Selling Girl Scout cookies on a rainy Saturday in Sacramento is a far cry from the Oscars, where A-list celebrities chipped in $65,243 after a Feb. 28 plug. Local Girl Scout Troop 1114 has to work a little harder for its money.
And every box adds up. Last year, nearly 15,000 girls from Girl Scouts Heart of Central California — Sacramento’s local Girl Scout council — sold 2.2 million cookie packages. Priced at $5 per box at the local council level, each troop keeps 90 cents for every box sold. After paying the baker, the Sacramento-area council uses the remaining proceeds to fund camps and other programs.
On this blustery Saturday, 11-year-olds Claire Simon and Sophie Esley are wearing rain slickers and waving colorful signs, trying to get East Sac traffic to stop for a box of Thin Mints.
“It’s important for them to experience the real world,” says Jackie Simon, leader of the 12-member troop. “Maybe things didn’t go as planned. Maybe it’s not the best circumstance. That’s an opportunity for the girls to learn and grow.”
By participating in what’s billed as “the largest girl-run business in the world,” Girl Scouts learn how to manage money, market their cookie program and talk to adults in a business context.
“I learn a lot of stuff,” says troop member Evangeline Archibeque, 12. “I kind of learn good manners, to say ‘please,’ ‘thank you’ and ‘thank you anyways’ if they say no, and I learn to be a good sport if they say no, too.”
Whenever a cookie customer approaches, one of the girls takes the lead — asking what kind of cookies they want, fulfilling their order and making change. According to Linda Farley, chief executive officer of the Girl Scouts Heart of Central California, this interaction is an important part of the learning process.
“I always talk to the girl about buying cookies,” Farley says. “I look her in the eye and engage her, asking what’s her favorite, what does she recommend and how much does it cost.”
For Troop 1114, last year’s cookie sales funded a trip for the girls to swim with dolphins at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, with the remainder of the money defraying expenses throughout the year. This year, they haven’t decided what to do with the proceeds. With only a few days remaining before cookie sales end on March 13, the troop is falling short of its 2,000-box goal.
Claire’s goal is 400 boxes. “That’s what I usually sell,” she says. But this year, she’s only sold about 275 boxes of cookies. Evangeline has already topped her goal of 210 boxes, and Sophie is aiming for the 200 mark.
“Sophie is very, very, very shy,” says her mother, Kris Rosa. “The first year, selling cookies was the thing that made her most nervous, and now it’s the thing she likes the most. For her, reaching the goal is not just a numerical thing. It’s also a matter of her breaking out of her shell.”
Although the troop has always met its sales goal, these girls are in middle school now, with extra-curricular activities also demanding their time. So the yearly sale becomes a learning opportunity, according to Simon. “If you want to make your goals, you have to prioritize,” she says. “And if you don’t make it, it’s OK.”
Girl Scouts have been selling cookies commercially since the 1930s, but the program does adapt to changing tastes. All cookies are now kosher. Vegan and gluten-free cookies are also available, depending on the council. Girl Scouts throughout Heart of Central California sell a vegan version of Thin Mints.
Perhaps the biggest change is the launch of Digital Cookie, including a web-based search tool launched in 2015 and the Girl Scout Cookie Finder app. On the Girl Scouts’ website, would-be customers can enter their zip code and get a list of nearby cookie booths.
“The number one question we hear from folks who do not have a Girl Scout in their family is, ‘Where do I buy cookies?’” Farley says. “That’s why the cookie finder app is so important.”
The local Girl Scout council will be making an even bigger move to digital this summer, when it becomes the sixtieth of 112 councils nationwide to migrate to a customized Salesforce platform. The software will replace member registration paperwork with an online form and will give the staff more tools to manage membership. In addition, adult volunteers will have options for online training.
It’s our girls’ world,” Farley says. “This is the way our girls are living.”