Lifetime Skills: Lemonade


The fast talking economic development guy in Wisconsin’s St. Croix Valley has some curious habits. He tracks the date, time and location of the first robin, usually sighted in mid-March. The same process is followed when the season’s first backyard fawn is spotted. He also keeps a keen eye on the first neighborhood lemonade stand of the year.

The stand was observed a couple weeks ago and coincided with the end of the school year. The fast talker is a lemonade critic. He rarely buys. With his business development background, an assessment scorecard is used and includes factors like location (mid-block or corner), catchy name, pre-stand and post-stand signage (Lemonade Just Ahead and/or Turn Around You Missed It), enthusiasm, hours, and competitive pricing.

The stand got high marks. It was named Lightning Lemonade. It appeared to be operated by three young ladies, or maybe two, and one of them may have been settling a customer’s dispute with a headlock and scissors hold. The lack of an umbrella was a minor deduction on the scorecard. At fifty cents for a very generous glass, the price point was attractive. What, no ice cubes? Another deduction.

The stand’s operators were ready for action as soon as the fast talker’s vehicle stopped. In fact, the pitcher and glass were being readied for what seemed was a sure-thing order. The fast talker urged the pourer to s-t-o-p!

Constructive comments were offered in lieu of an order. A tip jar was missing. The fast talker strongly suggested getting one and later parted with a dollar bill. He got the low-down on how business was going and where the profits would be used. He left with encouraging words, “Keep up the good work, ladies. We need more entrepreneurs.” He was not sure the sophisticated word – entrepreneur – was being processed. He clarified by saying, “We need more business people like you.”

All too soon those entrepreneurs – ahem – business people – will learn about rules and regulations, sometimes the hard way. Did they remember to apply for the necessary permits and inspections? What about the stand’s setbacks from the street? And both the county and state are expecting their own sweet taste of the action from sales tax collections.

Sometimes taxpayers wonder about commonsense action coming from Madison or Washington, D.C. But almost four years ago, Wisconsin’s governor signed a bill allowing children to legally operate lemonade stands. Anyone under the age of 18 is permitted to run them on private property without a permit and without fear of running afoul of the law. Apparently running afoul of regulations has happened in other states. No word if Lightning Lemonade was a test case. Sales in Wisconsin are limited to $2,000 per year. Oh, the law prevents kiddos from pedaling potentially hazardous foods like egg salad. Wisconsin’s bill enjoyed bipartisan support from both sides of the political aisle. Hurray!

From lemons to lifetime skills, here’s to the innocence of the neighborhood lemonade stand. Here’s to young entrepreneurs or business people if it’s more understandable. Here’s to $2,000 in summer sales. Here’s to a tip jar. Hold the egg salad.