In the summer of 1995, sky surfers landed in my front yard. BMXers were in my backyard. And I decided to set up a lemonade stand.
While I may be pretty pro-corporate now, I can tell you I had a lot of entrepreneurial spirit as a kid. I’d make crafts to sell, help my mom with brownies for the bake sale, and do my best knocking door-to-door peddling my wrapping paper or candy. No matter where I moved, there was always someone needing to fundraise for something. I was on board. Since I’m feeling a little sporty this week, I wanted to share this with you.
If you look back to the summer 1995, I would have been 11, and we were still living in Newport, RI. We were in Navy housing at Fort Adams, a neat area that had rows of town houses surrounding all kinds of athletic fields, then the fort itself just beyond our backyard walls. Nothing really unusual ever happened: a few pick-up rugby or soccer games would start on a nice Sunday afternoon, and if it snowed enough, we might sled down one of the hills. Then a sky surfer parachuted onto the field in front of my house.
The X Games had landed.
Within a few days, the whole area was turned upside down. This was the first ever X Games, and it was a big opportunity for the city. People were pouring into the fort, walking by my front door, and waving. I told my mom, this was not an opportunity to be missed. (Ok, maybe it was more like begging for a lemonade stand, but I got the result I wanted).
Since this was my first serious gig, I’m going to share my tidbits of wisdom with you:
- Make a plan with another neighbor’s kid. Getting someone else onboard means there’s someone for you to sell with. You can watch each other’s money, and who’s really going to rip off two of you? Ok, well, at least you can have someone to talk to.
- Diversify your offerings, but they have to make sense. For us, we’d have juice and lemonade for the mornings. Then, for the afternoon, we’d add our cookies, popsicles, and any other baked good we threw a price tag on.
- “Hire” your mom for production. She probably knows as soon as you come up with any harebrained scheme, she’s going to be doing legwork…she is your mother. Make sure you’re extra well-behaved so she isn’t tempted to stop the ovens.
- Get customer-focused. Even if you’ve been sitting in the sun for hours (really bad for someone with my fair skin), you’ve got to be “on.” Smile, say hi, tell them jokes. You’re 11, you still can be turn on the adorable charm. Make it work for you.
- Learn the power of the upsell. Say it with me now: “Would you like a popsicle to go with your lemonade?” Very easy, and because you’re pretty cute, people are usually onboard. Plus, it’s only 50¢ more. The price breaks are very important for the upsell to work.
- Invest your earnings wisely. I made an agreement with my parents: they could bank half my earnings for a future purchase, and I could spend the other half how I pleased. I bought two X Games t-shirts. Somehow, I knew I wanted something to document this pretty cool event going on around me.
I don’t remember the boredom, if I got sunburned, or exactly how much money we made. I do remember the faces. All the smiling faces, skateboarders, bikers, tourists and locals. Everyone saying “Hi” as they went to an event that has helped changed the face of sports.
That’s pretty awesome.