Whether allowing girls to practice their sales pitch, teaching them financial literacy or being a part of the perfect cookie and beer pairing, local businesses are finding new ways to support the Girl Scout cookie sale.

On a recent Thursday afternoon, Girl Scouts streamed from the elevator onto the 12th floor of the One South Church Building downtown. The word had spread that Trusting Connections nanny agency was buying cookies that day — up to 25 boxes, if you were lucky.

All girls had to do was make their pitch, draw a number from a jar (up to 25!) and they would get a check. The company would then donate most of the treats to the Cookies for Military program.

It was a win for everybody, said Rosalind Prather, co-owner of Trusting Connections and a former Girl Scout, “back when boxes went for $2.”

“It was so cool for the girls to come and see and talk to us,” she said. “They’re little entrepreneurs, building a business of their own and a community that will buy from them.”

Prather and her business partner Caroline Malkin, both University of Arizona graduates, said that when they started their company they faced a scarcity of female mentors.

They found success through trial and error, Malkin said, but they want others to benefit from their experience.

“The Girl Scouts cookie program is the largest girl-led business program in the world, so what better organization to support?” Prather said.

Valuable skills

The business community is a vital partner for the Girl Scout cookie sale, said Debbie Rich, chief executive officer of the Girls Scouts of Southern Arizona.

While some girls still sell door-to-door, things have changed over the years. Sometimes people don’t even answer when someone knocks at their door anymore, she said.

The No. 1 way business helps is by allowing girls to set up their sales booths, Rich said.

“For a business to commit to having girls in front of their business for up to six weekends is something that is critical for the sale.”

But while national chains like Walmart and Walgreens continue to allow the Girl Scouts to sell during the full period, traditional sales locations at grocery stores such as Safeway and Fry’s have cut back on their participation.

“They’re great partners but there’s just so many things they get asked to do,” Rich said. “It’s been a challenge, so when local businesses step up to support the girls, I think it has an even greater impact.”

Local companies that let Girl Scouts set up a sales booth include Bookmans, Buddy’s Grill, Funtasticks, Tucson Federal Credit Union and Vantage West.

And it goes beyond setting up booths.

When the owners of Tap and Bottle were approached last year with the idea of helping the Girl Scouts by promoting a beer and cookie pairing, it made sense, said co-owner Scott Safford.

The girls didn’t sell cookies at the beer and wine tasting room. Instead, they used the more age-appropriate Exo Roast Co. coffee shop next door — which led to some coffee and cookie pairings, as well.

The idea was such a success that this year other breweries held their own events, Safford said.

All the participating breweries are giving a donation to the Cookies for Military program, Rich said. Every box donated goes to deployed soldiers all over the world.

“That’s a way that that community is giving back, by doing these very clever promotions but also embracing the purpose of cookies,” Rich said.

That purpose is twofold: maintaining girl scouting — with more than half the money raised going to volunteer training, upkeep and providing meetings to girls where there are no volunteer troop leaders — and teaching the girls important skills.

“We really want these girls to come up with not only the skills, but the confidence to make those skills a regular part of their lives,” Rich said. “Whether it’s teamwork, money management or business ethics.”

Along with national sponsors, Tucson-based Hughes Federal Credit Union is part of the “Cookie College,” which is held at the University of Arizona before cookie sales season begins.

Open to Girl Scouts who are in eighth grade and up, the one-day event features businesswomen and executives giving business, marketing and communications tips.

“Our mission is to make a positive difference in the financial lives of our members, and we also support youth and youth financial education,” said Kellie Terhune Neely, vice president of marketing at Hughes. “So for us, it’s been a natural partnership with the Girl Scouts.”

Partnering up

Asked how businesses can help the Girl Scouts, Rich said allowing the girls to set up booths in front of their stores and teach them what their business is about would be at the top of her list.

More generally, the Girl Scouts also needs volunteers willing to commit their time.

“We’re looking for adults in this community who want to embrace 10 to 12 girls for a year and mentor them through the Girls Scout program, which is so easy to follow,” Rich said.

For Prather at Trusting Connections, getting to spend time with the girls, go over their pitch and help them with sales tips was a great experience.

Her company spent $400 on cookies during the Girl Scouts’ visit to the office and she said they will not only do it again next year, they’re also having a similar event at their location in Texas.

“This is something that all business owners should do,” Prather said. “Not just the act of buying the cookies. It’s about making yourself available to them and being a mentor.”

Contact reporter Luis F. Carrasco at lcarrasco@tucson.com or 807-8029. On Twitter: @lfcarrasco