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From cookies to future CEOs

February 22, 2013
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From cookies to future CEOs
Kathy Crosby, executive director of Goodwill Industries, credits Girl Scouts for her introduction to business and networking. Photo by Johnny Quirin
What do Lucille Ball, Katie Couric, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Sally Ride and Condoleezza Rice have in common? They were all Girl Scouts.

The list of successful former Girl Scouts includes business leaders, politicians, professional athletes, astronauts and just about every profession out there. In fact, Girl Scouts reports that 80 percent of women business owners are former Girl Scouts, along with 69 percent of female U.S. Senators and 67 percent of female U.S. Representatives and almost every female astronaut who has flown in space.

Not surprising given that in 2011 Girl Scouts estimated it had 59 million alumnae and that one in every two adult women had participated in the program.

Girl Scouts celebrated its 100th anniversary last year with much acknowledgment for how the organization has impacted the lives of women across the country. The organization is well aware of its impact on young girls and their future success. As part of its 100-year anniversary it conducted a study entitled Girl Scouting Works: The Alumnae Impact Study, which looked at three key questions having to do with a Girl Scout’s success later in life. The results were filled with positive reinforcement for the organization’s model.

Besides regular volunteering and earning badges for completing projects, each year Girl Scouts take to their neighborhoods to sell Girl Scout cookies, learning about running a business and being an entrepreneur in the process. The cookie-selling business, which has been a part of the Girl Scouts since 1917, helps teach girls five key business skills: goal-setting, decision-making, money management, people skills and business ethics.

“I learned how to count money and how to count money back to people if we owe them change,” said Tayden Glore.

Tayden is 8 years old and in third grade. She joined the Girl Scouts in first grade. Her first time out she sold 1,200 boxes of Girl Scout cookies. Last year she sold 1,556 boxes, earning an iPad as a result. This year she said she plans to earn a laptop; she needs to sell 1,500 boxes to achieve this goal.

Her troop sets a goal, as well. This year the troop plans to sell 3,000 boxes of cookies. If they reach this goal, they will be rewarded with a day at Binder Park Zoo.

Tayden said that sometimes it’s hard work. One challenge she mentioned is that so many girls are selling cookies, which results in people buying fewer boxes from each. No one wants to turn down a Girl Scout selling cookies, she acknowledged. Additionally, this year the weather has been a challenge.

Her mother, Brenda Glore, said one of the biggest things she’s seen in her daughter is a growing dedication. When Tayden is less than enthusiastic about heading out to knock on doors, she reminds her of her goal and how close she is to achieving it.

Goodwill Industries Executive Director Kathy Crosby agrees participation in cookie selling, and in Girl Scouts in general, develops useful skills for future business and life success.

“I joined a Brownie troop in North Oakland County when I was 7 and I’m one of those diehard Girl Scouts,” Crosby said. “There was a small group of us that stayed in until we graduated from high school; they had to throw us out.”

Crosby and six friends created what she said was her first career network. “We stayed in contact even though we scattered across the country,” she said. “What I remember, particularly as we got older, in those troop meetings is that is where we talked about our future and our dreams. … It became a network of people that were supporting each other.”

For Crosby, Girl Scout camp expanded that network even further.

“I would meet girls and see them one summer to the next, and I really came to appreciate the value of meeting new people, and I learned how to get along with lots of different people. You learn to overcome that childhood fear of strangers.”

Girl Scout camp also gave her the opportunity to take risks and try new things.

“I remember very clearly going to camp and being encouraged to do things that I would have never done … learning to take the risks and the reward of taking a risk and overcoming that fear. I think every time I succeeded at one of those tasks, my confidence grew, and it really had a lot to do with the success I found later.”

Crosby thinks that selling Girl Scout cookies has a lot to offer young girls. She points to the goal setting and earning rewards for achieving those goals.

“The cookie sales helped us to make money for camp and for our troop projects. If we sold enough cookies, we had less money to spend toward camp, because we’d have scholarship money out of that cookie fund. We also had a troop sales manager and treasurer and we had a publicity committee that was making up posters and helping us get the word out about the cookie sales.”

Crosby said they learned to work as a team and learned from past experiences what worked and what didn’t and to make changes.

She said that correlation between hard work and reward is an important lesson.

“I think it’s expanded the opportunity for girls to see just how much working hard can bring a reward back to them personally and as a group. That is a great business skill. It’s all about teams, and when our girls work as a team and they see the sales go up and then the rewards for them go up, it’s a positive business experience.”

For Glore, one of her best experiences has been Girl Scout camp and going horseback riding and learning about horses. Selling Girl Scout cookies helped make that experience possible.

“The girls learn that if they keep working toward what they believe is important, they’ll get there,” Crosby said. “Those girls don’t get discouraged. The girls that figure that out don’t get discouraged when doing this today doesn’t mean everything changes tomorrow. They understand that they are just going to keep working at it tomorrow.”

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