Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Lemonade Stand

       It has been a dream of mine to have the kids operate a one-time lemonade stand to spark their entrepreneurial spirits—something I'd never done as a kid or anyone I knew for that matter. Braden's always been an excellent salesman of Makahiki tickets and popcorn for scouting and I figured Penelope and Jaren would also do well.
     Problem was, I knew (or heard) too much about Hawaii's strict laws: General Excise tax license and remittance requirements; the Department of Health requirement that food for public consumption be prepared in certified commercial kitchens; and permitting requirements for public property selling. And everyone's heard of kids getting in trouble for selling lemonade in violation of some ordinance or another. So this dream always lay dormant.
     Until I realized that there are no known restrictions in giving food away free. Churches did it all the time (we'd helped out on occasion) at parks, providing meals to all comers. And we could set out a donation jar for some worthwhile tax-exempt 501(c)3 cause.
     Our opportunity came during a lazy weekend morning.  I proposed Deanne bake cookies from an instant box mix (of quite good quality) we had lying around while the kids and I prepare signs, a donation jar, pitchers of milk and juice, cups, napkins, plates, and service trays. Deanne took it a step further by wrapping baked cookies in individual size decorative cellophane bags tied with ribbons—not bad for home baked and free. The “Donations Gladly Accepted” sign indicated one hundred percent of proceeds would go to the local elementary school PTA.
     We set up at the nearest park that afternoon, Deanne and I excited yet apprehensive about what might happen. The kids displayed their handmade signs at opposite ends of the park's entrance, advertising the give-away and pointing the way.
    Despite the park's attractiveness—towering trees, grassy lawns, a playful stream, basketball court, kids' playground, and scattered picnic tables—few cars rolled by, resulting in no takers the first half hour.
     Then, a cop car approached.  Slowly, it crawled in and parked at the far end of the lot. The officer exited and headed for the restroom.  I wasn't sweating too much figuring the worst he'd likely do is ask us to relocate to private property, but breathed easy when he emerged, headed for his car, and left.
     Our first sale came via a small family of park users. Jaren, bored holding his arrow sign, went to help at the table. (I was instructing the older two by the road, who were acting apathetic, how to point signs at oncoming cars not passing ones.) Deanne told him to offer the two year old girl a bag of cookies. His mother assented, came by and spoke with Deanne, and left almost three dollars in the donation jar. Not bad for a first “sale.”
     The next “sale” was pure profit—a driver in a white SUV waiting for the light to change spoke through his open window to Penelope and Braden. Braden answered his questions, checked for cars, approached, and received a direct contribution of a dollar sixty-five.
     Fifteen minutes later, a car driven with determination and and purpose followed the signs and bee-lined into a parking stall before our display table. Out came a squat, all-business lady and a young boy, both attired in scout uniform. She, too rushed to chat much, grabbed two bags and left three dollars. We thanked her as she smiled, trudged along, and waved goodbye.
     Our final sale went to another family of park users. Deanne said hi to the father who chatted it up with her. He took two bags and left five dollars. She later explained that the man was one of Jaren's former classmate's dad—no wonder so generous.
     Although not a huge success (the kids never really got into it much except for Jaren at first before he got bored), we were satisfied that we'd at least gotten something—especially considered the first half-hour.
     Deanne submitted the proceeds and unsold cookies the next day to the PTA that had its own fund raiser going at Penelope and Jaren's school. The chairwoman was so appreciative that we'd gone out and fund-raised on our own, she seemed even more pleased than we'd been.
     For a first time, it had gone well. And I'd do it again (but would probably select a higher traffic location). Perhaps if the kids had gotten to keep all the profits they might have felt differently about it, but I doubt it. For an entrepreneur has yet to emerge from among them.

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