My oldest son had been asking if we could have a lemonade stand for a couple weeks. He wanted to relive the fun and success of last year’s entrepreneurial adventure so we finally made it happen on a day when my nieces came over for a visit. With six kids (ages one to nine), we had many hands but that doesn’t always make for light work, if you know what I mean. We juiced and squeezed and mixed and tasted. Since the day was a scorcher, we figured we wouldn’t have any foot traffic so took our operation on the road with a door-to-door lemonade sales wagon.
My entrepreneurial brain can’t help but notice the pricing strategies, sales successes, and marketing tips along the way in a situation like this. Despite the sweaty temps and the exhausted kiddos, I learned a lot about small business from this little enterprise.
The kids made lemonade, cherry lemonade, and strawberry lemonade—all fresh squeezed. In an effort for them to be able to boost their prices a bit, at the last minute, I suggested that they also take along some sodas. I figured, they could price the sodas at $1 then $1.50 for fresh squeezed lemonade and $2 for cherry lemonade or strawberry lemonade wouldn’t sound so high. I think my decoy pricing strategy could have worked too except…. I didn’t train the sales team well enough.
Each time the cute kids rang a doorbell, they asked “Would you like to buy an ice cold Pepsi?” and before they could get to “or some fresh squeezed lemonade?” many neighbors were already closing the door in their faces. It wasn’t until we were about a dozen or so houses in that I actually heard what they were saying (from my vantage point at the curb) and encouraged them to not mention the sodas at all up front. Rookie move on my part.
In our little biz, we didn’t have a lot of opportunities for upselling. But we did have a number of occasions where a customer initially said they’d take one cup and then when they saw the quality of the product or the excitement of the kids, they splurged for another. If we had been really sophisticated in our operation, we may have had an add-on or even just a closing “is there anything else I can get you?” question before we walked away. While an additional service, offering, or even selling strategy to an existing customer might seem risky, selling more to the customer in front of you is ALWAYS easier than finding another customer. Once we left a house, we’d have to knock on several more doors before we’d get another buyer. When you have a willing customer in front of you, you don’t have much to lose if you try to sell them additional products or services.
After only a few blocks, I was ready to call it quits. We still had lemonade left. Lots of lemonade. And there were plenty of doors yet to knock on. But man, that heat was getting to me. My determined oldest niece could have kept going all day though. Her joy and enthusiasm were contagious. She kept my oft-discouraged five-year-old from giving up. She didn’t shy away when we got a few “no thank yous” in a row. While I observed her tenacity, I was reminded that every team needs people like her. As you grow your event rental team, I hope you’ll add people who will encourage you and the rest of your staff when things get hard. We all know that they will get hard at some point but it sure is better to be doing hard things with positive fun people.
I won’t even get started on the Revenue v. Profit lesson I should have taught that day. After spending hours on this enterprise, I didn’t have the heart to tell my mini-moguls that I was going to take out almost all of their earnings to pay for the ingredients… we’ll save that lesson for their next entrepreneurial adventure.
I hope that as you build your event rental business, you have some moments to experience the joy of entrepreneurship… and some really delicious lemonade.