CrowBiz

…funk for the old soul…

Lemonade Stand Mistakes for Etsy Sellers

Posted by crowbiz on May 13, 2009

This is a parable about some really bad ways to start your business.  If you can’t uncover the parallels, you might want to compress your head in a sliding glass door for 30 minutes, then come back and try again.  One of my favorite sayings is, “Look within.”  

Growing up, I lived in an odd, remote semi-suburban, semi-rural compound that could be called a neighborhood.  It was a small arc of a “street” containing exactly 18 houses, with another six facing the busy roadway from which our lonely road sprang.  We were bordered by the busy road on one side, and large tracts of woods and farmland on the other three.  We had ditches in front of our houses. The road was not paved, but was made up of an unappealing oil, tar and chipped stone mixture.  Summer fun sometimes involved popping the tar bubbles that swelled up, and since we had no traffic except for the few, not-very-on-the-go residents, a kid could actually sit in the middle of the street doing something as mindless as popping tar bubbles. Every eye from every house would widen and follow any nonresident car that happened along the street.  

Luckily, I had several friends around my age, so childhood life went along almost normally, except for the strange themes that we developed because of our isolation.  We were rather like specimens on the Galapagos Islands, following the general rules of life, but evolving our own bizarre mutations.

Thus is was that we decided to open a stand to sell something.  Something.  I don’t recall what the actual stand was – an appliance box, perhaps, or a piece of hand-me-down fort from neighborhood boys?  Whatever its form, the physical stand was the impetus for opening shop, though we had no plan.  We lacked supplies for lemonade or Kool-Aid .  So after straining our collective brains a bit, we came up with a suitable alternative:  salad dressing.  Into the blender went a load of ingredients, a pinch of this, a 9-year-old’s fistful of that, until we whizzed up what we thought was a perfectly acceptable concoction.  It tasted salty, so that was good, and it was a loud green color.  

Great as a marinade, too!Now, to marketing.  The name we agreed on (by a committee of four) was “Grople.”  Pronounced GROPE-uhl.  Like Snapple, but with Grope instead of Snap.  And way before Snapple was invented.  Say it a few times.  Mmmm.  We kept the Grople in a large plastic container and planned to dispense the customer’s portion into a paper cup, the kind you’d use for, oh, lemonade, say.  We expected them to run right home with it, eager to try it out, so we wouldn’t even bother with a lid.  Or perhaps we thought customers would rush our stand with their naked salads and use the cup to dip the lettuce in.  Our target market consisted of street traffic.  If you’re not sharp, you may want to reread the second paragraph.  It was a sweltering summer day.  All systems were go!

Let’s spare ourselves the grueling details of the grand failure and just skip to the part where we disband later in the day having sold not a drop of Grople.  What happened? we asked.  How could this have bombed so badly?  Were we not shouting loud enough to attract people?  Did we set up the stand too far away from the street?  Were our signs hard to read, or written too small?  Was it the economic climate?  It was a blend of mystery and disappointment for all of us.  Not only did we not make a penny, we had wasted a good summer day sitting there minding the stand, had shouted ourselves hoarse, and had a gallon of spoiled green oil and spices to deal with.

Have you started looking within?

When you’ve grown close to something, it’s hard to see its faults with a clear eye.  Your project, your product, is your baby, just like our Grople was to us.  After a session back at the drawing board we crafted some important changes and vowed we wouldn’t go down in retail flames again.  Several weeks later we reopened another shop with new conviction.  Our sweeping changes?  The salad dressing was now lighter green, and we’d rechristened it Grople II.  If you can’t guess what happened, you probably should have just left your coat on.  The bus will be coming soon.

Sweet mother of invention, we can be thankful there was no public outlet for our distress.  Nowhere to ask, plead and beg for answers about why we weren’t selling.  No one to hear us lament, “OMG, the kids in that subdivision a mile away are copying us!  They’re selling liverwurst in ceramic mugs…that’s food, that’s cups… It’s so unfair!  How come our parents won’t do anything about it?”  No one to ask, “How long did it take to sell your first cup of hot, green salad dressing?”

Don’t be a Grople Wanker.

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6 Responses to “Lemonade Stand Mistakes for Etsy Sellers”

  1. Glitzer said

    This is interesting! Thanks for sharing your story!

    http://be-a-glitzer.blogspot.com/

  2. Sheryl Karas said

    Great post! I’m not selling Grople…but the people our services and products don’t appeal to probably think I do!

    Found you on Etsy, thanks for posting!

    Sheryl
    http://www.mamaloveproducts.com
    http://www.healingcommunication.com

  3. Wow, I think I’ve heard this story somewhere… there’s something… familiar… about it.

    You, my dear, make some excellent points. 🙂 Thanks for sharing! I think I may have to stop by with a naked salad some day.

  4. JD said

    Liverwurst in a ceramic mug. Hmmm… do you get Kosciuzko mustard with that?

    good to see you,

    JD

  5. […] laundry detergent to be brown and go by the name of Sludge Extra?  Would you eat a product called Grople? […]

  6. You are killing me. Sorry about all the comments, but I’ve just discovered your blog, and I think I may have to get a Twitter account just to stalk you.

    Kidding.

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