Each year thousands of Girl Scouts take to the streets, grocery stores and parents’ workplaces selling their famous cookies, in hopes of winning cool prizes and learning a little bit about business.
That time of the year is now. Cookies have arrived in Tucson — 900,000 boxes of them — and are available, starting today.
What started out as a simple bake sale over a hundred years ago has become the “biggest girl-led entrepreneurship program in the world,” said Debbie Rich, CEO for Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona. It is also the primary financial source to run Girl Scouts. In fact, 70 percent of the budget to run all of its programs comes from the cookie program, Rich said.
There are six varieties of cookies available this year: Thin Mints, Samoas, Trefoils, Do-si-dos, Savannah Smiles and Tagalongs. Customers can buy as many as they want at $4 a box. “We will never run out of cookies,” Rich said.
Every Girl Scout is also selling “troop to troop” boxes of cookies, which are purchased by the customer, then sent to deployed members of the military by the Girl Scouts. Last year, 18,815 boxes were sent out to deployed military members from the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona. This year’s goal is 20,000.
The cookie program teaches the girls about business. “In the cookie program, there are five skills they learn,” Rich said. “Goal -setting, decision-making, money management, people skills and business ethics.” They also learn about safety and nutrition.
“I learned more about how to handle money and more about how to make a sale,” said Girl Scout Mary Ruiz, 11, last year’s top cookie seller in Tucson. “I used to be shy, and now I’m not shy at all,” she said. “I’ve learned how to talk to people I don’t know better.”
Top sellers earn high-dollar prizes such as a laptop, an iPad or an overnight mystery trip. “For every different level, there’s an incentive,” Rich said. “If a girl just sells one box, she gets a cookie patch.”
Mary Ruiz sold more than 4,000 boxes last year. She earned a gift card to go to Wet’n’Wild water park in Phoenix and a stay in a Marriott hotel nearby.
Due to a busy schedule including school, dance, basketball tournaments and Police Explorers, she has set the bar a little lower this year with the goal of selling 3,000 boxes.
To meet that goal, Mary will take the same approach she did last year. “I did a lot of booths, door-to-door with the wagon. I asked if people wanted to donate a box to soldiers overseas and to first responders,” she said.
“And, I just smile.”