Setting up a lemonade stand sounds like a fun way to make some money. But there’s a lot more involved than squeezing lemons and adding sugar!
Back in the summer of 2005, two bored boys named Dominic Serino and Ryan Decker from Salem, Massachusetts, came up with a smart plan to make some summer bucks. They decided to set up a lemonade stand in a popular spot called the Common. It was an open public space in the center of town where community events, gatherings, and recreational activities often took place. They thought it was the perfect location because it was right in the middle of everything.
To make things even better, there was a sports event being held nearby. The boys realized that the fans who were going to watch the game might get thirsty on their way in or out. So they saw an opportunity to sell their refreshing lemonade to those thirsty fans and make some extra cash. It was a smart move to take advantage of the crowd, and make their lemonade stand a big success.
Unfortunately for them, someone had a problem — a big problem — with their little business enterprise. A vendor named Jarrod Clowery was selling sausages from a nearby street cart, and felt that the boys (who were 9 and 11, by the way) were hurting his business with their 50-cents-a-cup lemonade-mix lemonade that their signs proclaimed to be “the best in town.” He called the police. Clowery’s claim? The boys didn’t have a proper city vending license to sell their lemonade. (The license costs $2,200.)
When Dan Mazola, a friendly local policeman, arrived at the scene, he quickly realized who the “perpetrators” (i.e., the so-called lawbreakers) were. He called his boss right away to explain what was happening. “I called the sergeant down to the scene because I didn’t feel like kicking these two kids out, and I asked him about the situation, and he said they needed a vendor’s license,” he told a newspaper after the incident.
With a heart full of regret for what he had to do, Mazola tried to find other solutions for the boys and their lemonade stand, such as having the boys move their stand away from Mr. Sausage. But the sergeant said there was nothing he could do: The law was the law.
Mazola was furious. “It’s two little kids selling lemonade,” Mazola said. “If I get a call like that tomorrow, I’ll let someone else take it.” But he did his duty, apologetically telling the kids to pack up and take down their plywood stand….
When locals witnessed the police closing the stand, and word spread about what happened, things turned… sour (yep, pun intended). People told the sausage vendor he was wrong, unfair, mean, and worse, and many refused to patronize his business. The public outcry made the news and grew dramatically.
Luckily, this story had a happy ending! Salem’s Mayor at the time, Stanley Usovicz, came up with a clever plan. He negotiated a “corporate merger,” where the two companies would join together to become one big business. The sausage stand agreed to let the boys sell lemonade using their business license. The agreement would last until the school year started.
When the boys were asked to share their thoughts with the news, they simply said, “Come buy our lemonade.” And the public did! Their lemonade stand was a big success and they made around $130.
While most lemonade stands don’t result in public outcries or make the news, every few years there’s a story like this one, with neighbors, other vendors, or authorities complaining about kids’ little businesses and shutting them down. Most of the time, the public rallies behind the kids and all ends well. But sometimes things don’t, and they get fined, even when those kids are operating lemonade stands to raise money for organizations or to be able to afford camp or other extracurricular activities for themselves.
And that’s why, in 2016, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards signed a bill that would allow kids to operate lemonade stands without any state involvement or interference. Even better, the bill, Senate Bill 99, made sure that kids under 18 wouldn’t have to pay taxes or any other fees if they made less than $500 a year from their lemonade stands. The bill was sponsored by State Reps. Gary Smith and Greg Miller who were saddened by a local news story of children being ticketed for making lemonade stands without official permits. It was a real victory for the little people of the state!
Unbelievably, only 14 states let kids set up lemonade stands without permits (at least as of 2019). These are: California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, North Dakota, Nebraska, Texas, Missouri, Louisiana, Illinois, New York, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. If you’re only serving up the yellow (or pink!) beverage to family or friends at your house, you probably don’t need a license. But if you open to the public, even on your own private property, most states technically require some kind of license.
It’s not just about paperwork and rules. When it comes to selling food, like lemonade, there are important health and safety considerations. That’s why there are requirements in place. The requirements may be different in each state, so, if you’re thinking about setting up a lemonade stand elsewhere, do your research and ask around!
Legal-Ade for Lemonade
In the summer of 2018, Country Time (you know, the lemonade mix brand) set up something they called “Legal-Ade,” offering to help kids fight for their rights to operate lemonade stands and sell the sweet-sour drink. If parents sent in a copy of a fine the kids were forced to pay or a permit they were required to buy, Country Time would refund it up to $300.
Adam Butler, from the company’s management said, “All around the country, kids are getting busted for running their lemonade stands. This summer was different. The Country Time brand took a stand by introducing Legal-Ade: a crack team ready to straighten out lemonade-stand-related permits and fines.”
He said that when the company at first heard reports of kids’ lemonade stands being shut down for technical legal reasons, they didn’t believe it was really true. But when they looked into it, they quickly saw that it was happening quite frequently. The company decided to make a very real and public response to the issue. “We strongly believe that [lemonade stands] build solid life skills for kids,” Butler said. “To see kids discouraged from this rite of passage compelled the brand to speak up about it and take a stand.” The company helped around 450 kids with their lemonade stand issues that summer. Sweet!
Advice from a billionaire on how to make a profitable lemonade stand
If you want to make a lemonade stand (or any business venture) successful, Warren Buffett says you need to think about:
So, if your first attempt at a lemonade stand wasn’t as successful as you were hoping, ask yourself:
- Were the ingredients good quality and did the lemonade taste really good?
- Was there too much competition in the area? (Were other kids making lemonade stands close by? Were they offering more or better things than you were?)
- Was your price fair? (Are you charging a reasonable price for what you’re offering? Are you generous with your lemonade serving size for what people are paying?)
