Lessons from the Lemonade Stand

Like every parent, I search for authentic ways to allow my kids to learn. Our most recent adventure has been a lemonade stand in the front driveway.

We started with ten glasses of lemonade, a plate of Rice Crispies squares and lots of enthusiasm. Child 1, (six years old) was keen and had no trouble marketing his wares. Child 2, (five years old), was quickly injured by a small rock on the concrete and soon retreated to the safety of her room.

Lesson 1: Expect difficulty.

Things will always go wrong. Be prepared to work hard and to do everything yourself to accomplish your goals. Ownership has benefits but also means personal sacrifice.

“Would you like some lemonade?” Child 1 yelled gleefully to cars and pedestrians passing by on our relatively quiet street. Sometimes, they stopped and he made a sale. However, it took several attempts and lots of rejections, albeit polite ones.

Lesson 2: Selling is challenging.

Marketing a product requires great interpersonal ability and persuasion skills. It’s not easy and it requires a zen-like acceptance of rejection. As any successful sales representative will tell you, it’s important not to dwell on those who decline your offers.

Child 1 remained resilient and positive in the face of adversity. In the 90 minutes of the stand’s operation on a sunny, Friday afternoon, he served about ten customers and made about $7.00. For ten glasses of lemonade and ten squares, each priced at $.20, this should have brought in $4.00. The total should have been even less considering Child 1 ate one of the squares and drank three glasses of lemonade. This leads us to the next lesson of small business.

Lesson 3: You can get tips.

Satisfied customers are frequently willing to pay more than the asking price. For good service, they will often give bonuses in the form of tips. The good will established in previous relationships will also pay dividends.

Other customer service lessons also emerged in the course of this authentic learning activity.

Lesson 4: Products have to be safe and politely served.

In a lull, Child 1, who was lounging in at the lemonade stand in bare feet, became interested in playing with his toes. This was how he killed time in between customers. However, this activity also provided a teachable moment. We talked about public health issues, such as any germs that could get into the food and make people sick. Because of the unappetizing nature of his amusement, we also discussed the importance of allowing customers to select their own squares and lemonade, without any contact by him.

Etiquette also developed as a topic. Child 1 practiced courteous treatment of customers in the form of thanking them for patronage and encouraging them to have a pleasant day.

The evening after the lemonade stand experience, Child 1 discussed how he would spend his ample earnings. Dad, the family pragmatist, had an excellent idea.

Lesson 5: Re-invest in the business.

In this case, Child 1 paid $.38 for another pack of powdered lemonade and $.07 each for three disposable plastic glasses. He has temporarily warehoused these to use these for a subsequent lemonade stand on another sunny afternoon.

I’m confident that the lessons of the lemonade stand don’t end here. A competing stand from another neighborhood child, for instance, would offer additional lessons. As an observer and facilitator at the stand, however, I’m amazed at the strength of this activity for learning potential.

Lessons from the lemonade stand are as memorable and appealing as a frosty glass of lemonade on a hot, sunny day.