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    Thursday, June 9, 2011

    Lemonade Economics

    We tried an experiment this week. We’ve been looking for new and effective ways to promote books and subsidize my mom’s jewelry-making habit, so we decided to try our luck with a booth at a local farmer’s market.

    Thinking this would be a good opportunity for the boys to learn a little about commerce, we suggested that they run a lemonade stand next to our table. They really got into the idea, so on Wednesday we loaded tables, chairs, a canopy, boxes of books, jewelry, a cooler, and two little boys into the van.

    Setting up was a nightmare. Just putting the canopy up requires an engineering degree. I’d only had a crash course on the front lawn given by my overworked hubby. When I couldn’t get the framework in place, I called him. He was on his way home from working a night shift at the test lab but agreed to come to my rescue. Thankfully, help came from several of the other folks at the market, and Kory got to go home and sleep.

    With everything set up, more or less, we were open and ready for business. That’s when we learned a hard truth about retail. Selling something is easy when you’re seven and nine-years-old and adorable. In fact, you can sell a small cup of lemonade for twenty-five cents and people will give you a dollar and say, “Keep the change.”

    The boys made a killing.

    Monkey, in particular, got into the whole salesman thing. He hollered, “You want some lemonade?” at every passerby, and when things were slow, he went out and tracked down customers. He hounded the other merchants in our row so relentlessly that I thought he’d get some cross looks. But they were all patient, and most eventually gave in and bought some lemonade. Unfortunately, being Monkey, he didn’t remember they’d already bought some and continued harassing them.

    It’s nice to know he has career options if his whole playing-video-games-for-money plan doesn’t work out.

    But you should have seen the boys' faces when we told them they had to pay Daddy three dollars for supplies. “What?” “Are you kidding?” We explained that in a real business, you have to purchase your supplies and that money comes out of your profit.

    I almost told them they had to pay me for actually making the lemonade, but they were so indignant about their overhead I didn’t want to bring labor costs into the picture. Next time.

    As for the other, less adorable and less obnoxious members of our enterprise, well, we did all right. Decent, in fact. But I’m not sure if we’ll try again. The canopy snapped halfway into the afternoon, and we had to enlist the help of some customers to take it down before it crashed on our heads. We lost a few necklaces to the wind. They were blown off and broke on the pavement. We did sell some books and met some great people, but it’s kind of humiliating to be outsold by a couple of little boys trying to earn enough money for a Lego set.

    Then again, if anyone ever tells you the life of an author is glamorous, they're probably trying to sell you something.

    In honor of the boys success, I think it's appropriate to share this YouTube of a clearly ADHD duck and his take on lemonade stands.


    http://traceybianchi.com said...

    Indeed! The life of an author is far from glamorous. But it makes for good blogging fodder. Loved this post! I'd have bought books, jewelry, and of course lemonade!

    Amy (ArtsyBookishGal) said...

    I wish your mom lived closer to me. I would totally give her all my beading stuff. I have TONS of semi-precious beads and materials. I had a small bead shop a few years ago...and just don't want it.

    Beth K. Vogt said...

    Christa has also made a killing selling lemonade. It amazes me. But, then again, I've made a solemn vow to stop and buy lemonade from any kids selling the stuff. It's the mom in me--I know how hard their moms have worked to help them get set up!

    Jennifer ♥ said...

    Your stories are hilarious! I love that duck video.

    crownring said...


    As a veteran buyer and friend of seller/vendors of farmer's markets and craft fairs, I can tell you tales that makes yours look par for the course, E. I have helped a friend hold down her canopy in the midst of a wild thunderstorm, gotten drenched when another artisan friend put the hatch on her car down after a surprise downpour, been terrorized by bees when a thoughtless honey vender dumped beeswax on the pavement at the end of the selling year....you name it! But as you also learned, there are kind and helpful people to be found too. If you made a friend or two there, they can be a precious resource for information.

    BTW, I got a kick out of your kids selling lemonade! I certainly would have bought some too, even if I can't drink it anymore.

    HUGS! :)

    crownring said...

    BTW, Amy, you can destash your beads and materials on Etsy and make some of your money back. Quite a few sellers have destash shops there.