This is when the cookies come out — and are sold by Girl Scouts door-to-door, outside supermarkets, at train stations, in parents' offices, and any other place where potential customers gather, drawn to the annual tradition of delicious cookies and to a stalwart brand (there is also now Girl Scout Cookie branded ice cream, candles
, and even lip balm).
Still, not everyone is a fan. The program has been criticized about everything from revenue sharing
to nutritional content
to environmental harm
I have trouble joining that chorus. For 10 years of my life (ages 8-18), the Girl Scouts were my social club, finishing school, and most of all, my training ground for the world. The girls in my troop learned about such diverse subjects as personal finance, resume writing, makeup and grooming, camping and survival skills. And the emphasis on community service and leadership played a huge role in shaping my life and career.
When I mention I was a Girl Scout, however, the most common reaction by far is "I LOVE Girl Scout cookies!"
Truth: So do I.
Of course I do—they are delicious. But it's more than that; selling cookies (and other products) taught me business and life lessons, many of which I carry with me today as a 30-something professional. These fundraisers were important to keep our small troop going. We also sold nuts and calendars annually, and one year we even tried our hand at selling Tupperware (this was the '90s).
Among the lessons I learned were the basics of marketing, public speaking, how to handle rejection, goal-setting and how to find — or create — fun in any task.
The most poignant of these lessons came from having to market my product and myself. A shy child, I dreaded going up to people, even people I knew well, to ask for something, even when it was simple as a glass of water at a friend's house. Asking people to buy cookies (and part with their hard-earned money) was even harder.
My parents and troop leaders gave me tips on how to ask and encouraged me to try and try again, and by my fifth or sixth year it was much less scary (yes, it still took me a while).
Store sales, where we set up booths in front of local establishments, were similarly intimidating, but it eventually became my favorite part of cookie season. My friends and I spent hours decorating posters and making up song-and-dance sequences to get peoples' attention, and I learned just how far a smile could go.
For every patron that stopped to buy a box of cookies, dozens would decline politely or simply ignore us. I quickly learned to not take rejection personally and move on to the next potential customer.
More than a decade (and 3,000 miles) removed from my last Girl Scout meeting I don't know exactly which storage box contains my badges and Silver and Gold award pins, but I still carry the lessons that came with them. I feel an instant sisterhood with other women when we find out about our common scouting experience. And I look forward to the day when my now-1-year-old can put on that Daisy uniform and I can don a Troop Leader pin.