Contributed post by Natalie Davison
My kids were unlikely candidates for a lemonade stand.
Neither my husband nor I had sold lemonade as kids. We didn’t share the nostalgia that we’ve now seen on the faces of so many of our adult customers since opening. We live in an urban area. We had never even made homemade lemonade before. Yet, here we found ourselves - our kids were determined to run an old-fashioned lemonade stand.
Last winter, we attended Family Academy’s Mini-Maker workshop: an afternoon of entrepreneurial activities for kids. I participated as a speaker and decided to bring my boys along to help. The boys found themselves caught up in the excitement of the event and joined along with the other participants in the planning of a lemonade stand business.
The kids were divided into working groups, and each kid had a role. Marketing, operations, and finance were all carefully considered while the kids got to work planning and decorating their lemonade stands. My boys and their team of other like-minded, older boys poured their hearts into the design of their lemonade stand. They painstakingly covered the wooden stand with tiny, intricate drawings until the time was up.
The event ended with a raffle. Four lucky kids were going to win a lemonade stand to bring home. The 30ish kids gathered around as names were about to be drawn. As I scanned the crowd to locate my boys, I spotted my son George (Gee, as we call him). My ordinarily timid shy-guy was front and center in the middle of the action. As the official drawing began to take place, I watched as his eyes closed and he brought his hands together. The icing on the cake was when he started mouthing the words “Please God.”
The official drew the first name, and a sweet girl from another group won her group’s stand. George closed his eyes tighter as if he could will his name to be drawn by pushing extra energy through his eyelids. A name came out of the jar… the paper unrolled… the words were uttered: “George Davison.” I watched him jump in victory, and I immediately began wondering how the heck I was going to get this thing home.
We packed up our treasures, and the boys helped me carry the lemonade stand to my four door sedan. They stood by as I tried to secure it for the open-trunk ride home. As my cranky started to creep in, Gee looked at me and announced: “Mom, this was the best day of my life!” I stared at the smile on his face and promptly tucked my impending bad mood away while I began the super careful, super slow, best drive on the best day of his life.
That night, we put the lemonade stand in the playroom and I wondered what its future looked like. I imagined that it would disappear under a pile of toys, forgotten by the next exciting thing that came home but it didn’t. Gee spent the Winter sharing his lemonade stand plans and considering pricing, scheduling, and human resources. As Spring started to roll around, Gee’s enthusiasm was stronger than ever. He couldn’t wait to start selling lemonade.
It turns out that he was earnest about his lemonade business. It also turns out that there was a lot of fun and learning to be had by coming together for this remarkable summer activity. The knowledge was just way too juicy to keep to ourselves, so here are the best lessons our family learned from our lemonade stand summer.
Business Lesson One: Your Brand Is Everything.
Translated to a Life Lesson: You’re responsible for how you make people feel.
Before we were ready for opening day, it was time to talk about branding. Call him lucky/unlucky but Gee has a mom who teaches entrepreneurs about this stuff all day, every day, so he had me at his disposal, and I have as honest with him as I would be with a client.
He had decorated the lemonade stand himself, with the help of his brother and three other boys their age. They LOVED what they had created. They were proud of their work. In their eyes, they had created a masterpiece. And when you looked up close at their handiwork, you could see that the dozens of tiny drawings had a little extra detail. The kind of detail that thrilled this group of little boys. The stand was covered in tiny little people, taking tiny little poops.
And while he loved the look, it was time to have a conversation about his potential customers - his buyer persona. I did not tell George that the drawings had to go. I did, however, ask him to think about customers who were not 9-year-old boys. I asked him what would happen when a Mom approached with her four-year-old. What would happen if my grandmother came by? Would his brand appeal to them and inspire trust? Or was his brand not reflecting what you want people to think about food and beverage products?
He decided to redecorate, and I let out a massive sigh of relief. He had designed a logo with a Canva template, and that would be the perfect inspiration for his new lemonade stand design.
Business Lesson Two: Supporting a cause is good business.
Translated to a Life Lesson: Supporting other people is good humanity.
The very first week that the boys served lemonade, they weren’t ready to charge money. After all, we needed a beta run. Would the product taste good? How cold could we keep it? Would distribution be effective? Luckily for us, Gee was invited to do a test run at the Humanity Project: an organization in our community that feeds people who are homeless.
Our experience at the Humanity Project was about so much more than just serving lemonade. We helped by cooking brunch and cleaning tables too. The boys left the Humanity Project that day more confident, compassionate people, understanding that they had the power to make a difference in their community.
Business Lesson Three: People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.
Translated to a Life Lesson: People still care about kindness.
The Humanity Project decided to write a lovely thank you to Gee’s 7 Lemon on their Facebook page, and by the next morning, we had a news outlet looking to get in touch and do a story about the boys and their business ventures. The story about the entrepreneurial twins obtained national coverage on Global News, and Gee’s 7 Lemon was no longer a secret.
You can check out the web version of the story here.
Business Lesson Four: Contracts matter: get it in writing.
Translated to a Life Lesson: Clear communication keeps you from conflict.
This lesson was learned the hard way. One thing I must make abundantly clear is that Gee’s 7 Lemon is George’s enterprise. Jack is an employee. Before they opened for the season, the boys agreed on a profit-sharing arrangement for Jack’s compensation. The problem, however, was that they each remembered negotiating a different percentage. George remembers agreeing on a 75/25 profit split, and Jack remembers a 50/50 split. I’m sure you can imagine that this doesn’t create any conflict at all in our home :P
Business Lesson Five: Do what you’re best at and outsource the rest.
Translated to a Life Lesson: Teamwork makes the dream work.
Finally, it became apparent during the very first week of operations that squeezing lemons for fresh juice was not Gee’s forte. Jack, however, has a level of interest in the kitchen that leaves him watching cooking shows for hours at a time. As Gee sat, tortured by the task of squeezing lemons, his brother bounded into the room and asked for his turn. He loved cutting the lemons and extracting every last bit of juice from each rind. This freed up Gee for other tasks like setting up, planning and organizing - the things he’s best at.
Ultimately, our lemonade stand summer was fantastic. We worked together, delivered a great product, delighted our customers and brought our neighbors together on Saturday mornings. In fact, Gee’s 7 Lemon was just what I didn’t know we needed.
Header image: Florencia Potter