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Turning Oranges into Lemonade: A Lesson in the Entrepreneurial Method

Posted By Christine Pigsley, Friday, April 24, 2015
Updated: Friday, April 24, 2015

By: Sara Whiffen, Insights Ignited (Effectuation expert for the Coleman ECIA Community of Practice)

Email: sara.whiffen@insightsignited.com

Lilly Pulitzer’s perky patterns incited a mad rush at Target stores this week. Customers were in a frenzy to acquire the bright colors and floral designs that are the hallmark of the preppy brand.  The brand evokes feelings of country clubs and lazy summer lemonade days.  But its creation is rooted in orange juice.

As the story goes, long before Lilly Pulitzer was a brand, she was a wealthy socialite.  Raised in high society New York, she married and moved to Florida where her husband owned a large orange grove. 

Wanting to help with the family business, she would often push a small cart of fresh oranges through a local park.  Dressed in her cool summer whites, she would sell fresh orange juice to passers-by.   Peeling and squeezing the oranges by hand left her with sticky fingers and stained clothing.  Conscious of her appearance, this was just not acceptable to her. 

Inspiration struck one day as she glanced at a set of curtains in her home and thought that the loud, colorful pattern of their 1960s style would surely disguise those persistent orange stains.  She went to a fabric store, purchased a similar design, and fashioned from it a simple shift dress.

Wearing this in the park while pushing her cart, she stood out among the crisp white outfits worn by others.  Her look began to attract as much attention as her fresh orange juice.  Customers began asking for not just a glass of juice, but inquiring as to where they too could purchase a similar dress.  After hearing more and more of these inquiries, she began to make some of the dresses for others.  Her popularity grew and she was able to build an entire brand line from this small start. 

The effectual lemonade principal is clear here.  Her business at the time was selling orange juice.  She did not aspire to grow a fashion brand.  But she was open to trying new things and believed in her ability to solve problems in a way that would work to her advantage.  And when life gave her lemons – or orange juice – she embraced them fully and made her own lemonade.  

Tags:  Coleman Foundation  community college  effectuation  entrepreneurial mindset  entrepreneurship  insights ignited  lilly pulitzer  NACCE  target 

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