Girl Scouts about more than just cookies

3/8/2013

By RUTH CAMPBELL

By RUTH CAMPBELL

rcampbell@gctelegram.com

For Girl Scouts of America, cookie sales are not just cute little girls looking up at you and asking you to purchase Thin Mints. They're also a way members learn business skills and some street smarts.

As in real-life sales jobs, members set goals and earn incentives based on how many boxes of cookies they sell.

Five things girls attain when selling cookies include:

* Goal setting: Girl Scouts set individual and troop goals and create a plan to reach them. Along the way, they develop cooperation and team building skills.

* Decision making: Girls decide how the team will spend its cookie money, "furthering critical thinking and problem-solving skills," states "Cookies 101 — A Parent Guide to the Girl Scout Cookie Sale."

* Money management: Girl Scouts take cookie orders, handle customers' money and gain practical life skills about financial literacy, the guide said.

* People skills: "Girl Scouts learn how to talk to, listen to and work with all kinds of people while selling cookies. These experiences help them to develop healthy relationship and conflict resolution skills they can use throughout their lives," the guide said.

* And business ethics: "Girl Scouts are honest and responsible at every step of the cookie sale. Their business ethics reinforce the positive values they are developing as Girl Scouts," the guide said.

Garden City is part of Girl Scout Service Unit 106, which includes Finney, Kearny and Hamilton counties. There are 338 Girl Scouts and 98 volunteers in the unit, which is part of Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland that covers 82 counties, said Chandra Lay, membership, volunteer and program specialist for Girl Scouts in Garden City.

The goal as a council is to sell 1.7 million boxes of cookies this year, and they are already 20 percent above that at 1,761,481 boxes as of Monday. Lay credits direct sales — new locally this year — for energizing sales totals. Direct sales end Sunday, but booth sales, where the girls sell cookies at grocery stores, movie theaters or outside restaurants, have been extended to March 17 due to the winter storms that recently hit the region, Lay said.

Amanda Hutchinson, 17, has been in Girl Scouts for 12 years. Her mother is a troop leader, and her older sister was also in the organization. The direct sales this year were "so different," she said. Normally, the girls keep track of orders on sheets of paper and drop off cookies to customers. The money then got counted at the end of the sale period. This year, money was exchanged as the sales came in. And because people were able to pay for, and get, cookies right away, that made a difference because customers were able to reorder when they ran out.

Hutchinson set a 500-box sales goal and has sold 250, but she said she purposely placed the bar high for herself.

"I don't often sell a whole stinkin' lot of cookies, so this was a lot of cookies for me," she said.

Nalin Rees, business manager/product sales manager for Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland, said the idea to use direct sales this year came from looking at other councils and their increase in sales. Spikes ranged from 11 percent to 42 percent, Rees said. Girls, if they are 13 or older and it's OK with their parents, can post the fact that they're selling cookies on social media. However, Rees said they cannot put a notice on Garden City Trader, for example, because it's open to everyone and Facebook accounts, for example, are open to friends.

"From a sales standpoint, it really helps the girls sell," Lay said. "It gets their pitch down."

Girl Scouts begin at the Daisy level with grades kindergarten through first grade and work their way up to Girl Scout Ambassador in grades 11 and 12. Members earn patches or awards for every objective reached, depending on age. Each age level has two or three additional badges that can be earned. Along with patches, girls can earn anything from cookie credits to T-shirts on up to iPads or laptops.

Each box costs customers $3.50, and the profits are divided up to help Girl Scouts operate. Girl and volunteer services gets 52 percent, or $1.82 per box, Girl Rewards and troop/service unit proceeds get 21 percent, or 72 cents, and the cost of sale is 27 percent, or 96 cents.

"It's the largest girl-led business in the world," Lay said. "This is how we teach them to be leaders and entrepreneurs."

Members can track their sales online at the Coco Cookie Command website, and troop leaders will work with the girls to achieve their goals and offer encouragement or advice, Lay said.

In past years, Lay said, girls were not rewarded for sales of more than 1,000 boxes, but now there are bonuses for 1,500 and 2,000 boxes. Members also can earn cookie credits, which girls can begin banking in fourth grade, that can be used to attend events or camps. One coming up is Exploration Place-Gross Camp June 25 through 28 for grades two to five. It costs $150 per participant, or 450 boxes. Participants will try some "ooey, gooey experiments" such as dissecting a brain and "playing sloshy games" while learning about the "gross things in life."

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