Lemonade for Sale

In her new book, The Trump Card: Playing to Win in Work and Life, Ivanka Trump tells of failing at her first entrepreneurial venture- her lemonade stand. She failed because it was at the end of a dead-end street in a gated community. It came down to location, location, location.

Each year, Inc. magazine profiles “The Best Lemonade Stand In America” and this year Good Morning America started a “Best Business Stand In America” contest. Two 15-year-olds in North Carolina won the Inc. contest by turning their front lawn into a lemonade emporium. In addition to ‘incredibly good’ lemonade served in the summer sun, they offered frequent-buyer punch cards, games-to-win discounts and ‘great service.’ Their stand was impossible to ignore and they created the ultimate lemonade experience; deservedly, they were featured on the magazine’s cover.

While setting up product carts in malls this past week for the holiday season, I was reminded how the components of this micro business are in fact the structural backbone to any business. In order for these six-foot-wide rolling ‘shops’ to be operational and effective they require the right location, well merchandised products, correct price points, available inventory, informative signs and so forth. We sell t-shirts, but coffee, jewelry, chairs, computers or lemonade can easily replace them. The business model remains the same. In fact, McDonalds and many of America’s large companies began as pushcarts or stands. Stonewall Kitchen started at the farmer’s market in Portsmouth and The Kittery Trading Post was once a small shed on the side of the road selling moccasins.

For the past few years, I have used the kiosk business model as a way to simplify the process of starting a company. People can quickly become intimidated and overwhelmed at the prospect of starting a business when they are confronted with the multitude of things to think about; especially if that includes “business speak”. Business consultants are quick to take over the process, eliminating the client’s need to learn, and business books are often filled with jargon that even an experienced businessperson can find confusing. The questions are always ‘where and how do I begin?’

However, everyone has had, or at least, visited a lemonade stand and can relate to and understand the various components that make it a good or bad stand. A lemonade stand needs products, supplies and a place to set up. The basic premise is to make more money than you spend being in business. Customers make decisions to buy or not buy the lemonade based on their assessment of what they see and experience.

My intention is not to oversimplify or trivialize the challenges involved with starting a business, but make the prospect manageable for a person in the start-up stage. I suggest starting with a good idea and combining it with common sense. Create the checklist of items needed to open your business just the way you would if setting up a lemonade stand.

  • Look at the business from a buyer and seller perspective.
  • Evaluate the necessities to make a profit.
  • Be creative in creating a consumer experience
  • Consider location, location, location
  • And last, but not least, post your “open for business” sign!