Lessons from Childhood Entrepreneurship

As a kid, I explored a wide variety of business ventures out of my back driveway. There wasn't an underlying theme between my ideas, besides that they were all meant to turn a profit, but they were all executed in my little "pop-up shop" situated on a busy road.

My very first experience with sales and commercialization was, like many other children's, a lemonade stand. When I finally deemed that too juvenile (at the ripe age of 9) I made my foray into crafts. I dabbled a bit with broader services (car washing, snow shoveling, cleaning, etc.) but I found it tougher to reach consumers and build up demand from my market (my neighborhood).

I look back at all my various attempts at business in the driveway - lemonade, crafts, bamboo (yes, I really did take spare bamboo from the backyard and attempt to sell it), yardsale - and I wonder what factors made some of them successful, and others not. What lessons from childhood entrepreneurship can we draw to apply to new ideas today?

Lemonade: The business model is clear and the success was apparent. With lemonade, timing and location worked in tandem to bring about the ideal consumers. Being situated directly across from a popular neighborhood brunch spot known for boozy Sundays, and operating on high-temperature, brunch-day mornings was crucial. Plus I was cute as heck! In businesses, you have to work your assets.

Crafts: With this business, I had no competitive advantage. I was a horrible artist! My only real chance at success was to be in the right place at the right time looking like the cutest 9-year-old in the world.

Bamboo: The decision to sell bamboo was spur of the moment, because it occurred to me when my Dad happened to be trimming bamboo in the backyard. Therefore, I didn't have time to advertise in order to attract customers. Plus, I set the bamboo up right away, which might not have been the ideal time for foot/car traffic.

Yardsale: The sale was my first opportunity to properly launch a business. My Mom let me keep the earnings if I did the legwork to set up the sale. I advertised in the local classifieds, priced out all the items, and laid them out in a visually appealing way. I made a sign that said "Kollege Fund" and waved it at cars driving by...a minor attempt at guerrilla marketing! The profits were decent, although I did have killer margins on my side.

So why were some of these businesses successful? Between location, assets, timing, and advertising, which variable was most important? And, how many of these factors did my businesses need to include in order to see success? Let's take a look at the facts:

My most successful ventures were Lemonade Stands and the Yardsale, which each have three factors to their advantage. My crafts business was mildly successful, with two factors. And Bamboo was a massive failure, only employing one of these variables. By this logic, businesses that can execute on three or more of these variables will have the best chance at guaranteed success. This might not be scientific, but there are still many lessons from childhood entrepreneurship that we can apply to business today.