Book Review: Beyond the Lemonade Stand

I’ve read quite a few personal finance books, both before starting this blog and then even more frequently as I started reviewing them here.  Few of the books I’ve encountered have been written from younger readers; most authors don’t write for younger adults, yet alone minors.  That’s one reason why Beyond the Lemonade Stand from Bill Rancic stands out among personal finance books; not too many other personal finance-business books focus on helping children build a business.

Three Sentence Summary: Rancic starts by related some of the business ideas he tried as a child, included the lessons he learned from them.  The middle of the book is devoted to a list of twenty possible businesses that kids could open, along with advice on each one.  The book finishes with some suggestions about what kids can do with the money they earn, from spending to saving to investing.

Summary: The book opens with an introduction from Rancic, noting his interest in business and encouraging the children reading to build their own businesses.  The first part of the book is a walk through of Rancic’s childhood business ventures, pointing out some of his successes and failures along the way.  From babysitting to delivering newspapers to, yes, running a lemonade stand, Rancic’s adventures (and the lessons he learned from each) provide a quick crash course in youthful business procedures.  Laced into Rancic’s stories  are comments from other business persons as well as pictures of Rancic as a child, doing many of the jobs he describes.  Also included throughout the chapter are comments and suggestions from various children describing their ideas for businesses, their experiences starting some of those businesses, and the lessons you can draw from their experiences.

Beyond the Lemonade StandThe second part of the book is a list of twenty kid-friendly businesses.  Each listing provides an explanation of the business idea, which cover classics like lawn mowing, snow shoveling, and dog walking, as well as more up-to-date potential businesses like technology teacher and website developer.  The chapter covers some of the pros and cons of each job, the traits that would make you enjoy that particular job, and some advice on spreading the word about your business venture.  The third part of the book is about creating a business plan for your business, identifying things like start-up costs and the customers you’re going to serve.

The fourth part of the book is a short guide to managing the money you earn from your business.  From saving and investing to growing your business and helping others, a number of suggestions are included in this section.  The book finishes with a section for recording appointments and a contact sheet and a glossary of some of the basic personal finance and business terms used throughout the book.

Pros: Well-written at a level appropriate for kids, with a lot of good suggestions.  The list of possible jobs covers a wide range of opportunities, and does a good job of painting a realistic picture of what awaits any kid who wants to try those businesses.  The pitfalls and perils listed for each job (and working in general) are good, providing information that is important for any business venture.  (Also, Rancic donates all of his royalties from the book to children’s charities; while this point doesn’t change the actual content of the book, it does make me look upon him and the book more favorably.)

Cons: Rancic’s personal stories seem to go on a bit too long, while the section on what to do with money generated by the business is rather short.  Many of the suggestions given, while well detailed, aren’t particularly creative (shoveling snow, cleaning pools and mowing lawns are the sorts of businesses that kids were running even back in my day; it’s hard to imagine too many young people who don’t know about them).  Given the subject of the book, while it’s very helpful for a child, if you are an adult with a reasonable amount of personal finance knowledge, there’s not much in here that will help you.

Overall: If you’re looking for a decent book for children giving them advice on starting their own business venture, then Beyond the Lemonade Stand might be for you.  There’s a limit on how much benefit you can derive if you are an adult without any children in your life to encourage in their business ventures, but for the target audience of children and preteens, it makes an excellent introduction to the world of business.

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