Life’s Lemonade Opportunities: Gain Attention While Supporting Events

You know the old saying, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Well the new one goes something like this, “when lemonade is served, join in the attraction.” Serve up some complimentary fun and gain attention while supporting events in your area.

On the third weekend in August, intrepid neighbors, host an old fashioned soapbox derby on the slopes of Mt Tabor, an urban volcano, in Portland, OR. The PDX Adult SoapBox Derby, born in 1997, is a combination of home-made vehicles, micro-brew beer and sweat, drawing thousands to share an experience of wacky fun. This event, organized by passionate fans of the sport, offers “lemonade opportunities” to neighboring businesses.

Surrounding businesses in Montavilla on SE Stark St, on Belmont St. or on Hawthorne Blvd. all enjoy increased traffic in their commercial districts simply by proximity. No main street directly benefits, no commercial corridor is branded through this event, On every other day of the year, it’s a sleepy little residential neighborhood with cars traveling 5 mph.

Event organizers seek sponsors, a natural way for businesses to get involved. In this case, since the original organizers started the Soapbox Derby for, and by, themselves, it took a few years before they started asking for sponsors – then mostly for beer! Other local businesses soon jumped on the wagon, to help out, but especially to gain exposure to the thousands of neighbors who now come to the Derby.

A crafted vehicle, with at least 3 wheels, brakes and a horn doesn’t need a lot of equipment or special needs. Still cash is always needed for permits or promotions, goods are needed for prizes or repairs, services are needed for street closure and refreshments. Sponsors of all kinds naturally benefit from their exposure on marketing materials and on race day signs, but that’s not the only way to take advantage of nearby events.


Capture eye-balls and sales on event days with these attention-grabbling techniques:

Take Your Business Outdoors – Attract people as they walk or park nearby. Set up a table or display sale merchandise, giveaways, promotional flyers or coupons. Make signs that relate to the activity at hand.

Host a Contest – Create your own contest to accompany the event. Use stats from previous years or find out about current participants. Even a small and simple contest about the activity will help people remember your business and can bring new customers back throughout the year.

Advertise – Mention the event in regular advertising. If available, participate in discounted group offers by local community newspapers. Create SWAG (stuff we all get) materials or merchandise promoting the event and distribute to your customers.

Cater to Walkers and Bikers – Think about items you can offer that appeal to event attendees and shoppers who are on foot or on bike: small merchandise that is easy to carry, coupons and flyers that will entice shoppers back to your business. Give refreshing snacks and beverages or hand out reusable shopping bags with handles.

Look Great – Clean up storefronts. Wash windows, sills, sweep sidewalks, pick up litter, remove weeds from tree wells. Put out and maintain extra garbage containers. Make your restrooms available, if possible.

Make an Information Station – Know all about the event. Share promo materials with customers prior to the event.  Be able to provide information and directions about the activity and what else is going on in your area.

Provide water – Set out water jug and cups.

Stage remote car races in empty parking lots near event activities

Stage remote car races in empty parking lots near event activities

Make trophies or prizes out of found materials to donate

Make trophies or prizes out of found materials to donate

About Bridget Bayer

Bridget Bayer is an author and community organizer working to create vibrant main street business districts that support local economies. Bridget believes shared activities are a catalyst for positive change. Her professional work fosters community involvement by creating shared events that enhance communication, develop shared interests and support existing and start-up non-profit organizations. At home, Bridget focuses on innovative ecological practices, hates waste and dependably finds ways to eliminate it. After 25 years in the restaurant industry, she still loves to cook especially with locally sourced veggies including those homegrown from her garden. Bridget, the first mate on Ama Natura, lives on a floating home on the Columbia River in Portland with Peter Wilcox, instigator of the Inside Passage Decarbonization Project, and the lovely Luna, her favorite cat.