There’s nothing I love more than Girl Scout cookie season… except hearing about plucky girl scouts who demonstrate a knack for leadership at a young age. Though I enjoyed participating in the Girl Scouts during elementary school, I can’t say the organization had a significant impact on my life, but I did enjoy selling Thin Mints and beyond in my sprawling suburban neighborhood. Even though I was rarely turned away, the experience taught me how to assert myself, approach superiors, be smart with money and negotiate.
Today’s girl scouts are not only learning these skills, but applying them immediately. Katie Francis, an Oklahoma girl scout who hasn’t even reached her teen years, just broke the nation’s cookie record by selling more than 18,000 boxes. For many 12-year-olds, topping the country’s record would be more than enough, but the sixth grader wants to hit 20,000 before the end of March. Last year, she sold more than 12,000 boxes and she intends to reach the 100,000 mark by the end of her Girl Scout Era. In 2012 and 2013, she broke the state record for cookie boxes sold, so if it’s not already clear, this pre-teen cannot be beaten.
“She’s such a go-getter. She works countless hours,” her mother DeLee Francis said in a USA Today interview. A lot of girl scouts are dedicated and hard-working, but Katie’s secret is going up to everyone in sight and politely asking for their business. While her classmates and friends are playing/watching TV/messing around on iPads afterschool, Katie is busy representing the Girl Scouts. From the time she gets out of class until 9:30 at night, Katie sells cookies like it’s her job. She puts in 12-13 hours during the weekends as well, so not only is selling cookies her whole life, but her area of expertise. As for the most popular cookie around, Katie and her mom say it’s Thin Mints by a longshot. No surprise here, but hey, some of us have faith that Tagalongs will be the new Thin Mints someday.
Of course, Francis isn’t the only girl scout who took 2014 by storm. In February, a 13-year-old California girl scout set up shop outside a medical marijuana dispensary, selling nearly 120 cookie boxes in just two hours. As tacky as it may have come across, it was certainly a smart strategy on the girl scout’s part. Her mom supervised the whole thing too, but the Girl Scouts of Colorado weren’t so quick to cheer on the teenager’s opportunistic move.
“There’s a place for everything, and just like a liquor store or a gun show, a marijuana dispensary isn’t a place for young girls to be selling cookies,” Rachelle Trujillo, chief marketing officer for the Girl Scouts of Colorado, said in an interview with the Huffington Post. “There are plenty of other options for customers of adult businesses to purchase cookies at other locations.”
The Girl Scouts of Colorado forbids the selling of cookies “outside of any adult-oriented business, whether that is a bar, strip club, casino, liquor store or marijuana dispensary. We recognize these are legitimate businesses, but we don’t feel they are an appropriate place for girls to be selling cookies in Colorado.”
This response was poorly received, as commenters pointed out that grocery stores sell alcohol, cigarettes and other “adult” products and a pot clinic shouldn’t be any different. I tend to agree, especially since girl scouts are encouraged to be creative in their sales tactics. Would it be better if one of her parents took her cookie sheet to the office and did all the legwork themselves? Girl Scout cookie season isn’t simply about gulping down entire sleeves of Thin Mints alongside a tall glass of whole milk.
It’s about finding interesting and effective ways to sell a product that’s being offered by dozens of other youngsters in the area. I know I was met with some challenges selling cookies in my own neighborhood, as a couple girls in my troop lived a few blocks away and took business I assumed would always be mine. It even caused problems in the neighborhood as parents refused to buy from certain kids having already committed to purchase cookies from others. It was a First World Problem like no other, but it got me to hustle and quit relying on the formerly easy door-to-door route. I had to shift my focus and sell cookies in other places. I didn’t have many options, but I found one that worked for me, and props to this girl scout for doing the same for herself.
As much as I love girl scouts for making news, I can’t say I’m totally sold on Ban Bossy, a LeanIn.org/Girl Scouts mission to torch the word “bossy.” The PSA, which went viral a couple weeks ago after featuring powerhouses such as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Queen Bey, Jane Lynch and Jennifer Garner, attests that calling little girls “bossy” discourages leadership in females. I believe their hearts are in the right place, and as much as I admire the Girl Scouts for partaking in this effort, I can see why it’s been universally slammed and “Garnered” (pun intended, you’re welcome) few vocal supporters. As my favorite Salon columnist Mary Elizabeth Williams opined in a column about Ban Bossy and the Girl Scout’s Barbie campaign, “I love the Girl Scouts. I have for almost 40 years. But the Girl Scouts I love are loyal and smart and silly and get stuff done. They aren’t shills for Mattel, and they don’t care about entirely made-up partnership campaigns against things that aren’t serious problems. They aren’t Barbies. They’re just bosses.”
Aside from that debatable issue, the rest of the year is sure to be wonderful for the Girl Scouts, especially as it inspires young women to pursue STEM careers. Last week, the Girl Scouts announced an initiative with AT&T to provide females the tools and information to look into math, science, tech and engineering fields, “Our successful collaboration encourages underserved high school girls to imagine a future STEM career by providing them with after school STEM mentoring activities. AT&T Aspire has made a $625,000 contribution that will support 800 girls, the majority of whom are at-risk of dropping out of high school, to participate in hands-on learning activities designed to educate and motivate them to pursue these areas of interest in college and careers … Many people think of the Girl Scouts selling cookies; we like to think of them as smart cookies – the ones that go on to be the doctors, engineers, and computer programmers of tomorrow!”
It’s worth noting that the Girl Scouts have been tangled up in controversy over the past few years, so their major achievements in 2014 are that much more admirable. In 2012, Indiana Rep. Bob Morris smeared the organization for “quickly becoming a tactical arm of Planned Parenthood” and vowed to pull his daughters from the Girl Scouts to join the American Heritage Girls instead. Not everyone finds girl scouts adorable and sweet, but Morris’s diatribe didn’t generate much praise, and the Girl Scouts provided a solid statement on the matter after he tore them apart for promoting homosexuality as well, “Not only is Rep. Morris off the mark on his claims, it’s also unfortunate in his limited research that he failed to discover that since 1917, every First Lady has served as the honorary leader of Girl Scouts including Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush and Laura Bush.” Naturally, Morris wasn’t the last to accuse the Girl Scouts of applauding abortion and “lesbian sex.” Any organization celebrating smart, independent young women is bound to face consistent backlash and outlandish remarks, but girl scouts know how to work hard and succeed in spite of the drama, and that’s why they seem to be stronger every year.
Share your thoughts and girl scouts experiences in the comments section.