather than wait for customers to come to us, we planned to travel around town, stopping at the playgrounds and parks in a reasonable distance. She biked while I walked and pulled the cooler. For moral support and extra sets of hands, our four-year-old twins biked along.
To ensure she was providing a complete service, my daughter decided to add two other products in the mix - powdered donut holes and strawberries. We used the cost of the supplies to figure out the price for each item with a good margin built in. I paid for the supplies up-front and we planned on her paying me back for the cost of goods at the end of the day.
With the plan figured out and supplies purchased, we were ready to roll.
Lesson 1: It Pays to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
When we got to the first playground, we were excited to see 10 kids and few adults on the playground. We pulled up in a shady spot nearby and waited for the money to roll in.
And we waited…and we waited some more…
Uh oh. This wasn’t looking good.
My daughter turned to me with a sad, frustrated look.
“Dad, nobody wants to buy our lemonade.”
I explained that there are all sorts of reasons that people might not come over. They might be shy, they might not have money, they might not even realize what we’re selling.
My kids, much like their parents, aren’t naturally outgoing. Putting ourselves out there takes some serious effort but my wife and I have had a lot more years of practice than our kids. As it turns out, this experience was a great way for them to get started.
After a bit of a pep talk, my daughter decided to shout out her menu in the style of a newsboy.
“Get your ice cold lemonade for a hot day!”
“Also, strawberries in a cup and donut holes!”
It only took about 2 minutes from that point before we had our first customers approach. Success!
Grown-up Lesson: Sometimes you just have to put yourself out there. Opportunities don’t usually fall in your lap. Whether it’s a raise at work, an opportunity in an organization you work with, or finally pursuing a life-long dream, you have to be willing to go outside your comfort zone to get what you want.
Two girls walked up with money in-hand and they asked a question.
“How much does the lemonade cost?”
After my daughter responded, though, the look on our customers’ faces quickly showed they weren’t happy.
Lesson 2: It’s OK to Change Direction
So maybe we were a bit optimistic on our pricing. Looking back, we weren’t likely to sell the lemonade at $1 a cup. Thankfully the girls still decided to make a purchase - one donut hole each.
After the girls left, we strategized and dropped the price for the strawberries and lemonade. My daughter would still be profitable if she sold a majority of what she bought and customers were a bit more likely to bite.
Grown-up Lesson: Don’t be afraid to change your approach. As an example, if you’re trying to improve your finances by cutting on eating out, maybe going cold turkey isn’t the right approach (especially if you don’t like turkey). Don’t get dismayed if things don’t work the first time - pivot, change your approach, and try again.
Even with the price drop, we were still struggling to get customers. Other than the first two donut holes, the only other sales we had made was when I bought some strawberries, lemonade, and donut holes to keep the twins happy.
Lesson 3: Persistence and Patience are Everything
My daughter started to get frustrated and made a few comments about wanting to give up and head home.
I had to admit that things weren’t looking good but I didn’t want us to give up before giving this an honest shot. I encouraged my daughter to hang in for 15 more minutes.
She’s a trooper - she continued to advertise what she was selling so all the kids on the playground could hear.
I noticed a couple different kids hop on their bikes and head out of the park. Something about their departure indicated they were going home to get money. Fingers crossed
My daughter stayed strong and kept advertising and the kids returned in a few minutes ready to buy.
The next thing we knew, my daughter had sold half of our donut holes and lemonade, serving every group at the park.
Grown-up Lesson: I think Millennial Money Man covers this lesson best in his post on the stonecutter’s credo. Success comes not from a single action but from the sum of the hundreds of actions that preceded it. When you’re tempted to give up remember that you’re getting closer to your goal even if your progress isn’t necessarily visible.
With our first park tapped out, it was time to move on - we tackled another park, stopped by a friends house, then hit up to the first park again before heading home.
In the end, my daughter sold all of the donut holes, all of the lemonade and all but four of the strawberries. Beyond bringing home $4.25 in profit (not bad for a 6-year-old) and getting in 2.5 miles of biking, she learned a lot and had a blast.
Bonus Lesson: It’s Not All About Business
Of all the lessons, this is the one that my daughter already knew well and she did a great job helping me see it too.
I can get a bit obsessive when it comes to business and optimizing things. I really wanted this experience to be successful for her, but I have a tendency to focus a bit too much on the “business” side.
My daughter, on the other hand, knew how to balance beautifully between both sides - to get business done but have fun and make friends along the way.
As one example, she brought a dozen suckers on the journey and gave them out free to kids she met. It wasn’t about business - it wasn’t about money - it was just about doing something nice for others and seeing the smiles on their faces.
This led to some great conversations with kids we hadn’t met and lots of laughter. At one point, one of these kids even came up to us and asked:
“Hey, you got any grapes?”
All four of us started cracking up because we knew exactly what he was talking about - it was a reference to a youtube video that the kids and I have seen a bunch of times over the years where a cartoon duck walks up to a lemonade stand and asks if the man at the stand has any grapes.
In the interest of sharing the fun, you can see the video below. Caution: this may not be your kind of humor, but it’s definitely mine and my kids’ :)
At bedtime tonight, my daughter declared that the lemonade stand was her favorite part of the day. I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out - we had fun, got to enjoy a beautiful day outside, and all of us (especially myself) were reminded of some great life lessons.
Do you have any favorite lemonade stand stories? Did you have entrepreneurial aspirations as a kid?