Lemonade Stands Are Getting Shut Down Left and Right. Is This Wrong?

updated Sep 30, 2020
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(Image credit: Michelle D. Milliman)

Of course it’s wrong. Why would you even ask that? Lemonade stands are always worth a stop, even if you don’t particularly like lemonade. The opportunity to talk with young entrepreneurs is irresistible, and the price is usually just right.

For the kids, stocking, staffing, and marketing a lemonade stand is a great first job, with plenty of lessons to be learned (like why you should hesitate before working with family, which kids will discover as soon as little sisters get too obsessed with holding all the money — causing parents to revoke all business licenses).

These days, though, a younger sibling with impulse-control issues isn’t a young entrepreneur’s only problem. There are some joy-stealing adults out there who want to destroy yet another innocent childhood tradition. Yup, people are actually calling the cops on kids … for selling lemonade without a permit. Why, oh, why?

First, the Value of the Lemonade Stand

Lemonade stands are often the first foray children make into the real world. They start with a desire for cash (or free drinks) and end up learning some great lessons. Here’s what they can take away.

1. Business (and Math and Life) Lessons

Young kids can learn how to count money, slightly older kids can learn how to make change, and if you’re really into it, older kids can go with you to more than one store and learn how to compare prices. As much as you can, given your child’s age, you should run things like a real business: Let them make the lemonade themselves and pay you for the materials. Don’t want to charge full price? The government sometimes subsidizes businesses, and you are a benevolent leader.

2. The Importance of Giving Back

Ask the kids to pledge a portion of their profits to a good cause. For one, it’s a lot harder for people to get mad about a lemonade stand if the sign reads “Lemonade, $1. We give 10 percent of all sales to Save the Loggerheads.” And two, it’s never too early to teach kids how to be charitable.

You can explain to older kids the difference between offering 10 percent of sales and 10 percent of profits, because customers may ask. Part of me thinks these patrons should let it go, but a larger part of me thinks it’s actually great that random adults hold kids accountable for honesty in marketing. Seems like not enough people have learned that one, so … hooray for more math and a well-considered business plan!

3. Persistance

Working outside gets hot. And sticky. And kinda boring. And your child may be fighting with business partners (read: siblings or neighborhood volunteers, whose parents darn well sent them down there to “help” so they could get a break). Making children pay for materials encourages them to stick with it, if only to make back their investment.

If you’re a thirsty shopper, don’t you want responsible, hard-working entrepreneurs in your neighborhood? If these kids don’t learn how to make a buck now, they’ll never move out of their parents’ homes and you’ll be stuck with the extra neighbors forever.

4. How to Understand the Market

A cul-de-sac requires outbound marketing, whereas placement near a popular and sweaty destination, like a tennis court, brings business to you. Years ago, a wise and wonderful nanny took my kids to the local college campus to set up a stand. Between the cuteness, the college kids’ nostalgia, and the availability of cold lemonade on a hot day for less than the cost of a soda, they made a killing. And the kids learned the importance of market research.

5. The Best Ways to Present Yourself to the Public

Unless you sit alongside your kid (please don’t), they’ll have to talk to people. Well-meaning adults who get it will ask them questions. Kids should be able to answer questions about ingredients and the business itself. They’ll also learn banter. Banter is so hard for some of us, and it’s better to start early.

They’ll also learn to deal with unpleasant people — unless you’re lucky and happen to live in a bubble of only nice people. Some people ask too many questions because they’re dying to burn the whole lemonade stand tradition to the ground. Or they ignore the stand completely. These are bad people, but don’t tell your kids that. Say something conciliatory, like, “Some people just have hard lives and they have trouble being nice.” Try not to let them see that you’re gritting your teeth and rolling your eyes on the inside.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

So Why Do People Hate Lemonade Stands?

Well, some people say they bring too much traffic to the area. (I’m pretty sure the only people who drive out of their way to go to a lemonade stand are the proprietor’s own grandparents.) Others claim they take business from local vendors. (Really? People prefer powdered lemonade to your product? You have way bigger problems here.)

I say if either of those things is true, you have a culinary prodigy on your hands and you should look into a legit business license, and then buy a small juice truck to set up at the farmers market or anywhere else your town allows. College tuition, here we come! (And the story of a sensational lemonade stand will make a great subject for the personal essay.)

Some people have an issue with the fact that kids’ lemonade stands don’t have the necessary permits or fail to follow general health code regulations. To those people, I say pfffft. Really? Are you really that worried about some little kid germs?

Before you let your children set up shop, you may want to see where your city falls on this issue. (You know, if you live in a town with miserable people who have no heart.) And if you’re one of those people who are convinced that the lemonade stand is bringing down your property value and must be stopped? Go hang out in a coffee shop for a couple hours and pretend it isn’t happening. I guarantee your Zestimate will be the same when you get back. Don’t be so sour!

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Thoughts on lemonade stands? Yay or nay?