Setting Up a Killer Lemonade Sale
Over the weekend, Eleanor innocently asked whether she could have a lemonade sale. She reminded me that she asked before and I said we could. And… of course, she was right. So we set out to have the most epic of lemonade sales ever. Or at least, the most epic my kids had ever had. Point of order: I used to host a school-wide lemonade sale by my first graders when I was a teacher so I had a few tricks up my sleeve.
Step 1. Always Go For Fresh Lemonade
None of this powdered ish. Fresh is best. You’re going to need lots of lemons and sugar.
Step 2. Roll
Start by rolling the lemons. Apply a bit of pressure and this will help to release the juice and means you’ll get a lot more when you squeeze them! (This was Louisa and Arthur’s job.)
Step 3. Squeeze
I cut the lemons in half and let Oliver do the squeezing with a tool like this (affiliate). Squeeze all the lemons into a bowl and then pour the juice through a small strainer to catch seeds and excess pulp.
Step 4. Make Sugar Water
I mixed a bag of sugar with water and heated it on the stove to melt the sugar. And then let the water cool. I didn’t measure, but I’d guess there was about 2x water to sugar.
Step 5. Mix the Lemonade
Sadly, I don’t have much of a recipe and kind of mixed to taste. I filled my large 2 gallon coolers half way with water and then added about 1 cup lemon juice to 3 cups sugar water to start. Then I tasted and tweeked until each container was full. We had three containers: two basic sports coolers with nozzles on top, and then one like this with a spigot so the kids could help pour the lemonade.
Step 6. Make signs
We bought poster board and some glitter letters (Eleanor’s choice) and she made one sign for the table that included the cost of lemonade. Oliver chipped in and made another sign for the table as well as one with an arrow that we planned to hang down the road from our lemonade sale.
Step 7. Gather Supplies
Here’s what you need to pack. We loaded them all into a wagon and set up at the end of our block.
- Small table
- Paper Cups
- Cooler for ice/ cup or spoon for scooping
- Container for change (with change to start)
- Container for bills (with bills to start)
- Trash can
- Trash bags
- Signs and tape
- Bonus points: fresh flowers to put on your table
Step 8. Sell, Baby, Sell
At first, Eleanor could pour a cup of lemonade for every customer. As it got busier, her siblings helped and we tried to pre-pour a dozen or so cups to stay ahead of the crowds. To keep the lemonade from getting diluted, we added a couple of ice cubes right when we served people.
Eleanor’s job was to make eye contact, greet people and to ask, “would you like some lemonade”. I know this seems so stiff and formal, but half the challenge of a lemonade sale is interacting with customers in a professional and grown-up manner… she did GREAT but it’s always helpful to give kids a clear script in situations like this. There were certainly times when she was preoccupied with pouring another cup of lemonade and I had to nudge her to greet her next customer, but she was a pro by the end of the sale!
The benefit of the $.50 cup of lemonade is that making change is very easy. Eleanor’s a pro but both Oliver and Martha could figure out what was needed when it got crowded. And just like greeting the customers, we also practiced thanking our customers for their purchase. Again, these interactions may seem silly, but for children it’s SO important to have a sense of expectations and all of these exchanges helped to boost their confidence and I could sense them gaining comfort with every interaction they had!
Other things to consider:
Timing? Location? How long to sell?
We set up or lemonade sale right on the route of a local parade. We were there for about an hour and a half to sell to people walking down to watch the parade and we sold our last cup to one of the bagpipe players who was walking home to her car!
Cost per cup?
We used paper cups that were bigger than a small Dixie cup but smaller than a Solo cup and charged $.50 a cup. We figured 2 for a dollar was reasonable and bet on people being comfortable letting the kids “keep the change”.
How much to make?
I have 3 coolers that are about 2 or 3 gallons each, so that’s how much we made. (We used about 6 pounds of lemons, one bag of sugar, and 1.5 packages of paper cups.) I figured that was enough to sell lemonade for more than 30 minutes and when we ran out, the sale was over! Turns out our timing and the amount of lemons was about right.
Most importantly, KEEP IT FUN!
I was the ringleader, and Eleanor, Oliver and Martha were the stars. When you make fresh lemonade, there are lots of SIMPLE jobs for the kids to help with so they can feel like they are part of the whole process. (Important.) But I also tried to anticipate any hurdles or interruptions so the kids were set up for success. (VERY important!) The younger kids were happy to be along for the ride, and the three older ones were thrilled to have made some spending money for their summer vacation. And yes… they’re already asking when they can have the next sale.