My family immigrated from Belarus in the Soviet Union when I was three years old. We lived in a small studio apartment in Queens. There were nine of us all in that space. And we did that for a few years, until we moved to Edison, New Jersey. And in Edison, my entrepreneurial endeavors really took off. It was there that I opened my first business: a lemonade stand.

Seems normal for a kid, right?

Except I franchised mine. No joke. I had eight lemonade stands in Edison, New Jersey.

I was six years old and putting all my friends to work at them. Remember Big Wheels? I used to ride my Big Wheels around Edison to all my different lemonade stands, picking up my cash like I was Tony Soprano.

And I learned a lot from running those stands. One lesson in particular? Well, profit margin at a very basic level. But, I also realized that I saw things differently than other kids might. For example, I remember this one kid, Eric. I found out through pretty simple math that he was holding out one or two dollars from me every day. But he was a great salesman, so he sold a lot more lemonade than any of the other stands. Because his revenue was so much higher, I let the missing one dollar a day go. Fascinating stuff.

Years later, the lemonade stands led to me selling baseball cards at trade shows in malls on weekends. And I did really well. I was making $2,000 to $3,000 a weekend selling these cards. I don't know about you, but when you have $30,000 in cash under your bed and you're thirteen and not selling weed...you're in a good place.

Well, the lemonade stand and baseball cards didn't last, of course. In the end, my dad forced me to come work with him at the liquor store he was running. I worked in the basement for $2 an hour until I turned 16 and he let me work on the main floor. Then things really took off. I got into wine. I started to understand it. I started to sell it like crazy. But the experiences I went through early on formulated my thinking immensely. That lemonade stand is where it all started.

Published on: May 3, 2015