Recently, in celebration of the Lunar New Year and the kick-off for the 2022 Cookie Season, I invited Alicia Wong of the Oakland Fortune Factory to talk to several Oakland Girl Scout troops via Zoom as a special guest.
I was inspired to reach out and invite Alicia after seeing her gorgeous Instagram photos of custom fortune cookies created just for the Lunar New Year. Who better to motivate the girls during cookie season than a professional cookie “entreprenHER“ with her own online storefront?
Alicia owns the store and factory with her mother and is involved with just about every aspect of running the fortune cookie business. Like our Girl Scout cookie entrepreneurs, she’s an ambitious and innovative go-getter. While others in Oakland Chinatown where she is located, might be slowing down for the New Year holiday to visit with relatives or attend a community celebration, Alicia and her staff have increased hours and production to accommodate the Lunar New Year rush.
Here’s a breakdown of how our online meeting went. If you’re a leader or volunteer, I’ve included links so you can easily share this content with your girls at your next meeting and help them get one step closer to earning a cookie-related badge.
To prepare for our call with our very special guest, I read a recent article about Alicia and her company so I could better introduce her to the girls and prepped a simple intro slideshow. I asked the girls to join our online call 15 minutes before Alicia. This gave me a chance to share an overview of her company with the girls, while respecting Alicia’s time. Since we couldn’t visit the factory, I showed the girls a video of how the handmade cookies are made. I also showed them Alicia’s online store and we scrolled through her Instagram account.
Since Back History Month is coming up in February, I ended the introduction with a news story about Alicia’s own “take action” efforts to use their cookies as a platform to support the Black Lives Matters movement and span historic racial divides. She created unique “Solidarity cookies” that feature historical quotes from Martin Luther King Jr and others, instead of the traditional fortunes. From the proceeds, she raised money for groups like the NAACP and the Innocence Project.
Lastly, I asked the girls to come up with at least one question to ask Alicia. Once she joined the call, Alicia gave a brief self-introduction and then we jumped right into questions and answers. The girls took turns unmuting and asking their questions. We covered quite a lot of ground, so I’ve selected some excerpts you can share with your troop to motivate your Girl Scouts and help them build their cookie business:
“…marketing all starts with trying to understand who you are trying to sell to. Don’t try to sell to everyone, because if you try to sell to everyone, you end up selling to nobody. Try to figure out who you think buys your cookies and write down everything that you can think of about that group of people like the age, gender, where they’re from, what they’re like, and why they will want to buy cookies.”
Advice for young students:
“…the most important thing is to be passionate and curious to learn. As long as you are always eager and happy to learn new things, you will always be able to do what you want and you’ll find a lot of joy in life.”
On making the world a better place:
“…We are making for Lunar New Year fortune cookies with gold and red decorated on them, and they have the symbol tiger in Chinese on the cookies. We’re donating part of the profits to a nonprofit organization that helps the Asian and Pacific Islander Community. Since 2020, one of the new things I’ve done was to make my cookies mean more. Instead of a random cookie with a random message, I can put something that’s meaningful and positive, and that can help make someone or make the community a slightly better place.”
On the challenges of running a small business:
“….Running a business, not only do I have to figure out what I have to do, I have to figure out what everyone else has to do. One of the biggest challenges is always trying to figure out who needs to do what and how to get as efficient as possible, with the least amount of problems. It’s very challenging, but that’s why you work with other people. You don’t you don’t just do it yourself, you ask for help from friends and family, and you learn.”
“I think it was cool that when something is happening in the world like when George Floyd was murdered that they make cookies that are about what is happening, like they put Martin Luther King Jr and other quotes for Black Lives Matters into their fortune cookies. I think that is really important. Also, she makes really yummy and cool flavors!”Ruby, Cadette, Troop #33591
Women-owned businesses are all around us. By connecting with local entrepreneurs like Alicia, you can keep your girls engaged during the cookie season. We’re especially grateful Alicia was willing to spend time with us during the busy Lunar New Year holiday season. Your troop can support Alicia and the Oakland Fortune Factory by ordering custom fortune cookies to celebrate the end of the cookie season, a Girl Scout Holiday, or your next bridging ceremony!
Tiffany Eng—Tiffany Eng lives in Oakland California and leads two Cadette troops for her two daughters. As a lifetime Girl Scout member and past Gold Award recipient, she has always made time to pursue her own take action projects in her community. Most recently, she is a co-founder of the Friends of Lincoln Square Park and is working with the City of Oakland and the Oakland Chinatown Community to build a new expanded recreation center.