Three Practical Lessons From Running a Lemonade Stand

By: Karl R. LaPan, President & CEO, Northeast Indiana Innovation Center

Kids don’t take life too seriously, and they also know how to quickly bounce back from adversity. If you’ve ever seen a lemonade stand enterprise, then you know exactly what I mean. Sometimes the kid behind the stand knows more about how to succeed in business than many adults who tend to over-think things. We all could learn a thing or two from these young entrepreneurs. Here are the 3 business lessons grown-ups can glean from kids’ no-nonsense approach to business:

Lesson #1 – It’s OK to start small.

For many kids, setting up a simple lemonade stand and selling sugary drinks to their neighbors is their first entrepreneurial venture.Talk about modest! But the important point is the fact they started in the first place.

The lesson here: Don’t get overwhelmed by an aspirational goal. Focus on your current strengths and wins. Don’t forget the everyday victories that often go overlooked. It’s OK to start small–right where you are–and grow from there.

Lesson #2 – “No” is not the end of the world. According to our NIIC 2016 Ideas@Work Speaker (author and motivational speaker) JB Bernstein, “No is the beginning of a negotiation.”

Kids tend to handle setbacks and disappointments differently than adults–and that’s usually to their benefit. Lemonade stands aren’t always cash cows. Sometimes the weather is bad or there’s competition. While facing setbacks in the business world, look for opportunities to keep propelling forward, rather than fixating on a single deal that didn’t go well. It’s OK to reflect on what went wrong and correct course, but don’t obsess–or else you’ll do yourself and your business a disservice

Lesson #3 – Zero in on your “target” customer.

For many kids, their first customer will probably be mom, dad or a sibling. Knowing who and who isn’t your target customer is critical. Finding your “desired” customer is often the result of rigorous and disciplined customer discovery and validation efforts. Often, this means experimentation and trial and error. Kids learn quickly who the real buyers of their services are, and they focus and target relentlessly on that demographic or customer segment.

Check out the NIIC student entrepreneurship programs to see the difference NIIC’s student entrepreneurship can make in teaching the entrepreneurial mindset if you choose to start your own business, or how you can leverage entrepreneurship to develop the marketable and transferable skills demanded by today’s employers. In either case, entrepreneurship teaches valuable career and life skills.

You’ll never look at a lemonade stand the same way now, will you? What other lessons have you learned from young entrepreneurs? How can you put them into practice in your business today?


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