BY WARREN TIDDLY-TIMID SEP. 13, 2014
CONCORD, NC – When the Great Recession hit in 2008, many local businesses were hurt. Some even closed up shop. However, one local business has found ways to innovate and adapt and likely will emerge from the recession leaner and more efficient.
According to Concord lemonade salesman and micro-bottler Aiden Winston, 10, business has dramatically improved since the initial downtown in the economy. Reportedly, this is in no small part due to the adaptation of several best practices by Fresh Lemonade (LLC)’s CEO to the changing times and conditions of the notoriously unforgiving lemonade market.
“As soon as the recession hit and profits began to dip, I knew we had to make a move and it had to be big,” stated the four-foot-tall head of Fresh Lemonade. When other lemonade concerns failed to act, they ended up going out of business. “Jimmy’s lemonade stand just two blocks down the street had to close up shop. When profits dip your investors start to get scared. His mom and dad pulled the plug pretty quick when he didn’t even clear USD 4.00.”
One of the major changes Aiden soon made was to close unprofitable locations. “It was tough,” the tiny CEO admits. “I had to shut down Julia’s [his sister’s] branch, which was on the other side of the fire hydrant from my booth. It was just redundant to have locations that close to each other.”
The more controversial use of contract workers has helped Fresh Lemonade stay afloat. Contract workers typically don’t receive the benefits that full-time employees receive. “I had to first let Jeffrey [his next door neighbor] go, then rehire him on a contract basis. Now, instead of him being here all day long and just playing on his tablet I can bring him in at peak business hours, which tend to be from 5pm to 5:15pm,” Aiden said, picking a boogie from his nose. “One of the biggest benefits we’ve cut has been nap time,” Aiden added. “Everyone was pretty disappointed, but hey, at least they still have a job.
“In the old days, we were really competing for employees. We had to offer a s**tload of benefits from continuing education courses to exercise facilities. We’ve scaled that back fairly significantly. Jeffrey now uses the public playground around the corner instead of a private use facility in the backyard and Logan [Aiden’s other assistant] has settled for reimbursement for half of his karate lessons,” said the diminutive capitalist. He smiled wryly. “Damn, those were tough times. I got through with a lot of luck – I didn’t know much back then, being as how I was four years old.”
According to Aiden, supply chain logistics have also been at the forefront of eliminating waste and cutting back. Rather than piece together their inventory, “Mom now picks up the lemonade mix, the lemon squeezes we put in, and the red cups all in one trip to Costco.” As soon as the lemonade mix, lemons, and red cups are brought in the front door they are mixed in a Gatorade cooler and taken to the street. Avoiding making excess lemonade on cooler or less busy days has the added benefit of avoiding a buildup of inventory, a mistake that has sunk much bigger operations, like Clyde Drenzik’s over on Richland Avenue.
“Clyde just didn’t have the cojones to make the necessary changes, said Aiden. “Lemonade don’t take no prisoners. It’s brutal out there.”
The final piece of Aiden’s strategy has included investing more into R&D instead of returning dividends to investors. Reportedly, Fresh Lemonade has been experimenting with various ratios of lemonade powder to water, which range from “an extra fistful” to “almost the entire container.”
“We’re still waiting on feedback from our customers but I’m certain we’re going to come out on top of this,” Aiden mumbled while playing with his belly button.
While it’s easy to look at this as simply a local business thriving in a down economy, Aiden has been treating it as a life lesson, in essence making lemonade from lemons. “We’ve tried hard to perceive this downturn as an opportunity instead of a challenge,” he said, shrugging. “The Chinese characters for both are the same. Speaking of, I mean, we’re not only competing against Ethan’s stand over on Walnut, but also against [fifth-grade classmate] Min’s Teas of Beijing over on Lewis Street,” Aiden noted as he picked up a nearby copy of Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat and stuck his gum inside.
At press time Aiden was reportedly wandering away from the headquarters of Fresh Lemonade (LLC) to poke a pile of dog poop with a stick.