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A Lemonade Stand– Bringing a Bit of American Childhood to Bury St. Edmunds

Amelia and I have been conducting a very interesting social experiment, right in front of our house.  Since my daughter is six, has time on her hands, and has been begging for a backyard playhouse, I thought it was time for her to do a lemonade stand. This is a great age to start learning about basic economics, problem-solving, and working hard to make things happen for ourselves.  I also loved the idea of using it for a little bit of an outreach to our neighborhood, maybe getting to introduce ourselves to more of the people who live around us.

Did you know that British kids don’t do lemonade stands?  To be honest, I had no idea, even though I did know that lemonade here is a fizzy drink (which is why we specified that it was American– also a conversation piece, I hoped.) 
I didn’t really even think about it– we decided it was time for Amelia to go through this (American) childhood rite of passage, and it never occurred to me that having a lemonade stand might be unusual here.  In fact, it’s more than just unusual– it’s unheard of, at least in our town.  A lucky coincidence is that there was recently a commercial on local television for HSBC, featuring a very enterprising little American girl with a lemonade stand.  I think there would be almost no point of reference for what was going on at our front gate, otherwise!

I have to say, the first day that we set up, and Amelia sat out there to sell was a little hard for me to take.  We get a ton of foot traffic on our street, and most people completely ignored my sweet little salesgirl.

It took a little while for it to dawn on me that this was a completely foreign situation for everyone walking by.  A few people have stopped, interested, and then they would say with recognition, “Ah, like that bank advert!”  Many people just looked confused, others acted like she was panhandling.  Fortunately, Amelia doesn’t take it personally.  If she is anything, she is tenacious.  She latches onto an idea and never lets go.  So, she started calling out to every single person walking by.  I loved listening to the evolution of her marketing techniques, eventually inviting people to “cool off with a nice, cold glass of lemonade!”  I did have to do quite a bit of coaching in terms of how she hollered, since people in Bury can feel harassed quite easily. (Read more about that here.)  Now that we’ve done it a few times, Amelia has mastered the fine art of cordially inviting people to enjoy a drink.  I love watching her work, and seeing her come up with new ideas.  The qualities that often really exhaust me as a parent (not taking no for an answer, or doggedly pursuing me with her plans for my life, for example) are exactly what make her a great salesperson.

This is the sign she came up with for nap time.  Plus, more signs.  She has also made illustrative displays with lemons and clementines.

To be honest, most people give her the cold shoulder, or tell her they’re not interested.  Someone told her not to talk to strangers, and others just put up their hand, as if to block her verbal advances.  It’s a little disheartening when this happens for an hour.  But good things are happening, too, and it has been a really positive experience overall.  Some people stop and talk.  And now that we’ve done it about six times, she has some very dedicated customers, who stop and buy some every single time.  We’ve had people come back twice on the same day.  There’s also the novelty factor, and we do get people who are genuinely delighted to see that this is happening in their very own neighborhood. There are many comments about how enterprising she is.  Someone gave us a mini inspirational lecture yesterday about how “in England, we are all about people trying things.”

And we have met more neighbors! One man showed up, looking very pleased and announcing that he had just moved into our neighborhood two days ago.  Knowing our own experience with having a hard time meeting our neighbors, I was really glad to introduce myself and tell him about the families I knew on our street.  His wife came by the next day, and introduced herself.  I also met an American woman who had been living in England for 15 years, who was moving to Bury from a village a ways away.  I was a little taken aback when she told me in a crisp English accent that she was from Seattle.  I have connected with a number of people just on the subject of how our lemonade stand is being received.  It’s been really therapeutic!

Amelia is pretty committed to her endeavor, and has been telling people at our open market, that like the vendors there, she is also selling things to earn money– but that she needs £100 for a playhouse.  A couple people pulled money out of their pockets and handed it to her, pleased to contribute to her cause.  Once again, I am so amazed by her intensity and total lack of social fear or self-consciousness.  And, even with buying the supplies for the stand herself, she is already up to £60 profit!  Pretty good, for a six year old!

When we started out, I had no idea how interesting the experience would be for us!  The longer people have had to get used the idea, the more receptive they have been.  And, naturally outgoing people have found their way to us.  It’s been very worthwhile.  Today, we made watermelon juice, since we ran out of lemons, and it has been very well received.  It’s nice to be out there, participating in our town’s life in this small way!

By the way, can you imagine how much lemonade would be sold by this kid in Turkey?!
(Update: She earned enough for her playhouse, and moved in!)

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24 Responses to A Lemonade Stand– Bringing a Bit of American Childhood to Bury St. Edmunds

  1. Rois August 9, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    Bravo! Good work.

    It would not be summer without a neighborhood lemon aid stand.

