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Girl Scouts of the USA

Happy Birthday to Girl Scouts of the USA! They are 106 years old today and all week they will be celebrating. But there is a bit of sadness because yesterday was the last day of the cookie season. Sales have closed.

Girl Scouts of the USA commands a $700 million cookie empire, selling 200 million boxes a year. They built their business with smart organizational choices, good products, a strong brand image and 1.8 million exuberant young entrepreneurs.

On this day in 1912, Juliette Gordon “Daisy” Low organized the very first Girl Scout troop in Savannah, Georgia.  The sale of cookies began in 1917 when the Mistletoe Troop of Muskogee, Oklahoma, baked cookies, as a service project. According to the Girl Scout’s website, cookie selling is the largest entrepreneurial program for girls in the world.

“Girl Scouting prepares girls for a lifetime in leadership,” says Marianne Addy, chief marketing and communications officer with Girl Scouts Louisiana East.  “When girls participate in the Girl Scout cookie program they are learning important skills — skills like decision-making, goal setting, money management, personal skills, and business ethics, skills they will use their entire lives.  The cookie sale also helps to fund their troop's activities, so participating allows them to go on that trip, take action on that service project, or whatever they as a troop have decided they want to do.”

In 2014, the organization launched the Digital Cookie® platform.  It’s not only convenient for customers, but it also introduces Girl Scouts to online marketing, app usage and e-commerce.

But many girls, such as 10-year-old Ruby, who sold about 75 boxes of cookies, prefer selling at booths or going door-to-door.

“I like that you get to meet so many different people going door-to-door,” Ruby says. “And even though you always hear about ‘stranger danger,’ not all strangers are dangerous, some of them will buy cookies from you.”

In 1935, the Girl Scout Federation of Greater New York raised money through the sale of commercially baked cookies. Buying its own die in the shape of a trefoil (a three-leaved plant), the group used the words “Girl Scout Cookies” on the box. In 1936, the national Girl Scout organization began the process of licensing the first commercial bakers to produce cookies that would be sold nationwide.

Today Girl Scout Cookies are baked in two different bakeries, ABC/Interbake Foods and Little Brownie Bakers. For each box sold, 75 percent of the money goes to the local council (including individual troops) and 25 percent is split between bakeries and national headquarters, which receives royalties for licensing.

According to the Girl Scout website, of the millions of boxes sold every year, the most current breakdown of sales and revenue by variety is:

1. Thin Mints — $175 million 
2. Samoas (Caramel deLites) — $133 million 
3. Tagalongs (Peanut Butter Patties) — $91 million 
4. Do-si-dos/Savannahs (Peanut Butter Sandwiches) — $71 million 
5. Trefoils (Shortbread) — $63 million 
6. Other Varieties — $167 million

From the Little Brownie Baker’s website, a young scout named Nicole offered her strategy, which helped her sell more than 2,500 boxes of cookies.

I have two popular marketing strategies that I frequently use,” she said. “The first is that when people ask me how much cookies cost, I tell them $4 a box or five (boxes) for $20. People tend to remember the last thing that they hear. The second strategy is that if someone says that they can't eat cookies, I tell them that they can donate some to the military. It really boosts sales.”


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Labors of Love

Small Business Snapshots By Pamela Marquis


After more than 40 years, Pamela Marquis thinks she can claim New Orleans citizenship. A frequent contributor to Biz New Orleans and New Orleans Homes and Lifestyles, Marquis has decades of experience as a freelance writer specializing in business writing. Marquis spent many years working in the non-profit world and holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Missouri.

Living in and loving the 7th ward, she spends her spare time walking her foster dog, playing with her brilliant granddaughters and dashing grandson and gardening. 



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