Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lemonade and Berries

This past Sunday was Lemonade Day--a day when an estimated 50,000 of Houston's youth set up lemonade stands across the city. The idea started 5 years ago when the daughter of a Houston businessman asked for money to buy a pet turtle. Her father said "No" and she decided to sell lemonade to raise the money. She never bought the turtle, but her efforts were the start of a program to teach children about business.

The story reminds me of my own business experiences as a child. I grew up in a rural environment, and wild blackberries seemed to grow everywhere. During the summer I would pick the berries and peddle them to relatives and neighbors. Not only did I make a little money, but my customers often shared the pies and cobblers they made with the berries.

Because the blackberries didn't ripen until late in the summer, I could engage my entrepreneurial spirit until August. Fortunately, a strawberry farm was located a few miles from my house. When I was in junior high I would ride my bike to the farm early each morning and pick strawberries for 10 cents a quart. Like the little girl who wanted a turtle, I had a particular item that I wanted to purchase with my money--a week at basketball camp.

I suspect that my parents could have afforded to pay for my trip. But had they done so I would have missed out on a very valuable lesson. From an early age my parents taught me that if I wanted something I had to earn it, and they often provided opportunities to earn money. For example, I was sometimes hired to help with their screen printing business, and when I was older I was paid to remove stumps from our land.

I have a lot of pleasant memories from my childhood, but those that involve making money (and spending the money that I earned) are among the most pleasant.

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