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Bill Rubin column: Sweet, it's a lemonade stand!

Bill Rubin

Even in a dairy rich state like Wisconsin, and in the Dairy Month of June, there's still room for neighborhood lemonade stands in the St. Croix Valley. Running lemonade stands represent Free Enterprise 101 and the Basics of Entrepreneurship all rolled into one, whether the youthful operators realize it or not. More than one successful business person has said the lowly lemonade stand was their start in the business world.

Of course some stands are subject to over-regulation, i.e. the wrong zoning, lack of a permit, hours of operation, and spontaneous laughter and fun. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed a law that legalizes lemonade stands. Legalizes? He called it a common sense law, and cited a 2015 incident in which the police shut down a lemonade stand run by a couple of girls who were raising money for a Father's Day gift. Hooray, common sense prevails.

Profit, loss, cash flow? Who cares? These are little kids with big hearts. Many times the money from lemonade sales goes to worthy causes — the parents' out-of-pocket share to send a son or daughter to Washington, D.C., or the Ronald McDonald House, or a local food pantry. Don't forget to tip. A dollar in the tip jar has huge impacts. Better yet, decline the lemony drink and just leave a tip.

Market saturation is occasionally observed. One stand may lead to another, directly across the street. A price war may ensue, followed by kids with placards up the street to alert oncoming traffic of the preferred stand. And this is how fast food restaurants end up on three of four corners of an intersection. The fourth corner is perhaps a national chain coffee shop.

Product diversification may be required. Lemonade is morphed into flavored lemonade, or cookies offered for an extra quarter, followed by a candy dish. A favorite lemonade stand story involves the use of Skittles® to create strawberry lemonade. It seems the stand's operators found a shortcut with the Skittles® flavoring and boiled them in a mom's heated foot massage tub.

We live in a great country. Capitalism is alive and well. For some, it starts at an early age along a street in a cardboard stand. Lessons are learned. Weather can be fickle. Competition can be fierce. The strong and determined survive.

Here's to lemonade stands. May common sense prevail.