Thursday, July 01, 2004
Business secrets of the lemonade stand You get more when you give by Nadine Novotny Coundphoto courtesy of Nadine Novotny Cound Author Nadine Novotny Cound and her daughter Hailley.
One beautiful summer Sunday afternoon, my daughter Hailley asks if she can have a lemonade stand. Thinking it would be a perfect opportunity to learn enterprise, economics, marketing, public relations and the satisfaction of earning your own stash of candy cash, I eagerly agree.
As my husband sets up her little plastic table by the sidewalk and I make the lemonade, Hailley enthusiastically creates a sign to advertise her product. It reads: "FREE LEMONADE." Clearly missing the point of a lemonade stand, I try to explain to her how it's supposed to work.
"Hailley, you can't make any money by giving lemonade away for free," I say. "Most kids charge five or 10 cents a cup."
"I know," she says, "but I want to give it away for free." After a few more futile attempts to explain basic economics to this beautifully naive 6-year-old, I reluctantly agree and figure she will soon learn an important, if not disappointing, lesson in how the world really works. We tape the sign to her table, and she sits down and proceeds to proudly arrange the pitcher and the cups.
I garden nearby as she shouts "free lemonade!" to any passerby. She is soon joined by her 2-year-old brother, eager to get in on the screaming action.
We live on a very busy street so there is quite a lot of shouting as cars and bicycles whizz by. But no one stops. Maybe our street is too busy, or not convenient enough for people to stop. Will Hailley have to learn a hard lesson about the obliviousness of busy adults? Can't someone, anyone, stop for just one cup and drop a nickel in her cash box?
Soon, a man walking by does stop for a cup. He asks how much and smiles when she sweetly says, "It's free!" He is so charmed by her answer that he gives her a dollar. A whole dollar! I try to give him some change, but he refuses.
This scenario is repeated a few more times until a group of nine high school basketball players come by to patronize the neighborhood businesskid. So stunned that Hailley is really giving the lemonade away for free, they each give her a dollar. They drink all of the lemonade and we pack up our supplies.
We count her profits. She has made about $12-on free lemonade! My husband and I are dumbfounded and amused. Profit is obviously not Hailley's motivation. She just wants the experience of having a lemonade stand just like the one she has seen the kids down the street have on many a summer day. Yet she has earned an astounding $12, more than she ever would have made for selling the lemonade, even if she had charged 25 cents a cup.
I had expected Hailley to learn a few rudimentary business and economic skills. But, I am the one who learns the biggest lesson of all: You can't put a price on a child's generosity. In their world, absent of profit and greed, lies pure unadulterated love.
What's taught in business schools cannot compare to what kids instinctively know-that goodwill goes further than any marketing strategy or pricing scheme.
It's a lesson too late learned to recoup people's savings lost in the recent corporate greed scandals. Perhaps we should take Kenneth Lay, Bernie Ebbers and Dennis Kozlowski out of the executive suites and send them to the sidewalks of middle America to learn a few fundamental business skills. It's what they forgot while they were busy stealing from their employees and shareholders.
Sometimes the lessons are meant for the adults, not the children. And on this Sunday, the lesson isn't lost on me.illustration by Marc Stopeck
Reader essays What could be better for summer than a little light reading about adventures in parenting-especially if the adventures and the problems have to do with other people's kids? Chicago Parent is lucky to have a wealth of talented parents who are not only readers of the magazine but are willing to take a moment and write for us as well. Each month, we receive a number of great essays and until now, we were limiting ourselves to printing but one of those essays a month. No more; we have decided to take a little more space and try to get our readers voices into the magazine more often. After all, this is your magazine. Why shouldn't it be filled with your voices? This month, we offer three great essays about: throwing the not-so-perfect birthday party; Hailley, the amazing entrepreneur, and her lemonade stand, and one man's battle with giving into the dreaded minivan.
Nadine Novotny Cound is a writer who lives in Wheaton and the mother of Liam, 4, and Hailley, now 8.