Review of: Once Upon a Company

Once Upon a Comany A True Story by Wendy Anderson Halperin

In Grandma Rie’s Money Camp each summer, the kids have traditionally run a one or two day business of their own – usually a drink and snack stand at the lake. The last two years I’ve tried to introduce making and selling a physical product. The in 2013 we did hand made soaps and last year they tried their hand at paper mache piggy banks.

I’ve been toying with the idea of trying to establish an ongoing company where we could make things and sell them year round – or at least on a more consistent basis.

So when I saw this book, I though it would be a good one to introduce that idea – and I think it will be!


Halperin is both the author and illustrator of this short picture book for the lower end of the grade levels. She tells the story in the voice of her son Joel and he builds the story of how their companies came about year by year. The kids (with the help of parents and grandparents) decide to make wreaths and use the money to start a college fund. This is a fall/winter activity as they use live evergreens, so after the first winter, they decided to have a lemonade stand in the summer. Six years in, the college fund had $16,000 in it and the kids learned a lot about being in business.

What I liked

The author introduces terms in natural ways. For instance, when a young friend of theirs started selling the wreaths after buying them herself at a small discount, they learned that she was a DISTRIBUTOR.

The book shows how the kids got their materials and greatly simplifies the things that typically will stop an adult cold in their tracks (such as finding suppliers, bookkeeping, regulations and etc). For instance, they have a neighbor with a tree farm and to get the evergreens for their wreaths, they just asked if they could have the leftovers.

It also parts the veil a bit on how to get the word out. Somehow they got a newspaper report to come watch them build a wreath and then they gave it to her. They set up shop (with permission) in the local hardware store to sell and that happened to be where many of the towns people came to socialize.

The book presents multiple ideas on products to make and sell including wreaths, lemonade, sandwiches, birthday cakes and sand art. Some of the things they tried to sell, such as sloppy joes, got nixed by the local health department (so they at a lot of sloppy joes that summer).

It touches on different sales outlets – such as direct sales, selling through other kids, selling to retail stores and etc in an easy to understand natural

What I wished for

A parent version of the story would be great so that parents would know how the behind the scenes stuff got done (things such as checking out local laws, how the actual company was formed, scouting out appropriate venues, coaching the kids without overpowering them and etc).

Favorite quotes

“The first year we made seventy-three wreaths. We gave one to everybody who helped. The others were sold for twenty dollars apiece. After we subtracted the money we’d used to buy supplies, we still had some left over. WE’D MADE A PROFIT! After Christmas, we went to the bank with our money.”

After making a stand to sell sandwiches and lemonade:

“For the record, be prepared to clean up a giant mess if you make a six-foot-tall sandwich. The Styrofoam gets all over the place.”

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