    Thanks for the insight on a topic I never would have thought of.

    • Ariana August 21, 2012 at 7:50 pm #

      Thank you, Rois– I think she’s done a great job, and I’m glad she won’t miss this part of an American summer!

  2. Amanda August 9, 2012 at 2:37 pm #

    That is amazing and so sweet! What an adorable ambassador- I hope it helps you stumble across a few friendly British souls. I remember selling all sorts of things out of my driveway when I was a kid. One time when my sister and I were about 6 & 8 yrs old, we tried to sell “Barbie shampoo- top quality hair care for your Barbies”, which was really just a mishmash of all the soaps, shampoos, and conditioners I could find in our house. I did not have many (any) buyers, sadly.

    -Amanda

    • Ariana August 21, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

      Amanda, I love your product tagline! And what, nobody bought any? I will always buy whatever I see a kid selling– it’s just the right thing to do! Well, it is for an American, I guess.

  3. manycoloured-days August 9, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    Wow, what an amazingly brave thing you and your daughter are doing! I know, I live in Expatland, too. I have been reading your blog for a while and am getting quite addicted. I’m going to share this with my expat friends if you don’t mind.

    • Ariana August 21, 2012 at 7:54 pm #

      Hi there, manycoloured-days!
      Thanks for introducing yourself and yes, please share any posts you enjoy here! It has taken some guts for us to do this, but my daughter has way more courage than I do, so she’s carried most of the show. I mostly just make the lemonade. :)

  4. Kym Hamer August 9, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

    Wow that is just brilliant – a big well done to Amelia. Wish I lived in Bury St Edmunds…

  5. Traveling Mama August 9, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

    what a clever and precious little girl you have! Good luck with future sales!

  6. Grandma Seelye August 10, 2012 at 3:03 am #

    Oh what fun!! Good job Amelia!

  7. Marisa August 10, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    What an intrepid spirit she’s got! I am beyond impressed with Amelia – when I was her age I probably would have closed up shop after the first person threw their hand in the air at me (and who shields themselves from a little girl by the way???)I am mightily impressed with her – such a great story. I feel like you should submit this story somewhere – but have no idea where – maybe to some type of expat website – really great, heart-warming story Ariana :)

    PS I want to know what Amelia’s plans are for your life!?

    • Ariana August 21, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

      Yes, she is extremely brave! Way more than I would have been at her age, and she doesn’t seem to take things personally– again, she is so much better at that than I am! Thanks for the recommendation to share this story… I’ll keep my eyes out for the right opportunity.

      And as for Amelia’s plans for my life… Let’s just say she’d rather tell someone else what to do or how to do what they are doing, rather than find something to do on her own! I see a real future in management… 😉

  8. Anne in Oxfordshire August 14, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

    I think you idea is great .. but as you say people did not take to it at first .. It is totally unheard of in England or the UK, not just Bury st Edmunds .. :-) we have only really started doing Garage sales .. I was very amused on a trip to see my cousin in Montreal, when they had a garage sale that stretched out right on their driveway and the neighbours took part too. There were two one side of the street and two opposite .. it was amazing. Well done to you daughter.

    • Ariana August 21, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

      Thanks, Anne. Yes, it really is unusual, I have come to realize. But I’m glad we’re doing it, even if it seems strange or confusing at first. Some have suggested we should participate in a boot sale– I think Amelia would love it, and I would enjoy walking around and chatting up the others from our town who are selling there…

  9. Anonymous August 30, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    What a wonderfully spirited little girl! I am in awe of Amelia for not giving up, and not throwing in the towel — good on her!! She is going to charm all your neighbours at the rate she is going… she will wear down even the most curmudgeonly! And dare I ask, but does she have any other entrepreneurial ambitions?

    — Monika

  10. Melissa Page August 9, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

    As depressing and disheartening it sounds to hear that people would just walk by or worse “throw their hand up”, it is inspiring to hear that Amelia does not take it personally and does not give up! I have been following your blog for a some time now, (I’m the big Downton Abbey fan) and I am contiually impressed with Amelia (and you). You guys rock! :-) Love from Texas, USA.

    • Ariana Mullins August 12, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

      Aw, thanks Melissa! I am really proud of her, and we are doing it all over again this year. Today was her first day out there, and I think she sold 20 cups. She has wised up a little, and hollers at people less and reads a book as she waits for customers. Some people have expressed how happy they are to see her out there again, and of course many people act the same as least year. I’m glad she wants to do it again.

  11. Kr Oli August 10, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    What an amazing little girl!Wish you live in our village!Love, Kristina x Borough Green

    • Ariana Mullins August 12, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

      Thank you Kristina! I think she might have a bit more success in a little village, but this is just as good for learning!

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