Perhaps my favorite summer activity is gardening. I really enjoy going down to our farm in Rock Hill and working the ground that my dad, grandfather, and great-grandfathers toiled. Perhaps the best thing about the garden is that the investment in labor always yields a bountiful harvest of fresh vegetables that keep my family and friends very happy.
A few summers ago, I drove through the back roads to the farm and passed by a little lemonade stand by the side of the road. A little girl sat at a folding table and chair with a handwritten sign that said, “Fresh Lemonade.” There was also what appeared to be a glass pitcher and a few Dixie cups stacked as she waited patiently for a thirsty customer who would certainly come along.
I did not have time to stop then, but made a mental note to drop by for a cool drink after working in the garden in the hot afternoon sun. After spending a few hours tilling the soil and tying up the tomatoes, I packed up and headed home. The little girl was still in her chair, head resting on her left hand, as she slumped down on the table.
I pulled my car over and walked over to her stand. She jumped up and beamed a big smile as I asked her for a cup of her cold lemonade. To be truthful, the lemonade was a little warm as the afternoon sun had taken a toll on the ice. However, after a long day in the garden, the beverage was tasty and really hit the spot. She charged me a whopping 25 cents.
After downing the delectable treat, I asked if I could have a refill. She indicated that would require another quarter. She carefully poured a second beverage, handed me my drink, and held out her hand for payment. I pulled out a $5 bill and her eyes widened and mouth dropped in awe. The little girl timidly said, “Sir, I do not have enough change.” I told her that was okay, she could keep the change as a tip. As I drove away, I watched in the rear view mirror as she dashed back to her house waving the money. Based on her excitement, I am guessing that she made more in one visit with me than she did all day.
The little girl’s location was not ideal – located on a lonely country back road where you’re more likely to see a stray dog wander by before the occasional car. She clearly wasn’t prepared for any large transactions but I really admired the fact she stuck it out through the hot summer heat.
That lemonade stand was similar to many businesses that are located in low traffic areas or operate without a solid business or marketing plan. The Lake Norman Chamber helps in those situations. We provide businesses with numerous opportunities to build new relationships through our many networking opportunities. Our chamber also gives business owners and managers’ new tools and knowledge needed for success, including presentations in financial planning, sales training, marketing, risk management, HR issues and other personal and business topics.
Unlike a lemonade stand, our lake businesses cannot afford to make critical errors in planning, financing, and marketing their business. Our businesses are like a garden which requires constant attention. You do not just plant a seed – you have to constantly provide care. Tilling, hoeing out the rows, fertilizing the ground, and supplying it with plenty of water. However, if you put in the effort and investment in the business, the time spent building new relationships and cultivating existing ones, will yield a bountiful harvest and a successful business.
I’m not sure how much lemonade that little girl sold that afternoon but just thinking about her brings a big smile to my face. I hope she’s back there again this summer. A fresh pitcher of cool lemonade and perhaps this time a cookie or two.