March 5, 2024

CultureMarkets & Free Enterprise

What Girl Scout Cookie Season Can Teach Us About Entrepreneurship

By: Brittany Hunter

Hear the word “entrepreneur” and your mind automatically conjures up images of eccentric characters like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, or the stereotypical “tech bro” from Silicon Valley. But some of the most brilliant and successful American entrepreneurs won’t be found in wacky outfits at SxSW or partying on private yachts; they’ll be found in the same place they’ve been for decades: outside of grocery stores and strip malls, selling cookies for two months out of the year. 

Delicious Cookies, Valuable Lessons

As a sugar addict, few things bring me more joy than walking out of my local Whole Foods, with a bag full of broccoli, gluten free crackers, and hummus and seeing a table full of Girl Scout cookies being sold by my favorite salespeople. 

Girl Scout cookie season holds a special place in American culture. The cookies, if we are being honest, aren’t the best baked goods in the world, and there are a ton of dupes out there that taste the same, if not better. But the scarcity of the season draws us to these cookie booths like moths to a flame. 

The cookies are so beloved, most Girl Scouts really don’t have to try too hard to sell a box. Even so, these young entrepreneurs give it their all, selling cookies like their life depends on it. And their enthusiasm is contagious. 

During my last visit, the girls excitedly told me what flavors they have in stock, recited every single ingredient, and told me their favorite flavors. Some have even mastered the art of customer service, recycling their own grocery store bags and offering them to customers like me who intended to buy two boxes and walked away with far more than I could carry on my own.

This flare for business isn’t just a coincidence; it’s baked into the Girl Scout organization. 

Entrepreneurship is a staple of the Girl Scout organization. In their own words, “girls get hands-on practice with a variety of skills, including goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics as they learn to think like entrepreneurs.” In fact, the Girl Scout cookie program is the largest entrepreneurship program for girls not just in America, but in the world. Every year, they rake in around $800 million that fund the programs that help them learn the skills they need to build these skills. 

And the lessons they learn stay with them long after they grow up. 

Venture capitalist, serial entrepreneur and CEO Brit Morin credits her experience selling Girl Scout cookies to her own success.

“I learned selling strategies — I gave my parents and friends’ parents cookie order sheets to take to their offices, for instance, launching my own little multi-level marketing network — and that it’s possible to turn a no into a yes, which came in handy when I was fundraising to launch Brit+ Co in 2011.

Above and beyond entrepreneur skills alone, Girl Scouts are also learning about how entrepreneurship works with the free market, specifically the art of competition. 

Hundreds, if not thousands, of Girl Scout troops across the country are all selling the exact same product for the exact same price at the exact same time. With so much competition, they cannot rely on the selling power of Thin Mints alone. They have to work to make their troop’s marketing tactics stand out among the rest. It also helps that the troops are incentivized to reach their selling goals with badges and sometimes prizes. 

Having purchased cookies from many different groups this season to satisfy my need for Samoas, I’ve enjoyed witnessing how each troop has their own unique approach to salesmanship. I’ve even made it a point to buy more cookies from troops who hustle harder than the rest and who truly seem to be enjoying the entrepreneurial journey. 

One thing that struck me most of all about the Girl Scouts entrepreneurial mission is their inclusion of the concept of failure, an important lesson for any entrepreneur. 

“Through Girl Scout experiences, girls develop the attitudes, skills, and behaviors they need to succeed in life, giving them the courage to fail and keep trying, the tools to create an independent future, and the power to do good in the world,” their site reads. 

Financial Literacy 

The Girl Scout organization also places a large focus on teaching financial literacy and independence.The girls are responsible for managing the money they earn, a skill many adults haven’t mastered. By the time they reach adulthood, they are way ahead of the game. And the emphasis on financial literacy is not limited to cookie season alone. The girls earn financial literacy badges that cover a wide range of topics. The youngest members start with learning the value of money and older girls have the opportunity to learn about investment strategies. 

We should all be envious of the knowledge these girls are getting at such a young age. 

Indeed, the Girl Scouts deserve the same recognition that we give to all the great entrepreneurs past and present. So join me in raising a glass, or a box of Tagalongs, to the Girl Scout troops of the world who are mastering the art of entrepreneurship years before they even learn to drive.