Another Girl Scout cookie season has come and gone. It seems like just a passing, cookie-crumbed glimpse each year. But it’s a powerful driver for the Girl Scout troops of America. With almost two million girls enrolled, the Girl Scouts made $176 million in cookie sales last year – that’s 194 million boxes! Not bad for the world’s largest girl-led business.
But there’s more to the cookie business than meets the eye. Girl Scouts reap a harvest of business skills each cookie selling season. They gain a glimpse into the business world through the cookie program each year.
But the girls gain more than just badges and pins. Selling Girl Scout cookies provides a wealth of experience you may not notice at first glance.
So whether you’re reminiscing on your own troop days, you’re raising a scout yourself or you’re just a loyal cookie customer, take a moment to justify all those boxes you bought or sold and learn about the practical business skills Girl Scouts gain from selling cookies.
11 Business skills you learned while selling Girl Scout cookies
1. Goal setting
Whether you’re trying to sell enough cookies to make it to Girl Scout summer camp or you’re trying to top your record from last year, goal setting is a great skill to practice in your youth and carry into your professional life as an adult. Setting goals can help you accomplish feats you never thought possible – and they allow you to continually improve upon yourself.
2. Interpersonal skills
Let’s face it – everyone loves Girl Scout cookies! So chances are good you’re going to interact with customers from all walks of life during sales season. The exposure is great practice for Girl Scouts’ interpersonal skills. Comprehending both verbal and nonverbal communication is not just valuable when you’re trying to land a cookie sale — it’s an essential skill any professional needs.
3. Business ethics
Selling Girl Scout cookies is a great primer for business ethics. Girl Scouts learn right from wrong in sales and learn about hard work and honest business. They learn how to chase their goals while never compromising the core values of the Girl Scouts.
“Girl Scouts are taught to be responsible and honest when selling cookies. When a business follows the same integrity, it builds a company's reputation and image,” says small business owner Robert Chen. “Credibility and authenticity in a business are two characteristics that lead to loyal customers.”
4. Strategic thinking
Frontload the cookie sales season to get an edge up on competitors? Set up shop next to a high-traffic store? These are the brilliant ideas of a strategic Girl Scout that can transform her into a critical and analytical thinker down the road.
5. Money management
Selling Girl Scout cookies is good practice for Girl Scouts to handle real money. Not only is counting change great math practice, but it also lays the foundation for accountability and responsibility. And after cookie selling season ends, troops need make wise choices on how to use their earnings together. They may even try their hand at philanthropy if their troop decides to give back a percentage of their profits to charity, points out Schalea Sanders, mother to a scout.
Never underestimate the value of a persuasive person. Girl Scouts with a compelling pitch gain plenty of experience in mastering effective communication and winning over customers. A persuasive scout with a good sales pitch is a force to be reckoned with – both in her troop and as she later moves on in her career.
“It was while in Girl Scouts that I discovered I was courageous and charismatic enough to develop rapport with strangers whose door I knocked on to ask them to buy a good product,” says Christie Summervill, a former Girl Scout and current CEO who credits her troop experience as foundational to her career in sales.
7. Accepting rejection
Believe it or not, there are people out there who turn down a box of Girl Scout cookies. Not every pitch lands a sale. Handling rejection is critical to anyone – and knowing how to accept that and move forward is a priceless skill not just for someone’s professional development, but for their personal arsenal for whatever life throws their way.
8. Stepping up to competitors
There’s no shortage of Girl Scouts vying for your purchase during selling season each year. Naturally, when you’re edging up against other troops, you’ve got to be able to handle the competitive climate – a skill that goes far beyond your cookie-selling days.
Selling Girl Scout cookies forms a marketing mindset in young troops, points out former Girl Scout Anna O’Toole. “Girl Scouts are taking a product and making it appealing to the market. They’re promoting the product to each person who comes along, making them realize its importance and why they need it in their life.”
Girl Scouts of today are becoming increasingly savvy in selling off those coveted boxes. Gone are the days of relying on door-to-door sales. It’s common for troops to set up shop in grocery stores, outside of restaurants, at mall kiosks and other clever locations. Some scouts package boxes together for bundle purchases to reach higher sales. Others rely on email lists or visual marketing. Selling Girl Scout cookies also teaches troops to understand the customer’s buying process.
Some Girl Scout troops find power in numbers and team up to tackle cookies sales together. Learning to cooperate with peers and find common ground in disputes while working towards a mutual goal is one of the fundamental lessons girls develop during their cookies selling days.
“Learning to work together as a team with other girls will help in developing a healthy working relationship and communication skills,” says Chen. “These experiences are essential qualities every business owner must acquire in order to become a successful business leader.”
There’s a reason Girl Scouts wear their uniforms when selling cookies. Each scout is a representative of the organization and carries the responsibility of upholding the brand. Selling Girl Scout cookies gives troops experience representing a company and its values to learn the importance of branding, Sanders adds.
Now you know…
Eating Girl Scout cookies may be a cherished American tradition for the public, but the lessons and business skills Girl Scouts take away extend far beyond the selling season. The transferrable skills and practical experience is invaluable as they grow up and take on the corporate world.
Even if your Girl Scout days are behind you, there are plenty of other paths you can follow to gain business experience! Check out the possibilities in our article: 7 Student Jobs that Build Business Experience.