North Bay Girl Scouts learn how to sell cookies during the coronavirus pandemic
Cookie monsters will need to search a little harder this year for their favorite box of Girl Scout Thin Mints.
With pandemic restrictions in place, teams of uniformed scouts rocking their award sashes won’t be stationed outside your local grocery store, nor will their parents be soliciting orders from colleagues in the break rooms at their workplaces.
Girl Scout officials say they are pivoting, as other businesses are, to online sales. Buyers can go to gsnorcal.org, click or tap the Cookie tab, and put in a zip code at “Find a Cookie Entrepreneur.” The URL of the website of a nearby girl scout will pop up. Customers can choose to have the order shipped, or (if the family has opted for it) to get “contactless” delivery. Delivery service Grubhub is even an option, Sundays only, starting with Super Bowl Sunday..
“Each girl is creating her own business in the space of the digital cookie link,” says Heather Burlew- Hayden, chief marketing and membership officer of Girl Scouts of Northern California, one of 112 girl scout councils in the United States. It serves 19 counties extending from just south of San Francisco to the Oregon border.
“Every cookie entrepreneur makes decisions on how she wants to promote her business and then she executes against those decisions,” explains Burlew-Hayden. “She can record a video; she can describe herself and what she hopes to use the proceeds for. She can also pull down images of cookies and post on her social media channels, and work with adults to have them promote her cookies through their social media to amplify her message. She can also use real life tools such as door hangers, leave-behinds in mailboxes, flyers on windshields, and other tools like this. The girls are getting very innovative in reaching out to members of their community, friends and family.”
The digital platform option has been available to scouts for six years.
But previous to COVID-19, it was not as popular. Scouts preferred to hang out with their friends while earning sales from the shoppers coming out of stores who couldn’t resist succumbing to an impulse cookie buy.
“You tend to sell more cookies at a booth and in normal times I would focus on in-person selling, but during COVID we can’t do that,” says Lena Friesen, an 11-year-old Cadette. “Instead, I’ve sent emails to past customers. I ordered a bunch of cards printed with my website and stapled on rubber bands to use them as door hangers.”
Lena delivered 500 postcards by walking almost six miles around her neighborhood. “I’m getting a lot of exercise, and I discovered this really cool street with some big houses that I had never seen before.” Last year she sold 2,008 boxes of cookies; her goal this year is 2,500.
Lena’s mother, Jen Friesen, is a sixth grade teacher at Petaluma’s Grant Elementary, and also a Girl Scout volunteer and troop leader. Friesen says her daughter had the unique idea of emailing restaurants to see if they’d like to order cookies as a special dessert to offer to patrons. Nobody has yet responded to that inquiry. Still, Lena had sold 370 boxes through her website in the first week of the cookie campaign, more than she sold online all last year.
None of the GSNorCal counties are currently allowing booths. According to California state rule, the council has decided that if a county is in yellow or orange they are allowed to do in-person booths by household; if the county is in red or purple, no booths are allowed.
“When we had the booth, I could smile and rely on the cute little girl pitch to get them to buy,” Lena says. “Now it’s about that I actually know a lot about marketing and goal setting; they should be impressed with my courage and confidence and should buy from me!”
And if someone offers resistance, like they don’t eat gluten? Lena responds, “Our butter cookies with toffee bits are gluten free, and the mints are vegan.”
If the person says they don’t eat sweets, she offers that it might be OK to indulge in treats once a year, or she explains how they could buy a $5 box and donate it.
Jen Friesen adds, “I don’t know if the girls notice it as much, but as adults we can see that you need to be able to take a rejection and move forward. When they were Daisies and Brownies, a rejection was just heart crushing, and then they didn’t want to ask the next person to buy. We would make a game of it and say, ‘No’s mean you are asking people, so let’s see how many no’s you can get.’ We gave prizes for whoever got the most no’s. To me that was the way that many girls in the troop blossomed, not taking rejection personally and being able to move forward with it. It’s a great skill and life lesson.”