Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Lessons From A Budding Entrepreneur

This Easter my now seven year old daughter asked me, “Mommy can I make some lemonade?”

“Sure,” I responded. What harm could come from making lemonade?

As she climbed up on the kitchen counter to retrieve the jug, I heard her mutter excitedly, “Oh boy I can’t wait to be rich!”

I asked, “How can lemonade make you rich?”

“I’m going to have a lemonade stand,” she responded matter- of- factly.

“Oh boy!” was the first thought that came to my head. Immediately her father and I set about to discourage her. The idea of setting out a lemonade stand on Easter Sunday was more than a bit embarrassing to us. We told her nobody sells lemonade in our neighborhood. But she was determined to be the first. We told her it was spring, not summer. She pointed out how hot the day was. We came with what we thought was the trump card, "There are no people out there walking around to buy your lemonade.”

That’s when she presented me her business plan. “I’ll put up a sign and shout “lemonade for sale” and people will get curious and come out of their cars and buy.”

Despite her efforts, the answer was still no. Of course she did what most six year olds would do: she threw a tantrum and went to her room. A few minutes later, she emerged and apologized. She next tried to convince me it would help her in her math knowing I’m a sucker for anything educational.

Finally I reflected on my childhood and the many summers I lived out my career aspirations. I’d had a bank, made a library, had a doctor’s office and kept classes for the younger kids in the neighborhood. My mother never stopped me, though it meant our home was overrun with kids. I finally conceded, convinced that she would not get any sales and would never ask for another stand.

She set up her stand with a little hand written sign with a crayon drawing of a lemon. She even brought the cute factor with her: her two year old sister. I noticed the sun was hot so I went into the garage to fetch a beach umbrella. By the time I returned, there was a line. Within five minutes her lemonade was finished and I had to make more. After she was finished and she packed up, she confided to me, “Selling is hard. I got scared when I had to talk to all those people.”

So what does this anecdote have to do with writing? Well there are several lessons that can be taken away from this budding entrepreneur.

1. Be persistent. Despite our discouragement, she was insistent and she won out in the end

2. Have a business plan. Yes hers was a sign and shouting, but she had a plan. Writing is a business that involves creating the work, selling it to the publisher, and marketing it. We as writers should have a marketing plan.

3. If your strategy isn’t working, change it. In convincing us to let her have the stand, when she realized a tantrum wasn’t working, she used my vulnerability: education benefits, to convince me. Same applies to writing, if your query isn’t getting you in the door, change it. If submitting to agents and publishers are not getting you anywhere, try entering competitions, e-publishing, even self publishing.

4. Market your product: my daughter chose a place of high visibility to get maximum attention, she even used her baby sister to attract attention, then sold her lemonade. In the writing business, there are many conferences, blog tours and even competitions that can be used to market your product.

5. Put aside your fears and be your own advocate. Until my daughter told me that she was afraid of speaking to her customers, I had no idea she was afraid. She sold with such confidence. We as writers often have to get out of our comfort zone and sell our products.

Of course my daughter didn't get rich from selling lemonade, but she lived her dream. Most writers do not get rich from writing either, but being able to publish something we create is fulfilling a dream for many writers, and like my daughter, that dream would never be fulfilled unless we are persistent.


Chicki said...

That was great! Wonderful inspiration from the babies that all writers need to remember. Thanks!

Jewel Amethyst said...

Thanks, Chicki. Sometimes inspiration comes from the strangest places. I'm often surprised by the lessons I learn from even the smallest kids.

Phyllis Bourne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phyllis Bourne said...

Those girls are so cute, I could just gobble them up!

Great post with lots of good stuff that applies to writers!

I especially love how she wore y'all down with persistence.

Terence Taylor said...

Lucky you!

A writer needs kids with entrepreneurial spirit -- when you're ready to retire and she's CEO of everything, you'll be glad she has warm memories of the mom who let her get her start -- and wealth is relative -- for a six year old, I'm sure she felt rich that day, both for her sales and for having a mom who gets her.

And a little sister to use as a spokesmodel... ;)

Liane Spicer said...

Isn't it amazing how children go bravely where adults fear to tread?

I too encouraged my son to pursue his enthusiasms, even though doing so often meant having to go outside my comfort zone. I'm happy to say that he's a man now - all of 26 - who's still as fearless and passionate about his interests, and those are working well in his career and life.

Your daughter reminds me of him. :)