Writer’s Block: Entrepreneurial efforts ease the boredom

In these early weeks of the lazy days of children’s summer vacation from school, I am reminded of my own children’s entrepreneurial endeavors on a sunny day some 20 years ago.

Sue Austreng
Sue Austreng

We lived in an old historic house on Fremont Street at the time and if you had happened down that road  on a hot, sticky summer afternoon you would have been hailed with frantically waving arms and urgent children’s voices bidding, “Kool-Aid! Twenty-five cents! Have some Kool-Aid!”

My children and a couple of neighbor kids had pooled their energy and expertise and set up a Kool-Aid stand in the front yard. They made a giant cardboard sign, decorating it with balloons, plastic flags and their own original artwork and attached it to the card table they used as Kool-Aid stand.

The refreshing beverage offered to passersby was cherry Kool-Aid – with ice! – and the cost was 25 cents for as much as you could drink.

After about 45 minutes of arm waving and hollering and only one customer, Hannah, the manager of the Kool-Aid stand operation, came in for some advice from the owner – that would be me, more affectionately known as “Mommy.”

After evaluating the owner’s suggestion to boost the product but keep the price at 25 cents, Hannah and her colleagues voted and unanimously agreed to offer an Oreo cookie and a Kool-Aid for the same two bits.

After making hasty alterations to their cardboard sign and marketing with even-more-energetic arm waving and shouting, business began to grow briskly.

Two neighbor boys and their visiting cousins patronized the budding business, a school teacher who lives nearby stopped for refreshments, and a pair of Anoka’s road crewmen climbed out of their bright orange truck and took their break, munching on Oreos and sipping Kool-Aid to cool their parched throats.

Why, the Kool-Aid stand competition (two little boys from down the street) even strolled down the road to have a look-see and some goodies, too.

But these little guys didn’t pay for their cookies and Kool-Aid with nickels and dimes. Instead they offered pieces of tin foil and broken twigs as payment, insisting that these items had magical powers even greater than those of nickels and dimes.

Hannah and her novice business partners fell for it and were swiftly taken advantage of by their cunning competitors. But as the afternoon sun dipped behind the trees, Hannah and her partners continued to do a brisk, honest business – and those boys from down the street had to close up shop.

The public seemed to favor the young upstarts – the new kids on the block.Soon, the cookie and Kool-Aid supply diminished, failing to keep pace with an increasing demand.

The owner was forced to go to the supplier for more of the popular product – popular not only to the customers, but to the young business persons as well.

You see, the owner’s estimates reveal that approximately 50 percent of the Kool-Aid stand profit was gobbled up by the hungry, thirsty management team itself.

Finally, following after-work rush hour – and after several disputes among the overworked staff – Hannah and her partners dissolved their business relationship, dismantled the Kool-Aid stand, returned the raw materials to the owner and split the profits – all $4.38 of it.

(Twelve cents were lost in the grass when coins were thrown during a dispute among the staff about how to make correct change.)

And so – Hip! Hip! Hooray! – a summertime afternoon produced a profitable entrepreneurial endeavor for a team of neighborhood pals – and they even pocketed a pile of pennies for their efforts and learned a couple of lessons on customer service and marketing strategies, too.

So let the carefree days of summer vacation begin – and if summertime days lack purpose and goal, why not encourage the children in your life to pursue some profitable (monkey) business of their own.