Support your local young capitalist
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?