From Chicken Soup for the Entrepreneur's Soul

Better Than a Lemonade Stand

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

Les Brown

My experience as an entrepreneur began when I was eight years old, living in Michigan with my family. I saw a G.I. Joe toy advertised on television and became convinced I had to have it. My mother decided this would be a good time for a financial lesson. “You can have it if you use your own money,” she said. I didn’t much care for that, so I asked my father. He considered buying it for me, until he talked it over with my mother and learned what she already had told me.

So I was stuck. How could I earn the money I needed? I thought. Then I had an idea—I’ll make the money with an all-American lemonade stand! I became excited, thinking about the hordes of money I could earn! In search of venture capital, I cracked open my piggy bank and took out my life savings: a whopping $5.30. I went to the supermarket and bought as many lemons and as much sugar and juice concentrate as I could afford. I just knew, come that weekend, my stand would be a super-stand!

I even thought of advertising and laid out a plan for signage. On Saturday, in the early-morning darkness, I posted signs everywhere with arrows pointing the way to my house. My entire neighborhood would know where my lemonade stand was located. I returned by seven o’clock, just as the sun was peeking over the horizon. Confidently, I pictured how the cars would line up around the block while waiting for lemonade. I was sure there was going to be a traffic jam, and I made plans on how to serve all my customers as quickly as possible. I lugged jug after jug of lemonade to the table at the end of our long driveway, ready for action.

At eight-thirty, the first car drove by, and I was sure this was going to be the beginning of the rush of customers. I stood on my lawn chair, waving my poster enthusiastically. The car slowed down, and I caught the eye of the woman who was at the wheel. She smiled at me, gave me a “thumbs-up” and kept going. That’s all right, I told myself. That’s just the first car. That’s not a problem.

An hour later, a second car approached. This one definitely looks like a lemonade customer, I told myself. But he, too, passed by. All the driver gave me was a friendly “go-get-’em” honk. Still confident, I told myself it was early in the day, and I had plenty of lemonade and plenty of time. This was going to be a great day. Eleven cars went by. They all slowed down, and the drivers all smiled at me. Most of them waved, which was very encouraging, but nobody stopped to open their wallets. By four that afternoon, I had not sold one glass of lemonade.

Thirty minutes later, my parents walked down the driveway and bought two lemonades. They paid me a dollar. Sipping on her cool lemonade, my mother asked, “How have sales been today?”

“Well, I didn’t earn enough for the toy,” I said.

“How close did you get?”

“Not too close,” I said, knowing I needed twenty dollars. “I’ll probably need another Saturday.”

“Well, tell me, how close did you get?” she asked again.

“Well, Mom, I made one dollar.”

Silence. My mother looked stunned.

“Does that include the dollar we just gave you?”

“Yes. But I had so much fun!”

More silence, then, “Fun? You didn’t make any money, and you just lost your savings. Fun?” she asked, puzzled.

“Yeah. I found something I really like to do. I took an idea and turned it into a business. It was the most fun I’ve ever had. I have a new goal: I’m going to be the CEO of my own big company . . . when I’m still a kid.”

The look on my mother’s face said it all: That was a fairly ambitious declaration for an eight-year-old boy who had just lost his life savings. Later, I realized that the biggest problem with my lemonade stand wasn’t my product, it was my timing. Michigan in March was not the best time to be selling ice-cold lemonade, as forty-degree temperatures don’t exactly encourage lemonade sales!

My second venture, an early-morning service carrying newspapers from the bottom of driveways up to customers’ front doors, was much more profitable than my first. As a kid, I learned to take the money I made from one business and start another. I came to realize that my love of entrepreneurial adventures would stay with me forever.

The lemonade-stand experience did inspire me to run a big business someday. Now, twenty-two years after that cold spring morning, and many successful businesses in between, I am retired at the age of thirty. And I still drink lemonade.

Daryl Bernstein

EPILOGUE: At the age of eight, Daryl Bernstein established his infamous lemonade stand. At twelve, he launched a mailorder company on his kitchen table. At fifteen, Bernstein wrote the bestseller Better Than a Lemonade Stand: Small Business Ideas for Kids (Beyond Words Publishing, 1992). The book, which prompted the Wall Street Journal to call Bernstein a “kid whiz,” has helped thousands of kids around the world start their own profitable small businesses, with little or no start-up costs.

But Bernstein didn’t stop there. At sixteen, he was named a “Global Leader for Tomorrow” by the World Economic Forum. At age twenty, Bernstein wrote the celebrated book The Venture Adventure: Strategies for Thriving in the Jungle of Entrepreneurship (Beyond Words Publishing, 1996). By the age of twenty-three, he had grown Global Video, his kitchen-table venture, into the largest producer and distributor of educational videos in the United States, with over 100 employees and 30 million catalogs mailed annually. Then, at the ripe old age of twenty-four, Bernstein sold his business to a NASDAQ-listed company and began his first retirement.

Bernstein has been featured on CNN, National Public Radio, the BBC, and Radio 3 Hong Kong, as well as in the New York Times and hundreds of other publications around the world. He currently speaks to corporate and academic audiences, acts as an advisor to fast-growing businesses, manages his investments and lives on the beach in Santa Barbara, California.

For more information, visit

Dahlynn McKowen

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners