Opinion

Out of the mouths of babes: lessons from a lemonade stand

- September 1, 2021 5 MIN READ

Across the country, there are thousands of people who are juggling growing their business with the needs of their family. The responsibility is huge, especially when these little people are watching every move. As they watch and learn, chances are the seeds of entrepreneurship are being sowed and the entrepreneurs of the future are in the making. While we think we are teaching our children how to run a business, they have a thing or two to teach us, writes Annette Densham.

When branding expert and consultant Jessica Ritchie’s seven-year-old Max asked if he could set up a lemonade stand outside their home, she thought it would be a good life lesson for him. After spending an afternoon helping him get prepared, it was Jessica who walked away with some valuable business insights.

“Max had been wanting to do the stand for some time. His goal was to make money. I was keen for him to have this learning experience. While he learnt a lot, so did I,” she said.

Over the course of the afternoon, sitting in the driveway, here are the 10 business lessons they learnt.


lemoande stand sign

Great signage is a must to increase sales!

Perfection can lead to paralysis which means nothing is achieved.

“When Max decided his first sign was not good enough, he wanted to ‘upgrade’ it. I had told him how important preparation and being organised is,” Jessica said. “He used my computer to create his own sign.” While the sign was not perfect, Max told his Mum, ‘we need to be out there by 4pm. No later. It doesn’t have to be perfect.”

How true that is. So many people strive for perfection and it stops them from doing anything. It is better to have something than nothing. “Progress over perfection.”

Dress for the role you want and how you wish to be perceived.


Dressed in his chef outfit, Max was ready to hit the front yard. He and Jessica agreed that presentation is important because it is often people’s first impression of you.

Looking professional: The boys dressed the par for their stall

Looking professional: The boys dressed the part for their stall

You need to earn sufficient money to have a viable business.

As Jessica and Max stood on the side of the road, waving and smiling at all the cars that drove past, no one was stopping. Max started to doubt his mission of making money. If there were no sales, there was no cash. Sales are the lifeblood of a business. Without cash flow it is almost impossible to market and grow a business. It is important to ensure you have enough money coming in.

A positive attitude is contagious.

While, initially, there was no money coming in, people driving by were responding to the happy, driven young man on the side of the road waving and smiling at them. “Max started to see how many people who were driving past gave us BIG smiles and waved at us,” Jessica said. “He realised that while money is important, it is also important to make people happy.

taking teh show to teh road

Taking the show on the road

Get out of your comfort zone and cross the road, even if you don’t want to.

Jessica said with no sale after 15 minutes of opening. Max and his brother Billy decided it was time to divide and conquer. “Billy stood on the other side of the road holding up a lemonade sign and Max did the same by the stand,” she said. It was a big move for the boys, but they had a goal and knew they had to do something to stand out even though it made them uncomfortable.

Detach from the outcome to increase flow and joy.

Getting their hustle on, the boys started to have fun. Waving their signs faster and the smiles on their faces got bigger and bigger. They hadn’t forgotten their purpose but they decided it was just as important to make people smile  and anything on top that was a bonus. Instead of being crushed by the hurdles that come with business, it is important to remember why you do what you do.

Even when things get hard, keep the promises that you make. We show our true selves when times get tough.

With “darn it” the most popular saying after the first 20 minutes and no sales, Max thought it was time to call it a day. “I told him we couldn’t because our sign said we were open for an hour from 4pm-5pm,” Jessica said. It is not always easy living up to our word but people are attracted to integrity and honesty.  ‘

Take a look at your business to understand the customer journey and experience. Always look to improve.

After 25 minutes with no customers, Billy declared he should pretend to be a customer. They role-played the customer experience, deciding how customers would be greeted, how to pour the lemonade and how to walk around the counter to give it to them. Getting serious about processes and systems helps to refine your offering, showing you understand your customer.

Patience is a virtue

At 4.25pm, they got their first customer. A few minutes later, his two teenage sons rode down on their bikes to buy 2 cups of lemonade. The boys said, “Dad told us to tell you guys to keep the $10 change.” Once they had one customer, more came.

Never assume

With 10 minutes to go before the stand closed, there was only half a cup of lemonade left. A man walked by picking up cans. Max decided to be because of the big tip, he wanted to give this man the final half a cup free. But the man was happy to pay full price to support the boys.. As he opened his wallet, Max saw it was full of cash. “When the man left, Max said he thought the man didn’t have enough money to pay for the lemonade if he was collecting cans off the side of the road,” she said. It goes to show, you should never judge a book by its cover.

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