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BUSINESS LESSONS FROM GIRL SCOUTS

Nicole LyonsPublished: January, 2013

Girl Scout alumna Sophie Hall Cripe with Junior Scout Samantha Kinney
The Cookie Sales Program began Jan. 27 and will teach young girls key life lessons

Girl Scout cookie sales are officially underway. More than 20,000 Girl Scouts in Orange County hit the pavement in their neighborhoods and at local businesses to sell the all-famous cookies. The tasty morsels they carry with them often sell themselves, and the skills and lessons these young girls learn selling cookies will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

The Girl Scout Cookie Program is the largest girl-led business in the world. The sales produce income for local troops and develop business-savvy women. In fact, 80 percent of the 8.3 million women who own businesses in the United States were Girl Scouts, according to the State of Women-Owned Businesses Report for 2012.

The organization’s founder, Juliette Gordon Low, initiated the cookie program in the 1920s. She wanted a way for Girl Scouts to be able to fund their own activities and be self-reliant.

Girl Scouts of all ages credit their personal and professional success to the Cookie Sales Program. The five most important areas of focus: goal setting, business ethics, decision making and people- and money-management skills. To learn more about the Girl Scout Cookie Program, watch this video.

Girl Scout alumna Sophie Hall Cripe grew up selling cookies in Illinois and credits her sales skills to landing her current position as vice president of development for the board of directors for the South Coast Repertory (SCR) in Orange County.

Cripe was one of 12 Girl Scout alumnae recognized at Girl Scouts of Orange County’s Celebrate Leadership Gala last October for her outstanding leadership. All women leaders honored were matched with a Girl Scout who has shown outstanding leadership. Nine-year-old Junior Scout Samantha Kinney and Cripe were paired. Both shared how the Girl Scout Cookie Program has taught them important life lessons.
  
Setting goals
One of the important skills taught in the Cookie Sales Program is goal setting. Samantha Kinney’s personal goal this year is 400 boxes. She plans to beat the more than 350 boxes she sold last year. In 2012, Orange County Girl Scouts sold more than 2.5 million boxes of Girl Scout cookies.
Samantha confessed she was clueless about selling cookies until her mom, Rebecca Kinney, a civil engineer and troop leader, taught her.  Rebecca Kinney said that one of the most common questions the girls work on is, “How would you describe this cookie to a person?” 

Samantha quickly described the newest Girl Scout cookie, the Mango Crème as “tangy, but sweet.” She added with a smile, “It’s also infused with added nutrition.”

To improve her sales from a year before, Kinney has developed a plan of action. She will buy a few boxes of the new cookie and a few other types to sample for customers.

The sale
Kinney’s not a young Daisy Scout anymore. It’s now her responsibility to load her cookies onto a wagon, go door to door, while her parents look on from the sidewalk. She’ll make the sale, take the order, give change and hand off the goods.

“One of the goals I have for the girls is to not have the parents do everything for them. We are exposing them to independence,” said Rebecca Kinney.

This is Samantha’s third year selling Girl Scout Cookies. She’s learned from previous years what works best for her and what doesn’t. Her trick of the trade is proposing the purchase of five boxes so it’s an even $20.  Although the cost of a single box is $4 – so selling five boxes to a customer for $20 doesn't represent a dollar savings – customers may be more apt to buy five at a time, Samantha believes, since they won't have to deal with getting change. She’s learned that being efficient will help her sell more boxes. 

Building relationships

Kinney keeps track of all her regular customers and knows them by name. She doesn’t mind going door to door. She’s confident in her selling skills. However, Kinney said that other girls going out for the first time aren’t so keen on going up to a stranger to initiate a conversation. Kinney enjoys teaching other girls how to approach potential customers, develop connections and even handle rejection.

“The most important lesson for the girls is that they learn if they want someone to do something, you have to ask,” said Cripe.

Winning in the workforce
In Cripe’s position at SCR, she is always looking for more people to join the board of directors. Sometimes people say “no.” However, rejection did not stop her when she was selling cookies as a girl, nor has it stopped her as a business professional.

“Selling is a critical skill for girls to learn. They will have to sell ideas to bosses, their husband, and it’s a skill to use in many different areas of life,” said Cripe.

When Cripe asks someone to join SCR’s board of directors, she will oftentimes use her life’s mantra to explain what the job entails, which is “You know what? It’s like selling Girl Scout cookies. Sometimes you have to look someone in the eyes and say, ‘Do you want to buy my cookies?’"

Samantha Kinney wants to write children’s books when she grows up. Although selling cookies is not directly related to creating stories for children, the key skills that Samantha is learning as a girl will likely serve her well in her chosen profession. After all, as Cripe noted, what's really the difference between selling a box of cookies to a neighbor and selling a book to a publisher?

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