Madison Job

How my childhood lemonade stand taught me about competition


Growing up, I remember the best days of summer being the days where my little brother and I would scrape together the limited materials we had and set up our very own lemonade stand at the end of our never ending driveway.

We would post up in mini camping chairs our dad bought for us and our mom would mix up our secret recipe of lemonade — Country Time Lemonade mix (only the best for our customers.) We’d drag out our plastic play-kitchen table to the end of our driveway and pour a minimum amount of lemonade in some cups and start yelling, “free lemonade!” The thought of charging anything never crossed our minds, but my mom would call our family members to drive over and buy our little cups of lemonade for 25 cents. Profits were booming back then.

To give some context to this situation, I come from a small town in Macomb County, Michigan, called Armada. We have a gas station, a small grocery store and some family-owned businesses. Ever heard of Blake’s Apple Orchard? That’s us! Anyway, we had the perfect conditions for our little monopoly of a business. I lived two miles down a dirt road and there was no way our lemonade business was going to experience any sort of competition because there was no one around to do so.

I recently listened to an interview with Whitney Wolfe, founder of the dating app Bumble, and learned many great takeaways in the world of competition. A great point she makes is certainly a group of talented engineers could duplicate the app, but what they can’t take is its brand. Bumble aims to completely restructure how men and women feel and the brand is something the founder holds near and dear to her heart— it’s personal.

The brand that my brother and I seemed to build with our make-shift lemonade stand was somewhere in between, the “innocence of childhood” and “look how bored they are let’s stop by.” Anyone in Armada could have built a lemonade stand, but it was our brand we were representing that differentiated us from the rest. That is a point that is important to keep in mind when talking about startups.

Another aspect of competition branches from the depths of a concept I once learned called centrifugal diversification. The concept delves into the tastes for specific media diets people now crave. After the creation of cable television, media became more and more tailored to people’s specific interests and needs, providing selective communication.

This concept made me think of the Recode Media interview with Bleacher Report CEO Dave Finocchio. In it he talks about the inclusiveness of sports culture and how people receive its coverage is changing. Initially, many found out game scores from their local news. However, centrifugal diversification now allows them to choose which platforms work best for them.

Bleacher Report found there was 15 times more engagement from users on Instagram than were was for Facebook. Each platform may satisfy different needs of the user. Facebook may allow you to read and write more, while Instagram is especially flattering to those more visually inclined people. An interesting point that was made about Snapchat was it’s especially unique and concentrated audience of young teens. Each platform has its own qualities and upsides, which in turn, attract their own audiences. All of the platforms are in competition for users, but indirectly because each user seeks a different aspect from each platform.

While each platform is unique, it is important to know how to stand out on each one.

These thoughts and ideas on competition all file into a reading called, How to Write a Great Business: Competitive Analysis. Whether your competition may not be direct, or in your same geographic location, there are still other businesses that can disrupt the market you are in. A competitive analysis allows for you to tell your audience not what your business can do, but why they need it. As stated in the article, it can answer the “against who?” question in order to differentiate yourself from the rest. This can also allow you to asses the strengths and weaknesses of the business, as discussed in Roadmap to Digital Media Starups that helps you plan long-term.

Competition does not always have to be negative. It can be the fuel behind your success if you know how to prepare for it. Even though my lemonade stand wasn’t threatened by competition, our brand we didn’t even know we had become our greatest asset in the lemonade business. Build your brand and let the world know why they need it.

9 thoughts on “How my childhood lemonade stand taught me about competition

  1. Madison, I really enjoyed your post. First off I’d like to state how you connected you and your brothers’ brand to the readings, that was a really good idea. I like how you described what you read in one of the readings about how sports culture and how people perceive its coverage is changing since although many can find out game scores from their local news, centrifugal diversification allows them to choose what platform/ medium is the best choice for them. This reminds me of when I was speaking with an older gentlemen recently and he was telling me about how sports reporters during professional sports games were have always been around but they served a purpose to keep viewers aware of what’s going on in the games and how now they really aren’t needed because we have the privilege of things like instant replays. Basically stating that if we can now see over and over again what’s going on during the game, then there isn’t really a need to be told what’s going on. This was something interesting to think about, however I don’t ever see live sports reporters during games going away because it would certainly make watching sport’s games different and less entertaining. If this was the case there also wouldn’t be the need for many sport’s shows that come on, which would take the fun out of it. Technology is ever-changing and ever-growing and we should embrace that but not by taking away things that we care about deeply. My comment may have strayed away from your initial point a bit but it made me think about that so I decided to share. Great post overall!


    1. Also your mention of centrifugal diversification especially with how you stated the creation of cable television, media became suited to people’s interests and needs with providing selective communication made me think of what was stated in my initial comment as well.


  2. The analogy that you made from you and your brother’s lemonade stand to Bumble really made a great point. Things can be duplicated but brands matter rather its clothing, food or entertainment we all are true to a certain brand. I love the way you concluded this and I love the word choice. Competition can fuel your brand to be successful and competition can come from any where.


  3. Madison, I also loved the fact that Whitney Wolfe, founder of Bumble, said that an engineer or coding professional can easily duplicate a dating app but they can’t take away her passion, fire and the story of Bumble. It was really cool to hear how authentic she is about her app, especially after leaving Tinder and promising herself she wouldn’t be a part of another dating app again.


  4. Madison, this was an awesome blog post and I love that you compared your childhood lemonade stand to Bumble! Your brand really does matter and knowing the purpose of that brand makes it even better. I also love how you said that competitors don’t need to be negative, that they can fuel your success. I think this is very true. If you know your competition and know how to be different than they are then you can be successful.


  5. This was such an awesome blog post! For real. I love when blog posts have an element of story telling to them. I think it makes for a much easier and fun read. But you also did a really good job comparing it to the readings and the podcasts this week. Good Job!


  6. I love love love the connection you made to your childhood days. I had lemonade stands all the time as a kid, except my neighborhood was fairly big and we had a lot of traffic and there were other kids that had the same idea as me. I remember trying to come up with new things to sell other than lemonade to bring in more customers. I would never have thought to connect this to this past week’s readings though, so great job!


  7. Madison, I love how you broke this down. You managed to tie in key aspects of the featured readings and podcasts while hitting with a personal touch that manages to really put it into perspective. I feel like a majority of people had a lemonade stand as kid at one point and it really allows the reader to connect with you. I found that the point that you touched on in the interview with Whitney Wolfe striked me as well. Someone may be able to replicate what you’ve created but no one can take away the brand that has been built. There’s so much that goes into building a brand and creating genuine connections and followers that no one can entirely replicate a brand end to end.


  8. This was an awesome article! as an adult I am always jealous of the kids who created an actual lemonade stand because its something I never had the desire to do as a kid and it makes me feel like I missed out on something! But beyond that your analogy is great and it’s relatable to a wide range of people!


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