EYE ON BUSINESS: Smart cookies

Girl Scouts learn entrepreneurship with annual sale

From left, Girl Scout troop leader Kiersten Kotronis and Girl Scouts Arya Kotronis, Lila Mckissick, Lily Hobday and Ember Anderson run their troop’s Girl Scout Cookie booth in Wilmington on Sunday, Feb. 18. (News photo — Sydney Emerson)

WILMINGTON — Last weekend, amid frigid winds, light flurries of snow and temperatures in the mid-teens, the Brownies and Juniors of Girl Scout Troops 04007 and 04269 sold hundreds of boxes of cookies at their stand along state Route 86.

“I love cookie season,” said Lily Hobday, 10.

“It’s cold,” added Lila Mckissick, 10.

Girl Scout Cookie season, an American tradition for more than a century, requires months of preparation and homework on the part of the scouts.

“Before cookie season officially starts, we do some badge work,” said troop leader Kiersten Kotronis. “We teach girls about how to talk to people, how to talk about their business of cookie sales.”

Gabby Hudak waves a flag with the Girl Scout logo on it to bring in customers along state Route 86 in Wilmington on Sunday, Feb. 18. (News photo — Sydney Emerson)

In the run-up to this cookie season, the girls of the Wilmington/Lake Placid troops focused on customer service. They talked about how to greet customers and ensure smooth transactions, and they even sampled Girl Scout cookies and compared them to other store-bought cookies so they’d be able to speak knowledgeably about their products.

A cornerstone of the modern Girl Scouts is entrepreneurship; the Girl Scouts selling cookies in a roadside booth will someday be the business owners holding a community together.

“Every purchase is filled with leadership and life lessons,” the national Girl Scouts website reads.

The organization offers a variety of badges and curricula for cookie season, all focused on promoting the spirit of entrepreneurship and empowerment in young girls. They also regularly study the profound effects that participating in entrepreneurship can have on a young girl’s confidence and creativity at the Girl Scouts Research Institute and the Girl Scout Cookie Program lays claim to the title of the largest girl-led entrepreneurial program in the world.

For the older Girl Scouts, cookie season is a chance to improve their people skills. For younger ones, it’s a practical way to learn life skills like counting and managing money. The girls of the Wilmington/Lake Placid troops said the lessons of cookie season have already changed their lives.

Ember Anderson advertises the troop’s cookie stand along state Route 86 in Wilmington on Sunday, Feb. 18. (News photo — Sydney Emerson)

“I’ve learned to communicate with people better,” said Ember Anderson, 10.

“I’ve learned to handle money,” Gabby Hudak, 8, said. “Like giving them the money back, asking them, ‘Would you like your change or would you like to donate?’ and doing change without the (math song from school).”

Kotronis said each girl gets a different valuable lesson out of every cookie season.

“It encourages them to talk to people. Not everybody wants to buy cookies, so they also learn how to take ‘no’ as an answer and how to deal with getting that no answer,” she said. “They’re working on their math skills, so just very basic money, math, counting, interacting with other people. We do have girls who don’t necessarily like to talk to people. They come up to the booth and they’re still a little shy, but it helps build a little bit of confidence, too.”

There are six levels of Girl Scouts: Daisies (Kindergarten and first grade), Brownies (second and third grade), Juniors (fourth and fifth grade), Cadettes (sixth through eighth grade), Seniors (ninth and 10th grade) and Ambassadors (11th and 12th grade). The Wilmington/Lake Placid Girl Scouts currently have three troops, one of Daisies and Brownies, one of Juniors, and one of Cadettes — altogether, 19 girls. Every level sells cookies and has the opportunity to earn new cookie season and entrepreneurial badges, such as the My First Cookie badge for Daisies, the Budding Entrepreneur badge for Brownies and the Cookie Collaborator badge for Juniors. Every badge comes with a series of tasks and goals the Girl Scout must complete before she earns it.

Girl Scouts also provides troops with an arsenal of advice for their cookie booths, from an entrepreneurship progression chart that helps girls build on their business skills to a list of safety protocols designed to keep both the girls and their cookies safe while they learn how to run a small business.

Proceeds for the cookies stay in the community. After paying for the costs of operating the cookie program, the troops use the leftover funds for donations and rewards. They learn about budgeting, community service and how to celebrate success in the months after the cookie season. For the Wilmington/Lake Placid troops, this means an annual donation to local food pantries — last year, aside from a monetary contribution, the girls also donated 72 boxes of cookies — and community improvement projects like planting a garden at Lake Placid Elementary School. The troops choose their community service projects together.

The girls also get rewarded for their hard work with some recreation. Several girls get to go to summer camp on scholarships earned by their cookie sales, and last year, the troops earned a day trip to a water park.

The sweet rewards of cookie season are already in full force. Over Presidents Day weekend, the troops almost sold out of cookies, selling 346 of 360 boxes. They have more on order for their next booths, which will happen sometime in March. The girls said that their best-seller is the perennial favorite Thin Mints, but newcomer cookie Adventurefuls has been popular as well.

Hudak said Adventurefuls — a crispy brownie cookie with a pool of caramel on top — are a particular favorite of hers.

“I’m pretty much eating myself, because I’m a Brownie,” she said.

Girl Scout Cookie season will continue through the spring.

To order cookies online through your local troop or find out the time and location of the troops’ next booths, visit www.girlscouts.org/en/cookies/how-to-buy-cookies.html.

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