6 Lessons From A Lemonade Stand: A Guest Post by Diana Sabloff

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This piece is special because it is written by my cousin, Diana Sabloff. If you ask me, nothing screams summer like an end-of-the-driveway lemonade stand. In fact, we have an unspoken rule in our family that we must never drive past a homemade lemonade stand that is 100% maintained by kids. If parents are there, we can ease on down the road, but if I see kids out there in the world, with banners and pitchers, wearing grins on their faces and hearts on their sleeves… well, if you ask me, it’s positively un-American to zoom by. Even if the lemonade is crappy, the idea is awesome: gotta love those little entrepreneurs.

And Diana’s hot day at the garage sale/lemonade stand gleaned many lessons. Thanks, Diana, for being a great guest blogger!

• • •

Lessons From a Lemonade Stand

I was selfish. I wanted my garage back. Or at least a path through it. It had been packed from the cement floor to the ceiling rafters with boxes-o-stuff for a long time, but when I couldn’t get to the tools and my kids couldn’t get to their toy box, I knew the time had come.

Moving the boxes from out of the garage and onto the driveway was like transferring Mount Everest one pebble at a time.

By 8 am, I was filthy and sweaty.

Like really sweaty.

And hot.

And not just a little hot.

We live in the northeast, so I had worried about rain. It had never occurred to me that the day of our yard sale would turn out to be a triple-digit record breaker. Truly, it was a most awful trifecta: hazy, hot and humid.

My stepson suggested the kids set up a lemonade stand, and we all thought that was a brilliant idea.

• Lemonade mixed? Check.
• Plastic cups? Check.
• Sign made? Check.
• Table set up? Check.

image from Yellow Sky Photography from flickr.com

And then the people started coming.

Who knew our collective junk was treasure in disguise?

And then, right as I was trying to sell a green leathery-vinyl recliner, my 6-year old daughter came marching up the driveway.

I quit! she yelled.

I smiled at the potential buyer who was ready to shell out $5 bucks for the recliner and asked my daughter what was wrong. She said that her father and brother weren’t being fair; they wanted to raise the price of the lemonade from 25-cents to 50-cents, and she didn’t want to.

I quickly sealed the deal for the chair and, feeling pretty proud of myself, I figured I could negotiate a truce between the munchkins.

I went down to talk to Boy Munchkin, who informed me that 25-cents was too cheap and he could make twice as much money selling it for 50-cents. (When did he become Alex P Keaton?). My husband had agreed and already put up the new sign. My daughter insisted that was too much, and held up the bag of money they had already made.

I suddenly felt very inadequate with my $5 sale.

I said 25-cents seemed fair. My daughter beamed while my son spun on his heel and said he was quitting.

Realizing a truce was futile, I went in the house, got a second pitcher of lemonade, a second poster board, and a second table.

I announced that the partnership was being dissolved, and they each were responsible for selling their own lemonade, and the profits up until that point would be split 50-50, unless someone walked away, in which case the person who kept working would keep all the money.

Lesson #1: Go into business with family members at your own risk.

Boy Munchkin displayed remarkable business sense for an 8-year old: “What price is she selling at?”

Girl Munchkin was pleased with the new arrangement. She put on her biggest smile and shouted: “GETCHER LEMONADE HERE: 25-CENTS!”

Boy Munchkin shouted, “That’s not fair! No one will buy from me if they can get it from her for 25-cents!”

He stormed off after I helpfully tried to explain the workings of a free market.

Lesson #2: Be aware of your price point — and your competitor’s.

The woman who bought the chair offered to buy a cup of lemonade from Munchkinette – for 50-cents. How nice, I thought. Because the lemonade pitcher was heavy, I helped my daughter to pour.

“Mom!” my daughter shrieked, “That’s too much! Stop! You should only fill it half-way!”

Baffled, I asked, “Why should the cup only be filled half-way? Especially when this nice lady is hot and paying double for your lemonade?”

Munchkinette replied, “Because half is all she needs!”

The nice lady gave me the “Oh-I’m-really-sorry-and-I–really-need-to-leave” look. She drank her ½ cup and threw her empty into the garbage can. Munchkinette looked up at me defiantly and said, “See, I told you. Half is all they need.”

Lesson #3: Find your differentiation strategy, and make it work.

As high noon approached, deals were being made in every corner of our yard. The kids went inside for a break, leaving their older brother and his girlfriend in charge of the lemonade stands.

During this time, not one glass of lemonade was sold.

Not. One. Drop.

Lesson #4: Be careful whom you trust to run your business so they don’t run it into the ground.

After lunch, Munchkin decided to employ a new tactic for selling lemonade. He offered delivery for an extra 50-cents. His older brother asked for a cup to be delivered to the front lawn. After 10 minutes, the lemonade never arrived, so my older son bought from Munchkinette.

Lesson #5: Check your distribution channel to make sure deliveries come on time. Or else you’ll lose business to your competitors.

Undeterred, Munchkin modified his tactics and employed his older brother to deliver the lemonade to shoppers up and down the driveway and to the front lawn. This lasted under 10 minutes, as my stepson got a bite on some of his items and that were for sale and disappeared. Munchkin pulled a Trump and fired his brother for failure to perform the requisite duties as an employee.

Lesson #6: It’s hard to find good help.

At 4 pm, we packed it in. Leftover items were bagged and ready for donation.

We tallied the profits and admired the beautiful, empty space in the garage!

Amazingly, the kids’ lemonade stand netted $40, one quarter at a time!

Munchkinette looked over at her brother who was still upset about forfeiting all the partnership proceeds when he had stopped working earlier in the day and immediately decided to give him all their partnership money, saying she just wanted to keep what she made on her own.

Munchkin hugged his sister, and they both walked away — together, happily — with about $20 in coins.

Priceless.

What’s the best item you ever found (or unloaded) at a garage sale? What have you learned from garage sales? And what are your policies about lemonade stands?

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21 responses to “6 Lessons From A Lemonade Stand: A Guest Post by Diana Sabloff

  1. Hi Diana! I love this piece even more this year. And it’s really hot. Right now. Again. I hope you enjoy responding to comments! ;-)

    • Thanks cuz! And thank you so much for hosting my first ever blog post.

      I can only imagine what will happen if tech and munchkin get together to run a weekend biz!!!

  2. Hilarious!! Love the happy ending. ;o)

  3. This is awesome! I’m thinking of my four nieces and the different combos of the going into business together — YIKES :)

    • Hi Amy
      4? I would need to take negotiation and war room training classes for that! Thanks so much for reading and posting !

  4. This would actually make a funny book and you have already outlined your chapters!

    • I’ve always wanted to write a book. I just havent figured out what topic to do. Maybe this is it. Thanks for the vote of confidence!

  5. As far as feeling like you could have done better than $5 for the chair, I try and remember, a garage sale is much less about making money (it at all) and much more about regaining control of your space and essentially allowing the market to “recycle forward” objects that are no longer useful in your world. I always thought that if one can survive a garage sale without heat stroke or a stranger voiding their bladder on your lawn, it’s a huge win…

    • Lol Thomas. You are wise and so right! And I may be crazy, but I’m thinking of doing it again to get rid of the rest of the stuff. :-)

  6. This is a priceless story. I bet Diana could put this in the reader’s digest and make many people have a good chuckle.

  7. Life lessons, like Torah, can be found lurking in the most unexpected places. The gift is finding them. I love this post.

    • Thanks so much Sarah! I had fun writing it too. I was a little nervous if anyone would like it. I’m so grateful for everyone’s support So happy you like it. And I agree, if we stop and look, we can find so many lessons all around us.

  8. First I want to say that we, too, have the rule about never driving by a lemonade stand without making a purchase (call me crazy, but it’s a conviction left over from my MANY lemonade/iced tea stands, back in the day, from which I was able to scrape together enough money for a trip to the municipal pool and/or skating rink). Next, I love it that you broke down the various scenarios from the day and used them so eloquently to illustrate the foes of doing business! Lastly, kudos to you for hosting the garage sale to help recycle unused items from your home – and for getting the whole family involved! So many lessons learned from this one experience, and how wise of you to take notice of that fact!
    Great job on your debut blog post!

  9. Dawn,
    Thank you so much for the thoughtful comment and the kudo’s for the debut post. It’s been so fun and Renee is great to offer this up to so many people. I never even thought so many folks would buy lemonade. I grew up in the country and it was at least a half-mile between houses — on dirt roads. No lemonade stands in my child hood so this suburbia life with kids is all new to me!

    • Oh, yes. My brothers and I would put a cooler in a wagon and drag it around the newest part of the neighborhood, selling iced tea to all the construction workers. While I’m sure a cold brewskie would have been preferable, they gladly accepted the non-alcoholic refreshments! It was work, but fun and rewarding for us. That is why I love to see kids out experimenting with entrepreneur skills! From the sounds of things, I think they learned quite a bit that day!

  10. Hi Diana!

    How are you?

    I loved how you handled the lemonade stand conflict. It sounds like your kids are already young entrepreneurs. Can’t wait to see them on the Apprentice for Kids. Come on. You know it’s coming. :)

    Sorry I missed you in Rochester last weekend. If you want to get back in touch you can get my email address from Renee.

    Hope all is well.

  11. Hi Larisa,
    My young entrepreneur munchkin is thinking about starting a cleaning business now with his friend. I suggested he start with his room, and I haven’t heard much about it again, lol! I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next. He’s over trump. He likes SharkTank. Heaven help me!
    D

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