Look across the United States on any given summer day and you’ll likely see variations on a similar entrepreneurial theme: the lemonade stand. Today, the lemonade stand has come to symbolize not only kiddie businesses, but also the spirit of the American dream and financial vision. This wasn’t always the case, though, and modern kids have to jump through more hoops than their predecessors in order to make lemonade stands fill their piggy banks.
The First Lemonade Stands
When America was still a fledgling nation, a steady pulse of immigrants flocked to the U.S. from a host of countries such as Ireland and Germany. As reported by Linton Weeks of National Public Radio, vendors greeted these immigrants with a concoction very different than the stuff most kids sell today—the lemonade sold in the late 1800s was a mixture of molasses, vinegar, water and some squeezed lemons. Over time, kids realized they could make profits from selling this and similar drinks, and since lemonade stands were relatively inexpensive and simple to start and maintain, lemonade stands quickly became an enterprise toward which children steered.
The Evolution of a Kids’ Business
Although lemonade stands didn’t start out as a kids’ business, as more and more children embarked on their own ventures, and as immigrants pushed further westward, children adapted their lemonade stands and strategies to meet consumer demands. Eventually, the drink lost its muddiness, becoming clearer and relying on more refined sweeteners such as cane sugar. Modern kids still make lemonade with a basic recipe of sugar, lemons and water, but in some cases, children buy pre-manufactured lemonades or lemonade powders for their stands.
Danielle and her team building their lemonade stand early this year
No Longer an Easy Venture
Back in the day when lemonade stands were still young, kids had little regulation regarding what they could and could not put in their lemonades. They also had few limits on where they could sell or what they charged. Modern kids don’t have it so easy—starting a lemonade stand in some cities requires a formal license, for example. In fact, across the nation, police officers are shutting down kids’ lemonade stands that don’t meet current laws. This doesn’t mean the police are out to shut down your kids’ dream of profit—after all, officials just want to ensure drinks people distribute are safe. Still, it does mean that, as a parent or caregiver, you’ve got to do your homework and check what is and is not permissible in your jurisdiction before your child whips up his first pitcher of lemonade to sell. Additionally, with so many kids pushing their stands, you have to teach your child to think more competitively to devise ways to attract buyers.
Beyond Personal Profit
Lemonade stands can be a terrific means for you to teach your child about business strategy, corporate competition, formal budgeting and customer service. Lessons from lemonade stands don’t have to stop there, however. You also can use lemonade stands as a means to include charity in financial education for children. Some kids set up lemonade stands for specific causes such as cancer research. Perhaps the most famous of these stands is Alex’s Lemonade Stand, which has raised over $50 million for cancer research since 2004 as of 2012. Your child might not be able to raise thousands from his stand, but the concept that people can raise money to help others in need is invaluable.
Weeks, L. (2011). America’s Attack on Lemonade Stands. National Public Radio. Retrieved April 17, 2012 from http://www.npr.org/2011/07/19/138461324/americas-attack-on-lemonade-stands.