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Everything girls do in Girl Scouting is designed to help them grow into an incredible G.I.R.L.— Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, and Leader, and the Fall Product Program is no different! The Fall Product Program is an important part of the Community Service piece of the Essential Girl Scout Experience and provides the opportunity and equity for girls to power their entire Girl Scout experience. Girls not only learn the importance of online marketing and entrepreneurship, but also practice and develop five skills vital to their success in school, relationships, communities, and their future careers: goal setting, decision making, people skills, money management, and business ethics. Here’s how to get the most skill-building out of your fall product season.
In order to meet their goals, girls need to know how to set them! Setting meaningful and achievable goals inspires girls to become go-getters and risk-takers, both in their current activities and in life. Understanding that it takes money to organize an overnight at the California Academy of Sciences, build a rain barrel for a community garden, or spend a week at camp not only prepares girls for the work required by their goals, but also gives them agency in choosing their activities and programming. Set aside meeting time to brainstorm what resources girls can use to reach their Fall Product Program goals, and choose what they want to do with their troop proceeds. Often troops make a point of setting specific goals, ‘a learning goal, an earning goal and a giving goal’: goals for a learning experience, an exciting and motivating experience, and a giving back experience, returning some of the community support they received during the program back to their community. Along with setting the troop goals, help girls set program goals for themselves, and create a plan to achieve them.
Pro Tip: Want more practice budgeting for a lofty goal? Cadettes can earn the Financing My Dreams badge by reviewing cost and budget techniques through researching a dream vacation, planning for a future career, learning about philanthropy for causes they care about, or pricing out their dream home.
Girls must make many decisions in their lives, big and small. Practice with making decisions helps them to make good ones, both now and in the future. Decision making and goal setting go hand in hand, and goal setting as a group is a great example of decision making where girls get to discuss their options, weigh pros and cons, and vote to come to decisions together (and it’s practical experience with democracy, too!) Broaden their decision-making skills by encouraging girls to be innovators when it comes to the Fall Product Program. Who will they sell their fall products to, when and where will they reach more customers, and how will they get the word out about their business? Being able to collectively come to good and actionable decisions hones their intuition, grows their confidence, and gives them the courage to innovate and take risks.
From their lunch money or allowance to (someday) their paycheck, money management is a skill every girl needs. During the Fall Product Program, girls will be handling customers’ money, learning and demonstrating honesty and responsibility, as well as practicing their math skills as they take customer orders—how much should a customer buying seven $5 items pay? Expand this skill by diving into budgeting overall. How many sales will it take to save up for that trip to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco? Do they need to budget for public transit, dinner in the city, or other fun activities like a cable car ride? A detailed budget not only helps them understand the cost of exciting activities, but also how to manage their saving and spending by choosing activities they can reasonably afford or save up for. Encourage them to spend their money wisely, perhaps by giving back to the community. With the right planning and budgeting, fall product proceeds can fund Take Action projects or events like building a community garden or sponsoring an animal’s adoption.
Far from being “soft skills”, emotional awareness, maturity, and empathy are vital for girls’ success, from the playground to the boardroom. The Fall Product Program is an excellent opportunity to bring out her inner risk-taker and leader by honing her people skills, no matter if she’s an extrovert, or just a little shy. In the safe space of their Girl Scout meeting, role-play customer scenarios, practice listening, and perfect their pitches for both the products and their troop goals. Rehearsing what questions they might need to answer or ways to support a variety of customers, prepares them for the real thing, and this practice builds excellent habits for the interviews, presentations, and public speaking they’ll encounter throughout their schooling and careers. “Customers” (played by you, volunteers, or other girls) can be excited, have limitations (allergies, etc.), be unsure/indifferent, or need convincing. Make sure to prepare information about the Care to Share program for customers, especially those who don’t want items for themselves. Bonus—role play situations where the girls can work as a team to make their sale—teamwork is one of the most important people-skills of all!
Ethics are the foundation of the Girl Scout Promise and Law, and the Fall Product Program provides a great opportunity for girls to explore and practice their principles. Parents, teachers, and even future employers want to engage with ethical girls—and the world needs ethical leaders in every field. Furthermore, as future leaders and entrepreneurs, giving girls the chance to truly own every customer aspect of their Fall Product Program will show them what it looks like to put their ethics into action. Encourage girls to “try their best” to use the Girl Scout Promise and Law as their guide during every step of the Fall Product Program. Remind them to be honest when discussing their products, fair and friendly with their sister Girl Scouts and customers, and be respectful by saying, “Thank you!” to everyone, including the people that don’t want to buy items. Encourage them to treat every person as a potential customer; they may not be one today, but they could be tomorrow, next week or next year! In addition girls can act responsibly with the product and the customers’ money.
Pro Tip: Girl Scouts offers tons of entrepreneurial badges like the Brownie Meet My Customers badge, or the Cadette Customer Insights badge: just visit the badge explorer and click the Entrepreneurship topic!
We learn as much from our failures as our successes. Set aside time during and after the Fall Product Program to reflect with the girls on what went well and what they could do differently next year. Taking risks by innovating, whether successful or not, develops girls who grow up with a strong sense of self and a healthy perspective on progress and what it takes to succeed. These evaluations are a key step in getting the most out of this learning experience.
The Girl Scout Fall Product Program is so much more than a candy sale or a fundraiser. In 2016, the Girl Scout Research Institute found that girls who acted as leaders, engaged in hands-on learning experiences, and worked cooperatively as part of a team in the product programs improve drastically compared to their non-participating peers in goal setting, decision making, people skills, money management, and business ethics. These aren’t buzzwords or simply fun experiences (although the fun makes the learning more effective!)—these are skills that will transform every aspect of girls’ lives. Take advantage of the Fall Product Program to set your girls up for success as go-getters, innovators, risk-taker, and leaders in all aspects of their lives.
What to do next:
- Encourage your troop to attend our Fall Product Program Digital Day. Digital Day is a great opportunity for girls to set up their Fall Product Program online store, ask questions, and brush up on the 5 entrepreneurial skills described in this blog post!
- Whether you’re a troop volunteer, service unit volunteer, or parent/troop helper, we’ve got an online training for every role to ensure you and your girls have a successful Fall Product Program.
- Looking for some incentives to inspire your girls to set goals? Flip through The Guide for council-run programs and events, or explore the world with a Destinations trip. The sky’s the limit for opportunities for Girl Scouts, and the Fall Product and Cookie Programs can help get her there!
Gwen Shapiro—Gwen is the Retail/Product Program Specialist for Girl Scouts of Northern California, where she supports girls and volunteers with all things cookies, fall product, uniforms, GSNorCal gear, and more. As an East Bay Area native she started Girl Scouts at 6 years old, and was the 3rd generation in her family to be a leader/camp counselor of their daughter’s troop before joining the GSNorCal Redwoods Area staff in 2011. Gwen grew up hiking and camping throughout Northern California and loves to continue that tradition whenever she can. She is passionate about Girl Scouting and all its opportunities for adventures and learning in the outdoors, STEM, leadership, and the Product Program, helping girls to discover their own passions.