Lessons from kid entrepreneurs
Most parents are painfully aware that summer vacations are in full swing. Just filling your kids' day with meaningful activities becomes challenging. Some choices are free play in the backyard / local neighborhood, watch TV or attend expensive summer camps. Well in reality it is a little of all of these. However, with my nieces visiting me this summer, things have become a little more challenging. There are three girls (including my daughter) aged 7-10 whom I will have to entertain endlessly to fulfill my avuncular duties. OR so I thought.
This weekend we decided to put up a lemonade stand in our local city parks. And boy, did I just open a can of fun and hyper excitement for them. My only instruction was - "make it happen." Given how much I learnt from the entire exercise, I was the main winner.
Planning: The girls got up early and like any meticulous project manager charted out all the required ingredients ( including music and decoration for the stall). The list was quite thorough including items like tape for putting up the decoration. The tasks were also well defined with clear responsibilities. There was a chief decorator (to make posters), chef (to prepare lemonade), and item collector to make sure all items for the stand are procured. The name of the venture - ARA (for the initials of the kids)
Lesson: Planning is crucial even for seemingly small tasks.
Preparation: With everybody's duties charted out, all the 6 hands were on board. Making posters with bright colors, preparing lemonade per very accurate measurements, and making sure there were enough glasses, napkins, garbage bags, etc. Everyone was cross checking with others to make sure all was fine and on track.
Lesson: Lean, just in time, Kaizen execution at its best. Parallel processing, with highest priority to problems in the assembly process.
Start of business: By late afternoon we were all ready to hit the biggest park (to get most customers). with all items carefully stacked up in the car, icebox filled with fresh ice, we set off and sat up our modest stand. Of course the kids had a picture in mind that the moment the stand is set up, people will flock over and buy all the freshly squeezed, zesty, sweet-tarty lemonade. But things were turning out a little different. No one cared about our stand and there were no sales. 5 minutes into it, they were looking completely beaten down due to zero sales. The three were looking at me waiting for some magic to happen. I didn't know what to say. If you have dealt with kids that age, patience was not a good word for the moment. All I could say was go do some direct sales and advertise your stand to people. Off the three darted and told every parent and the kid nearby about the stand. Still no orders. No volume sales. This only made the kids more determined and now they added the option to deliver the cold refreshing glass to where ever parents were sitting / standing.
The first customer was a nice gentleman who really appreciated the efforts the children were making. He agreed (actually offered) to have a picture taken. This was the start of the venture.
The orders started rolling in, 1 glass, 3 glasses and eventually we sold 14 glasses in 30 minutes. Things slowed down quite a bit after that. We decided to move to a smaller park which would be denser and more packed with people. Everyone who had the lemonade really liked it, but there were few new customers coming in now.
1. Impatience is also a virtue. I would have waited longer to push the sales.
2. Sales needs courage. The kids were really bold to walk up to strangers and sell the idea of a refreshment. I would have been more hesitant.
Business takes off!! We drove to a different park with fewer people, but the people were more densely packed. Instead of advertising to parents, team ARA started advertising to other children. These were the primary users and and our allies. These kids (ultimately our uses) did the work to persuade their parents and now the orders really started coming in. As the crowd gathered, we attracted more attention and more people came over. Now emboldened, team ARA tried something new - approaching the people playing basketball, volleyball or other physical sports. Now this was the kicker. We were really serving a pain point. These were the thirstiest people on the play ground. They had the money and would also recommend the product to others reducing our sales or advertising efforts. This is exactly what happened. Now we were not able to keep up with the demand. In 20 minutes we were sold out. All 3 gallons, just wooshh. The kids were having so much fun, yelling with every new order, and thanking all customers with their heart. Everyone around now knew what we doing in the park.
1. Product placement is very important. First location was not conducive to volume sales, but the second park was.
2. Serve the pain point
3. Don't just reach to the decision makers but also the users and persuaders
4. ENTHUSIASM for your product is very very important
5. Have a good product. At the end all the lemonade was sold. Kids had PLENTY of fun. They learnt a few lessons in costing, pricing, product placement, sales, marketing and users. For me, it was just refreshing to see some of the complex business phenomenon unraveling in a simple scenario like a lemonade stand. Most importantly, I discovered an alternate way to engage the kids and have plenty of fun.