Emmett (8 yrs old): Mom, I want to go to Brazil for the World Cup next year.
Me: Well, that's not going to happen. But here's an idea... why don't we save up for a bigger screen TV so we can watch it here and invite all your friends over?
Emmett: Great idea!
Me: Let's also give part of the money to charity. We can send it to kids in Brazil via Save the Children.
Emmett: Awesome! When do we start?
Thus began my kids' first lesson in entrepreneurship. Emmett and his little brother Adrian (5 1/2) ran their first lemonade stand outside our apartment for two weekends. And it also became a valuable lesson in geography, focusing on Brazil (the largest country in South American and the only one there that speaks Portuguese), and on charity, researching and donating to Save the Children.
We set a goal of earning $100 --- they squeezed over 50 lemons and it took three lemonade stand outings to get there. We sold chocolate chip cookies, too, because when Emmett did the math, he realized he'd have to sell 100 cups of lemonade (or limonada as it’s called in Portuguese) at $1 to hit $100, but if only 40 of the customers bought cookies at the same time, we'd get to our goal twice as fast.
5 Business Take-Aways from the Lemonade Stand
- Starting with Why. Engage potential customers with your mission statement. People were more likely to buy when told that part of the proceeds were going to help kids in Brazil via Save the Children. Emmett and Adrian compared notes on their favorite Brazilian soccer players with their customers.
- The Human Factor. To run a business, you need to beef up your management skills. On the second day of the lemonade stand, Emmett's little brother Adrian got upset because he was fired from his “loudspeaker” position (Emmett said Adrian’s constant "Lemonade! lemonade! lemonade!" was irritating). Adrian pouted and refused to participate for the rest of the day, so Emmett was down half his operation.
- Opportunity Cost. Save money if you can, but not at any cost. The boys created an estimated budget (cookie dough was estimated at a whopping $10!). But the day before the first lemonade stand, Emmett chose not to buy cups for $3 at Lot Less because he wanted to keep looking for cheaper. He was pleased with his thrifty decision until he was running out of time. In order to open on schedule, he had to buy cups from Gristedes for $5.
- Re-Branding. Know how to reel in your customers. After three days of gathering customer feedback, Emmett added farm-to-table flare to his "Lemonade" sign, changing it to "Fresh Squeezed Lemonade and Homemade Cookies." His successful rebrand doubled the number of people who stopped by.
- Delivering Happiness. When you say, "Thank you for coming over" to your customers before they even buy anything, they are apt to buy more. And sometimes they give you $5 for a $1 cup of lemonade and say "keep the change!" Now THAT is sweet.
I don’t know if my boys will become entrepreneurs like their mom, but learning how to start a project, see it through, tweak it along the way for success, and the power of please and thank you (por favor and obrigado) are great lessons for kids at any age and for any career. Plus, the chance to explore other cultures and customs is always welcome in our home. And an added bonus: soon I’ll be able to watch the new season of GIRLS on a bigger screen TV.