The Girl Scout Cookie Program isn’t just about providing customers with tasty treats; it’s the foundation of the entrepreneurial experience in Girl Scouts. After participating in 13 Cookie Programs and selling thousands of boxes of Girl Scout Cookies, I have experienced the benefits of the Girl Scout Cookie Program firsthand. And I’m not the only one! Selling Girl Scout Cookies gives millions of girls across the country the ability to power unique learning opportunities and adventures for themselves and their troops, even in challenging times. But what does it mean to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset? What skills will girls learn by participating in the Cookie Program?
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We know entrepreneurs as leaders, individuals who create businesses or invent new products—constantly thinking of innovative ways to improve what currently exists. The thought of being your own boss, leading a team of like-minded people, and pursuing your passions to make the world a better place… No wonder 91% of Girl Scouts have some interest in becoming an entrepreneur!
The Cookie Program helps Girl Scouts develop an Entrepreneurial Mindset. This way of thinking helps girls grow and focus on problem solving, innovative thinking, and challenge seeking as they come up with new ideas, take on new challenges, and change the status quo. Here are some of the skills every girl learns by participating in the Girl Scout Cookie Program (skills that I promise, she will carry with her into adulthood, regardless of whether or not she becomes an entrepreneur):
Decision Making and Goal Setting
Running a business is all about making choices and setting big (but smart) goals. Whether it’s personal sales goals or troop goals to earn enough for a fun and memorable Girl Scout experience, your girls will have to make choices—how many boxes of Girl Scout Cookies do they want to sell, what goes on their Digital Cookie sites, the best way to reach customers, the list goes on. Learning to take ownership and responsibility for these choices not only teaches them the kind of responsibility they’ll need to succeed in their careers, but it shows them that through each choice, they have the power to change their lives, and the world around them.
Pro Tip: Some decisions are harder to make than others! Remember that your girl is not alone on her journey to becoming an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs may be leading the charge, but they have friends, family, as well as expert team members to support them along the way! Check out the Cookie Entrepreneur Family Pins for step-by-step activities that help your girl utilize her growing network to reach her goals.
Consumer Research and Customer Service
As a small business owner, one of the biggest challenges is finding customers for your product, and the Cookie Program is no different. Throughout the program, girls will sell to all kinds of customers—people who love chocolate, people with food allergies or special dietary restrictions, even people looking for gift ideas. Girls can start to collect “data” on their customers to discover who buys cookies and why putting themselves in their customer’s shoes (which also builds their sense of empathy). They’ll think about types of customers, build personas for different customer types, and can build customer service strategies for each “category” of customer. This type of interactive problem-solving requires emotional intelligence, strong intuition, and great people skills. When your girls succeed, they’ll build customer loyalty and get to expand on their success next year, making their business plan more sustainable and building their confidence at the same time.
Pro Tip: Your loyal customers that come back year after year can be your secret weapon during the Cookie Program! Don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth marketing from happy customers. And you can always share your troop number and best way to contact you in case they want to reorder.
Marketing and Market Research
Can you imagine if you’d started your first job already knowing how to create a business plan or do market research? I know the Cookie Program definitely helped me in my marketing role at GSNorCal! The Cookie Program gives every Girl Scout that boost as they learn to craft a marketing message. With the help of easy-to-use tools like the Digital Cookie platform, she can think about their brand image and voice as well as explain her goals and mission to customers to make the case of why everyone should buy Girl Scout Cookies from her shop!
Other digital marketing strategies like social media and email marketing can significantly grow your customer network. As your girl explores the world of digital marketing, make sure they partner with their parents or guardians to develop a plan to safely market their business online. Although your parent/guardian should do the posting for you if you’re under age 13, all girls should have a hands-on role in marketing their cookie business. Think about what makes the product stand out, practice a sales pitch, and even give video creation a shot to inspire customers to shop online!
Pro Tip: Philanthropy and thoughts of giving back to others can play a big role in marketing too! Don’t forget about the Care to Share service project, where customers can buy cookies to donate to local organizations such as food banks, military bases and veterans, or hometown heroes at the end of the program!
Innovative Thinking and Risk-Taking
One of the most valuable skills girls learn in the Cookie Program is imagination! Girls can get creative with their business: run some experiments to see what works and what doesn’t, imagine why people might buy more cookies and dive into the data to find trends! Think about how to run a virtual booth, or get out the word with cookie-themed swag. The sky is the limit when girls own their own their own business, so let them embrace the freedom to explore and try new things!
Courage, Confidence, and Resilience
Just as girls have freedom to explore many options, some of those options will inevitably not pan out. Challenges are bound to happen, and societal pressure can compound the weight of those setbacks. Research shows as girls get older, they are less likely to think society encourages women to be entrepreneurs and avoid that career option. Trial and error is the name of the game on their path to success in all things, and that means girls need to persist, build resilience, and embrace growth!
This is where our families and volunteers make a huge impact! The Cookie Program is your girl’s chance to take the lead, but as a supportive adult, it’s important for you to encourage her creative ideas, celebrate her success, reflect and work through challenges and setbacks. Remind her that girls can do anything they put their mind to, and that persistence will lead to bigger rewards and prouder moments. The support of their troop leader(s), parents and caregivers, and other volunteers can help them keep their spirits high and find the motivation to try try again!
Pro Tip: You can help break down harmful gender stereotypes just by changing your language! When you talk about business success, use words like entrepreneur, businesswoman, or business owner instead of businessman!
With the Cookie Program, Girl Scouts is paving the way for millions of girls across the United States, preparing them for a lifetime of leadership. By encouraging girls to take on an entrepreneurial mindset and build business skills, we’re not just preparing them for success in the marketplace, but also giving them the tools to solve problems, be innovative and flexible thinkers, collaborate with others, and be resilient while they reach for their dreams. You’ll see your girls practice these skills not just during the Cookie Program, but in her future endeavors as well!
What to do next:
- What skills did you learn in the Cookie Program? What skill are you most excited to see your girl learn? Share with us in the comments!
- Prepare for the Girl Scout Cookie Program with GSUSA’s troop leader resources and LBB’s volunteer toolkit!
- Crafting at-home promotional products is a great entrepreneurship skill. Order boxes, door hangers, business cards for those social distancing, and hand signs, banners, etc for those opting for the drive-thru for our Girl Scout online shop.
- Check out the GSNorCal Cookie Family Guide to dive in!
- Explore Cookie-related pins, badges, and awards to help your girls get even more hands-on experience with these essential entrepreneur skills. GSUSA has even adapted some badge activities to support online sales for Daisies, Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes, Seniors, and Ambassadors.
Leah Takahashi—Leah is the Marketing Manager for Girl Scouts of Northern California, where she creates content, plans blog posts, and promotes all things Girl Scouts in all formats digital. Leah joined Girl Scouts at the age of 5 and has been a part of the organization ever since (shout out to Troop 31213 – woot woot). During her younger Girl Scout days, Leah did everything from selling thousands of Girl Scout Cookies to serving as a National Delegate at the 2011 Convention and even earning her Gold Award in 2012. She may be young, but she’s got plenty of Girl Scout experience under her belt and is excited to share it with you.