Thursday, September 07, 2006

Lemonade-stand entrepreneurs

My sons have run a lemonade stand in our driveway for the last three afternoons. I've been amazed at how this has evolved. Day One: pay dispute. Day Two: pay to owner only. Day Three: competition arises.

On Tuesday Son2 had the lightbulb idea ("aha!") of having a lemonade stand. I said, well, er, that's a great idea for when the weather gets hot again, maybe in a couple of days... but I was no match for my six-year-old son with a hot idea.

Son2 got out our stash of Kool-aid and lemonade packets and chose some. Then he started scavenging for good cardboard boxes (I, the Tupperware lady, have a decent supply of cardboard, LOL) and I started to bend a little.

We found a flat box (about 1" x 18" x 24", actually!) and Son2 used black marker to make his sign. He copied the word "Lemonade" from a packet, "25c" with me telling him how to make the cents sign, and then he looked for a good box for the stand itself. We had just been given several utility shelving units made of heavy-duty plastic, and a half-height one, so I hauled that out for him (too windy on Tuesday for boxes!! and it can be hosed down if be). It even had two extra shelf supports we added as poles for decorations.

By 3 pm Tuesday Son2 was out in our driveway with a real lemonade stand! There was his sign, the stand itself, his plastic chair, a plastic pitcher of lemonade, a tray with a bunch of plastic cups, and our wooden bench from our entryway for people to "sit a spell." He even had a "money box" (small cardboard box). The poles had acquired the whirligigs and mini flags from the front garden, as well as ribbon I'd helped him attach (it was a windy day!).

As the next-door neighbor kids and other kids walked home from elementary and middle school bus dropoffs, Son2 sold lemonade and gained company. The mail carrier bought lemonade! Son2 and his 1st grader pal next door began working hard to drum up business, calling out to passing cars and middle school kids! Big brother Son1, age 10, and the 6th grade girl next door (the pal's big sister) helped fine-tune things, adding a pitcher of Kool-Aid and pretzels to sell, a cupful for 25c. Also a couple of kids who live nearby hung out for a while.

At 25c a cup, with some lemonade given away to his "helpers" who "joined the business," Son2 ended up with $3.50 for the day. This is a LOT of money for my sons, who don't get an allowance and seldom receive money gifts or opportunities to earn money.

You can tell what happened toward the end of the day (5ish); a big fat pay dispute! Son2 and I, and Son1 as representative for the other kids, spent maybe 45 minutes working on this after the stand closed for the day. By dinnertime Son2 agreed to pay each of the other kids 50c. Apparently they had "joined" with the expectation that they'd get some money, so Son2 needed to do that. On the other hand the idea of dividing *everything* equally didn't float with Mom; Son2 was the idea guy, did all the setup work, earned the first $1.50 all by himself and, basically, was the business owner. We talked about possibly compensation schemes in the future (for example, every dollar earned in the future be divided equally), but by bedtime Son2
was firm that he was selling lemonade on Wednesday and Not. Paying. Anyone. To. Help.

On Wednesday, that's pretty much what happened. I insisted that Son2 tell everyone right away (after they got home from school) that he wasn't going to pay anyone, and if they wanted to hang out or even help that was okay but no money was going from him to them. Interestingly, everyone hung out and even helped drum up business. Apparently they got free lemonade after their first several cups, or something like that.

Before Son2 set up his stand, I pointed out that he needed to wash his plastic cups, 'cause we didn't have any more. I set it up and showed him how, and he and Son1 washed the cups! Son1 bailed pretty quickly, but Son2 was committed and got his lemonade stand ready to open, with lemonade, Kool-aid, and pretzels. The end-of-day report at 5ish was that Son2 made about $1.50, pretty much from the kids themselves.

That night Son1 declared that Thursday was his day to run the lemonade stand. Son2 didn't want to let the franchise go, but I insisted Son1 get his day in the driveway.

On Thursday afternoon a complication arose. Son1 was busy with schoolwork at 3 pm, so his stand wasn't ready to go when the neighbor pal got home from school, and Son2 and his pal decided they were going to have a Kool-aid stand! Arrrgh, says Mom, and I put my foot down (to a certain extent); Son2 and his pal were not to do it on our driveway and were not to use our things, because it wasn't fair to Son1 and the idea seemed sort of mean to me. If they got the okay from the pal's mom to do it over there, "whatever."

So... I have no idea how they presented it to my neighbor, but in the end we had the Local Lemonade Stand and the Junior Competitor (I would've said it was like Starbucks trying to beat out the local coffee joint, but local seemed the better setup in this case!). The older set hung out at Son1's stand selling lemonade and Kool-Aid (no more pretzels), the younger two were semi-loyal to their own raspberry Kool-Aid stand yet wandered. The younger boys were definitely trying to see into Son1's money box to see how their earnings compared, but Son1 wasn't having any of that.

At the end of the day, the younger set made about $1 which they split equally (hmmmmm), and Son1 cleared about $1.50, I think, after the 25c he paid me to wash the cups at the beginning (he forgot) and the 35c he paid another kid for some sort of help. He paid a third helper in lemonade, LOL.

It's been quite an adventure, and despite the big pay dispute and little upsets here and there, the boys have LOVED it! I'm not sure what they're thinking of doing tomorrow. We have a playdate planned here for after school. Hmmm. Maybe the stand will be reinvented once again on Saturday.

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