The lemonade stand. It turns out that it really is an ideal model for teaching entrepreneurship to children. It comes to our minds easily as an icon of children and business. Following on my recent musings on this subject, the lemonade stand as a teaching device featured in a conversation I had just yesterday with a colleague at my university who directs a center in technology and entrepreneurship. Most convincingly, Google – the source of all knowledge – has pages and pages of listings of articles using our beloved lemonade stand as the model learning experience, including links to several books using the same metaphor.
The verdict is in: having a lemonade stand can teach kids about the rewards of doing a good job and being paid for it. They learn a lot more if they make the lemonade themselves – or at least help – and then set up their own stand – or at least help. They learn even more if they learn about how much the lemonade costs to make, and then learn the difference between the cost and the amount they make.
They learn way more, ironically, if they are not successful at first. This opens up the conversation about why they have failed, and also reinforces the important message that failure doesn’t have to be a bad thing if it’s a learning experience. Reasons that can be discussed are:
- Location. Think about whether they would do better in a place where more people come by.
- Product. Is lemonade the best thing to be selling in their location? Maybe there is another product that would sell better. Maybe cookies would help sell the lemonade. Maybe crafts would sell better.
- Differentiating from the competition by product. Perhaps there are too many lemonade stands in the neighbourhood. Is anyone selling lemonade where the customer can get any colour they want by choosing the fruit juice they want added (cranberry, mango punch, etc.) or a little food colour.
- Differentiating from the competition by service. Perhaps dressing in costume to sell their lemonade would help them stand out, or telling a joke to each customer when they buy a drink as part of the service. And, of course, good service is very important.
- Pricing. You can’t price yourself out of the market, but you need to know how much to charge to at least break even. Maybe they could offer special deals to customers who buy more than one drink.
- Marketing. Do people know their stand is there? Do they have an effective sign? Do they need to make notices or hand out cards?!
If these discussions result in a second try after tweaking the original game plan, you may have an entrepreneur-in-training.
This past Sunday as I was enjoying my weekly long run on our beautiful trail system, I passed an enterprising young girl and her even younger brother who had set up a lemonade and Girl Guide cookie stand along the trail. I couldn’t take advantage of their service because I had nothing but keys and kleenex with me, and I’m not sure how I’d have carried the cookies. But it was a glorious day and many people were out walking dogs and kids, with some money with them. Those kids were doing a good business in a good location.
If lemonade isn’t working, or if selling drinks isn’t where a child’s passion lies, he or she may have other products or services they’d like to try. Last summer we spent a glorious day in St. Andrew’s, New Brunswick, down by the sea. There was an outdoor market at the water’s edge, where the accustomed assortment of crafts, homemade baked goods, vegetables and flowers were being sold. A small table at the end of the row of stalls displayed a collection of paperweights made of pretty rocks lovingly decorated. A little girl of 8 or 9 had made them all and was selling them. She had priced each of them and had little stickers on the bottom, ranging from $1 to $3. Needless to say, I bought one! The one I bought looked a little bit like this one made by my little granddaughter. You can’t have too many paperweights!
Personally, it was hobby farming rather than a lemonade stand that taught me my first lessons in entrepreneurship, especially about the “risk” part of “risk and reward”. But that is a subject for a future post.