It happened shortly after we were married. My wife and I were out driving one day when something caused us to pull off to the side of the road.
We stopped for a few minutes and as we started driving off again we looked each other in the eye and made a promise to each other to never NOT do what we had just done.
And 33 years later, we’ve managed to keep that promise.
So what exactly could have caused us to pull off the road that day that led us to making such a lifetime commitment?
A kid’s lemonade stand, of course!
We had just been married a couple of weeks, and we were driving around trying to get familiar with our new neighborhood. We noticed that a couple of kids had set up a classic lemonade stand on the corner. They had a homemade posterboard advertising the business and a small table with a pitcher of lemonade and some dixie cups beside it.
My wife suggested that we stop, and I still remember how excited the kids were that someone was stopping to buy their lemonade. We bought two cups, left a generous tip (probably a quarter), and as we drove away, we couldn’t stop talking about how such a simple transaction could make someone feel so happy. And we weren’t talking about the kids, we were talking about ourselves. (The kids selling the lemonade seemed pretty happy too 🙂 )
So it was right then and there that we made a pledge to each other that we would ALWAYS stop at a kid’s lemonade stand whenever we saw one, and I think we’ve held true to that promise.
In fact, what inspired this post is the fact that I stopped at a lemonade stand today. It was an easy one to stop at; it was on a quiet street, and it was set-up on the side that I was driving. That’s not always the case; over the years we’ve done u-turns and crossed four lane highways just to get a cup of lemonade and keep our promise to each other.
I also think that over the years I’ve grown to appreciate lemonade stands even more.
To me, it’s a tradition that reminds me of simpler times. Kids are outside with their friends; there’s no electronic gadgets necessary to sell lemonade; kids are doing it because they want to, no one is forcing them to do this; kids get excited when you leave a tip, no matter the size of the tip.
I’ve also gotten more sophisticated over the years in the questions I ask these budding entrepreneurs. It used to be simple questions like “Are you having fun?” or “Is this your first time to sell lemonade?” Now I ask them if they know what their profit margin is on each cup, if they’ve calculated the cost of acquiring a customer, if they’ve tried split testing different marketing approaches, if they plan to expand to other neighborhoods, if they’ve considered franchising, if they have an exit plan, or if they’ve thought about an IPO someday.
Of course my wife just tells me to be quiet, and to leave a big tip.
Our own kids even would set up the occasional lemonade stand. They really hit the jackpot when they discovered how popular a lemonade stand would be at Villanova University on move-in day. They would make enough that one day to not worry about having another lemonade stand until next year’s move in day. Of course, like any good business idea, other kids started to do the same thing, and then it got so out of control that the local police had to shut down the stands. As an interesting side note, one of the stands shut down was being run by a couple of Andy Reid’s sons. Reid was the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles at the time.
And who knows what great things could be accomplished using the simple idea of a lemonade stand.
Alexandra “Alex” Flynn Scott was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a pediatric cancer, two days before her first birthday. In July 2000, in spite of her own failing health, she decided to open a lemonade stand, aided by her older brother, to raise money to help children with cancer. They held an annual “Alex’s Lemonade Stand for Childhood Cancer” on the family’s front lawn. Her first lemonade stand raised over $2,000 and turned into an annual tradition.
In 2004, Alex passed away at the age of eight at her house with her parents at her side. By that time, her stand and inspiration had raised more than $1 million toward finding a cure for the disease that took her life.
Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation was started by her parents in 2005 to continue the work that Alex began. Since Alex set up her first lemonade stand in 2000, the Foundation has raised more than $100 million.
So the next time you see a lemonade stand, please stop and buy a cup. Who knows, you could be funding the next Steve Jobs, helping to find a cure for cancer, or simply making some kid’s day. All those quarters can make a difference, and a happy marriage.