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Support your local young capitalist

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Ding dong.

It was mid-afternoon on a weekday and I had no idea who could be at the front door. There was no yummy rumble of a certain big brown truck. You love that sound too, admit it.

Luckily, our door has etched glass panels. I could discern the ringer of the bell was someone short with moppish hair and no clipboard or coupon book in sight. I opened the door. The kid, who I guessed was around 9 or 10, was unfamiliar.

“Hi, I am wondering if I can mow your lawn?” He glanced accusingly over his shoulder at our shaggy landscaping. The lawn resembled a field of alfalfa.

His question struck me as cute and surprising. I wished I could have told him yes, but I couldn’t. Our household lacks several things, but one thing we’ll never be short in is a person to mow the lawn. Still, I felt a pang as I turned him away. I should support his enterprising effort to make a buck by working hard.

I remember what it was like to be a Kid in Business. We had lemonade stands. My brother tried to sell solar-cooked hot dogs and a newspaper he published and delivered. A friend and I tried to open a gymnastics school in my backyard, despite being terrible in gymnastics.

We threw so much of ourselves into these businesses—Debating prices, making posters and flyers, convincing mom to let us use the rose-covered tablecloth. We baked ourselves in the midday sun, hoping just one passerby or car or busload of thirsty tourists would stop for a tepid glass of kid-prepared Countrytime. Sadly, none of these businesses amounted to more than an afternoon’s diversion and sunburnt shoulders.

As I grew older, I found work as a babysitter, being paid the handsome rate of $2 an hour. My first real paycheck was handed to me when I was 15 and working at an amusement park. I’m not sure I would have been as eager to work if supportive adults hadn’t encouraged me to try to earn money of my own. I should try to be an adult like that, for my own kids and for kids in the neighborhood.

My chance came sooner than I anticipated.

About 2 hours after I turned away the boy-mower, two girls rang the doorbell.

“Would you like to buy some koolaid?” they asked, in unison. One girl held a blue plastic cup with the neighborhood elementary school’s mascot printed on the side. It was half-full of pink liquid. 5 small, sickly bullets of ice floated on top.

“How much is it?”

One of the girls answered, “One dollar, but if you don’t have a dollar we will take 25 cents.”

I didn’t want to drink that koolaid. I really, really didn’t. I paid and took the cup from the grinning girl. Luckily, one of my boys showed up at the door with 15 pennies and 2 nickels he scraped together, so the girls excused themselves to fetch another cup from their house down the street. I took my cup into the kitchen, dumped it in the sink, and returned to the front door.

There were a few drops left on the rim. I tasted it. Lemonade.

“Great lemonade!” I said when they returned with a cup shaped like an elephant. My son drank, holding the trunk in one hand and the tail in the other. He pronounced it delicious. We handed our cups back. The girls left.

I waited for the inevitable question. My son turned to me.

“When can I have a lemonade stand?”

What were some of your entrepreneurial ambitions as a kid? What projects have your kids started?


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  • comment avatar Amber Johnson July 8, 2009

    I was the Queen of the Lemonade stand. Seriously. People drove far and wide for my 8-year-old antics (surely it wasn’t the lukewarm lemonade).

    Forget the kids–my new entrepreneurial venture? Selling pumpkin bread at The Great Pumpkin weigh-off. I plan to make some money off that $1,000 beast. đŸ™‚

  • comment avatar Goslyn July 8, 2009

    Oh, I remember those days. We tried once to have a lemonade stand, but we lived in the middle of nowhere, in possibly the country’s original bedroom community. We didn’t get even one customer.

    Later we tried selling homemade perfume door to door – what a mess!

  • comment avatar Holly July 8, 2009

    Mmm, alfalfa.

    I decided I was going to write a french braiding book. I made up contracts and chose my friends with the best hair as my models. I said if they signed the contract, they would get a small sum of money once the book sells and in return, I can pull their hair all I want.

    Yeah, I was evil and no, didn’t even make a penny, or get a suntan for that matter!

  • comment avatar JoAnn July 8, 2009

    Well, considering all of my entrepreneurial dreams were thwarted by distance and location (we lived 8 miles north of the nearest “town” and 17 miles from a “real” one) and the fact that my mom wouldn’t allow me to charge my neighbors or relatives for services rendered…I never got to experience a “lemonade stand” or other business.

    When I was old enough, I was allowed to babysit for money…which definitely wasn’t a get rich quick kind of endeavor. đŸ™‚

  • comment avatar Lori in Denver July 8, 2009

    One Christmas my sisters and I got red/white checkered dressed that looked just like restaurant tablecloths.

    We were certain they meant that we were to open a restaurant in our basement, and we could NOT understand why Mom & Dad would not allow us to do so. We’d created menus and signs, decided who would cook/wait/count the money, and knew just how were going to market ourselves.

    My parents were so mean.

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