- Is there a real market for lemonade in your area right now? (Maybe it’s not so hot outside, or people nearby like something else much more, like iced tea or iced coffee?)
- Is your location good? (Do enough people pass by your street? Will people see or hear about your stand?)
What’s Up with Pink Lemonade?
Everyone knows that lemons are yellow. So where did pink lemonade come from?
Well, that’s a matter of debate.
An obituary (that’s a written newspaper announcement stating that someone died and sharing a bit about their life) that appeared in 1912 for Henry E. “Sanchez” Allott said that he was the inventor of pink lemonade. According to the story, Allott worked at a circus and was serving lemonade at a concession stand. He accidentally dropped some red cinnamon candies into his vat of lemonade, and pink lemonade was born.
Another pink lemonade origin story also involves a circus worker. This one, named Pete Conklin, apparently made his lemonade out of water, sugar, and something called tartaric acid, a food additive from plants. He used one lemon (!) for a whole season as a garnish for his tub of lemonade.
One day, Conklin sold out of lemonade and needed to make another batch fast. He grabbed a vat of water that a different performer had just used to rinse her pink tights. (Can we just say EWWW?!) And he mixed up a batch of what he called “strawberry lemonade.” The pink mix caused his sales to double!
These days, pink lemonade is usually made by adding additional fruit juices (like grape or pomegranate) or food coloring. Those sound a lot more appetizing, don’t they?
Have You Ever Made a Lemonade Stand?
Tales from the Trenches
Warren Buffett is a really famous American investor and businessman. As of June 2023, he had around $117 billion to his name, and is one of the wealthiest people in the world. He is renowned for having super smart investment strategies and a really savvy business mindset. And guess how he got his start? That’s right. Lemonade.
When Buffett was five years old, he decided to set up a lemonade stand to make some money. But looking around, he realized that his family’s house didn’t get so much traffic. He asked a friend if he could set up shop in front of his house instead because more people passed by there. He even added some gum to his offerings at the stand to increase profits. As far as we know, he doesn’t remember how much he made from the venture, but it obviously whet his appetite for business and propelled him to continue….
Lots of kids are in good company, then.
> Chaya, 11, Elisheva, 8, and Shayna, 6, sisters from West Rogers Park, Chicago, Illinois, made a lemonade stand at the beginning of the summer. It was hot outside, and it seemed like it would be a fun thing to do, and, as the girls said, “We thought other people would be thirsty, and we were kind of bored.”
They sold lemonade that they mixed from a powder, and they also offered iced tea. They got around 10-15 customers, including construction workers on the block, and a policeman, and they made $8.38. They had such a great experience that in the course of this conversation they decided to do another one right away.
Their advice for other lemonade stand entrepreneurs? “Charge a small amount for each cup — that way more people will be interested in buying. Call loudly, ‘Lemonade for X cents!’ so all your neighbors hear. And of course, try the lemonade before you start selling it to make sure it tastes good. A big, colorful sign will also help so that more people will see it.”
The lemonade stand they made directly after this interview was to raise money for Chai Lifeline. They were only able to run it for about an hour because it started pouring and they had to close shop, but they had a great time doing it anyway, and a few friends from the block joined in.
> Yisrael, Esty, and Yehuda Boles, siblings from Toms River, New Jersey, made their first lemonade stand during the Covid lockdowns. Yisrael was eight, Esty was six, and Yehuda was three at the time. They made one because, “We were going crazy and needed something to do.” Like their counterparts in Chicago, they made their lemonade from a mix, and they also sold iced tea.
They ended up with a ton of customers, far more than they had expected, and it was a wonderful experience. “It was a very dark and gloomy time in the world, and many people passing by seeing a lemonade stand were just reminded of the small joys in life, and they stopped and bought a cup or just gave us money. Most people overpaid. Tons of gentiles stopped as well and talked about how they remember making lemonade stands when they were kids and how we made their day. Things went amazing! And we made around $225 in like two hours!”
The kids also learned about change when a customer came by in a car but only had a $50 bill. She wanted to give them $2, so they needed to give her back $48. They also had a lot of dog-walking customers — and doggy customers, too!
The Boles kids had a great time and would absolutely do it again. “This time we will sell our mother’s famous cookies, too!” Mmm! Sounds good to me.
Their advice for future lemonade sellers? “Make a huge sign and have one person stand there and wave it at all the cars passing. A ton of cars and even trucks stopped after they saw the sign. You definitely need a sales-type of person in your group, and don’t spend all your earnings in one place!”
> Esther Nayman was seven when she made a lemonade stand in front of her house. She did it just for fun, and her mother helped her make the lemonade.
“My mother makes a simple syrup, which is the same amounts of sugar and water melted together. She sometimes does it in a pot, and sometimes in the microwave. Then she adds lemon juice and more water and then we mix it. Sometimes we use fresh lemons, but usually we just use a bottle of lemon juice for lemonade stands.”
Esther did not sell anything else at her stand, but she said they typically go through two or three pitchers of the drink and sell out in about an hour. “Everyone loves it. And they wish we made more!” Esther says.
When asked if she would do it again, Esther shares, “Yes! I do it a lot. I bring out the table and chairs to my lawn myself.” Her advice to future lemonade-stand makers? “Make really good lemonade and give people a lot. Then they will want to come.”
> Kaila Felseberg of Monsey, New York, made a lemonade stand when she was in second grade. Chai Lifeline was asking kids at day camps to help them raise money and suggested a handful of ideas to kids of how they could contribute. A lemonade stand was one of those ideas.
Living near a yeshivah, Kaila decided to give a lemonade stand a try. She made a sign, put up a folding table in a spot that boys pass going to and coming from yeshivah. She added some baked goods to her offerings, and she met with success. After about an hour and a half she had raised $50 for a most worthy cause!
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 973)
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