Lessons at a Lemonade Stand

By Mark A. Taylor

The neighborhood was quiet, except for one fourth grade girl sitting behind a tray table on the sidewalk across the street. I think we heard her before we saw her, as soon as we entered our driveway and got out of the car.

“Lemonade for sale. Get your lemonade here, people! We’ve got two flavors: regular and lemon lime. Small glass 25 cents; large is 50 cents.”

I remember her spiel, because she repeated it over and over. I went inside and changed my clothes and returned to work in the yard, and still she was calling out. No midway carnival barker has ever demonstrated greater volume or more energy.

But there was a problem. No one was outside to hear her. Even though it was a sunny summer Sunday afternoon, for some reason everyone was inside. The fact that there were no customers in sight didn’t daunt her, though.

“Come on people. Get your lemonade here!”

Of course, now I was outside. I avoided eye contact with her as I worked in my flower bed. I didn’t want any lemonade. My water bottle was full and free!

“We’ve got two flavors here: regular and lemon lime.”

With a smile and a chuckle I kept spading. And thinking.

Maybe my entrepreneurial neighbor would learn the hard way some truths about marketing. To make a sale, you must go where the people are. And you must offer them something they need or want or think they need or want. Businesses don’t succeed solely on enthusiasm.

Cam Huxford told me about a Savannah, Georgia, food celebrity, Paula Deen. She’s thriving today as owner of an always full three story restaurant, host of a popular Food Network cooking show, and seller of everything from cookbooks to signature aprons.

Cam said she got her start selling homemade sandwiches to workers at construction sites and factories.

I don’t know all the steps from that humble beginning to her current popularity. But everyone can see that giving people what they need, where they need it, when they know they need it is always a winning strategy.

Churches follow a similar path when they send members to share Christ’s love in schools and service agencies and small groups. But churches whose efforts stop with an “Open” sign and a Yellow Pages ad may have too much in common with my young neighbor.

“Get your salvation here, people,” we offer. But have we noticed how few will even walk across the street to try what we’re talking about?

Soon my neighbor gave up and took her pitchers inside. Churches are usually more persistent, continuing to shout for generations. At least we listen to each other. But to penetrate our culture with the message of Christ, we need to do more.

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