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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!
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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 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.
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?