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Prior to the dotcom era and the age of Facebook and iPads, it was the lemonade stand or newspaper route that was quintessential first job of the future entrepreneur. Certainly these jobs instill (or at least expose) the essential entrepreneurial qualities of discipline and persistence while offering a daily lesson in dealing with competition, business ownership, cash flow, and direct interactions with customers.

Today’s budding entrepreneur is probably more likely to be working on the next great iPhone app or social sharing sensation – all formidable tech pursuits that have a chance to reach millions of users or be acquired by Facebook. But it is very possible that most of these cutting edge efforts will be started and finished without the entrepreneur ever attracting a single dime of revenue or talking with a customer – lessons that a lemonade stand or newspaper route offer during the first hour.

wpid-20140831_143330.jpgToday, while walking around a small little town in the shadow of the red rock mountains of Sedona we dribbled stumbled across an enterprising little girl with her own lemonade stand:

Cute, of course (and at $1.00 and $1.50 per thimble-full, she should turn a healthy profit within a half hour).

What was striking was how she represented the generation z (or whatever they call a 9 year old today): Her lemonade stand had its own website – far superior to 90% of small businesses today.

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http://www.lillyslemonade.com

Complete with the requisite compelling “story” and customer testimonials …

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I’m sure this kid had some help from her parents, who were within sight – but probably no more help than any 9 year old gets starting up a business.  Come to think of it, she probably got less help starting up her business than most adults.

I’d been hearing over the past 10 years that “The Website is the New Lemonade Stand” – as a way of saying how the web is empowering kids to get a taste for starting a business.  But most web startups are really just good-looking experiments that never generate any revenue.  There’s nothing like making something with your own hands, and having a real customer hand you cash for your product.  Moral:  To encourage the next generation of entrepreneurs maybe we need fewer new websites, and more Lillys with lemonade stands.

 

 

Written by CJ Cornell

CJ Cornell

Serial Entrepreneur. University Professor. Software Engineer. Media Executive. Venture Capitalist. Researcher. Marketer. Advisor. Mentor. Author and Speaker. Founded or co-founded nearly a dozen companies in software, digital media and television.

For the past few years I’ve been Co-Director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship and Professor of Digital Media & Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University, and the university’s first full time Entrepreneur-in-Residence. Currently Visiting Professor of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at New York Institute of Technology and Managing Director at Propel Ventures LLC.

 

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