Why I Always Stop At Lemonade Stands

When I was a kid, I used to spend many hours each week collecting, cataloguing, and trading baseball cards.

I spent my elementary school years in Newton Center, Massachusetts—this was in the early 1980s—so it’s little surprise that my favorite baseball cards were of hometown heroes such as Carl Yastrzemski, Wade Boggs, and Jim Rice.

On one Sunday afternoon when I was in fourth grade, I became an entrepreneur. I set up a small card table in front of our home, made a sign that read “Baseball Cards For Sale,” and waited for customers to line up. I was prepared for the onslaught. I had a small cashbox, stocked with enough coins to make change. I had even purchased a few brown paper bags to help customers carry away their booty.

It didn’t turn out so well. A few passersby smiled, but no one stopped to buy anything. Minutes without a sale turned into hours without a sale. I was discouraged.

Toward the end of the day, a young woman out for a jog—probably a college student—approached my house. She told me that her nephew collected baseball cards and that she’d like to buy him a gift. She reached into her pocket, pulled out all of the money she had on her (35 cents), and asked me what she could buy for that modest sum. I selected a few cards for her, traded my cards for her coins, and had my first sale as a businessman.

Almost three decades have passed since that moment, but I still remember it well. That jogger made  me feel like I was providing her with a critical service—and not that she was performing an act of charity (she was, I’m sure).

I think of that story every time I pass a kid’s lemonade stand. No matter what I’m doing, I stop. I’ve been known to abruptly pull the car over to the side of the road when I see one set up, catching both my wife (in the car) and the young vendor (on their lawn) off guard.

For all I know, that kid is testing his or her entrepreneurial skills for the first time. And there’s no guarantee that anyone else will stop. So I do. I want that kid’s industriousness to be rewarded, and find the thought of a crestfallen kid going back inside without a sale too much to bear.

Since this is a PR blog, I wanted to find a PR angle to this story. Then it hit me: PR is, at least in part, about marketing. Those kids with the “Lemonade: $1” signs are testing the worlds of business, marketing, public relations, and advertising. And as long as they’re exploring my world, I’m going to support them.

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