By Sonia Duggan
A future generation of female entrepreneurs officially hit the streets throughout Northeast Texas January 11 to sell a product that will help fund educational activities, community projects, leadership programs and travel opportunities.
Sales of Girl Scout cookies -Samoas, Thin Mints, Tagalongs, Do-Si-Dos, Trefoils, Savannah Smiles, Toffee-Tastic and S’mores have the power to change lives for girls today.
As one of the largest girl-led entrepreneurial endeavors, the sales of Girl Scout cookies go far beyond the eager young girls who set up shop each week outside local retailers, hopeful to make their sales goals by the February 24 deadline. In the process, the girls get an important taste of what it takes to be successful by encouraging teamwork and planning. Plus, 100 percent of net revenue raised from cookie sales stays with the local councils and troops.
Girl Scouts in Collin County are affiliated with Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas (GSNETX), which serves more than 25,000 girls and 12,500 adults in 32 northeast Texas counties. GSNETX has been recognized nationally as a leader in the Girl Scout movement.
According to GSNETX, local troops receive a portion of funds from every box of cookies sold to use for programs, service projects, camping and other activities; another portion covers the cost of the product and girl incentives; and the remaining funds are used to help provide program training and camp facilities for Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas’ members.
“Cookie selling is important in being a Girl Scout, not only because it funds all the activities the girls want to do, STEM or not,” said Jennifer Jennings, Troop 3402 leader. “Over the years, my girls have used their cookie money for Girl Scout day camp, ice skating, horseback riding, spending the night at the Dallas Zoo and the Dallas Children’s Aquarium, and most recently, we took a trip to Georgia in the summer of 2017 to visit the home of Juliette Gordon Low.”
GSNETX emphasizes that by selling cookies girls develop five essential skills—goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics—all of which help them succeed today and in the future, plus they grow their confidence and practice leadership.
Last year on average, each Girl Scout troop sold 230 boxes and earned $1,289 to fund troop activities.
Jennings’s daughter Shelby, a sophomore at Wylie High, has been a Girl Scout for the past 11 years and is well versed in cookie sales. She said, “Selling cookies has taught me about marketing and selling myself. It’s easy to sell as a young Scout, but at 16 years old you no longer have the cute face and have to lean on your leadership and marketing skills. I’ve learned these skills by selling cookies by for so many consecutive years.”
Overall, the cookie funds are strategically managed to provide the maximum benefit for future girl leaders. Thirty-five percent of the cookie funds raised go to troop programming, service centers and adult training. Twenty-six percent of cookie sales covers costs, delivery, and storage of the product from the bakery as well as the cost of girl rewards including swim club, resident camp, cookie dough and earned rewards. A portion of the funds, 16 percent, is returned to troops and service units to cover local activities, events and trainings. Ten percent helps maintain and operate five camp properties including STEM, archery, ropes, swimming and equestrian activities. Nine percent is allocated for technology, infrastructure, equipment, resources and staff support for administration.
Through scholarships, over 4,000 girls are given the opportunity each year to participate in Girl Scouts.
A sweet history
While it’s hard to imagine a time when official Girl Scout cookies didn’t exist, it was the ingenuity of the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Okla. that unofficially prompted a way to finance troop activities in 1917 by baking and selling cookies in their high school cafeteria as a service project. Although it was just five years after Juliette Gordon Low started Girl Scouts in the U.S., the troop had clearly learned the importance of self-sufficiency and fundraising from their leader.
A few years later, Florence E. Neil, a local director in Chicago, Ill., had her council distributed cookie recipe printed in The American Girl Magazine, a Girl Scouts publication. “She estimated the approximate cost of ingredients for six- to seven-dozen cookies to be 26 to 36 cents. The cookies, she suggested, could be sold by troops for 25 or 30 cents per dozen,” said Girl Scouts of America.
Throughout the next decade, the cookie business remained steady as Girl Scouts across the country continued to bake their own simple sugar cookies with help from their mothers and the community. The cookies were packaged in wax paper bags, sealed with a sticker, and sold door to door for 25 to 35 cents per dozen.
In 1936, the national Girl Scout organization began the process of licensing the first commercial bakers to produce cookies that would be sold nationwide by girls in Girl Scout councils. By the following year, more than 125 Girl Scout councils reported holding cookie sales. In 1951, Girl Scout Cookies came in three varieties: Sandwich, Shortbread, and Chocolate Mints (now known as Thin Mints). Then, with the advent of the suburbs, girls, including Daisies, set up at tables in shopping malls and began selling Girl Scout Cookies.
Last year, more than 3.3 million packages of cookies were sold by more than 15,000 Girl Scouts in the 32 counties that GSNETX serves, and more than 99,000 packages were donated to the military through the Troop to Troop program.
Over the years, multiple companies have supplied the cookies but today there are only two commercial bakers licensed by Girl Scouts of the USA to bake cookies. Supplying Northeast Texas is Little Brownie Bakers, a company that has been baking the cookies since 1973. While flavors may have changed, you won’t find any partially hydrogenated oils or high fructose corn syrup in the cookies. Vegans can enjoy Thin Mints and those on gluten-free diets can enjoy the Toffee-Tastic cookies.
In prime cookie season, over 4.9 million of the famed Thin Mints are made per day. Equally staggering at Little Brownie Bakers is the 750,000 pounds of flour, 260,000 pounds of shortening, 37,000 pounds of cocoa, 385,000 pounds of chocolate coating, 438,000 pounds of sugar, 145,000 pounds of peanut butter and 75,000 pounds of coconut used during weekly peak production.
Scouts lead North Texas
Girl Scouts have been in the area since 1920, starting with two troops of girls. The Dallas Council was chartered in 1924. In the same year, two people donated land – 13 acres and 20 acres – for a camp in Southwest Dallas. In the 30s, the Scouts added more acreage, and in 1950 they renamed the property to Camp Whispering Cedars. The Dallas and Fort Worth Councils combined in the 60s to form the Tejas Council. The property endured numerous additions and renovations over the years, and in 2007, the Tejas Council, Cross Timbers Council and Red River Council merged to become Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas.
Nine years ago, it was determined that the Camp Whispering Cedars property was no longer viable as it was. Around the same time, Texas Instruments realized there wouldn’t be enough women to enter the STEM pipeline by 2020 so they broached the topic with GSNETX. As a result of the meeting, the idea for The STEM Center of Excellence was born.
The vision for the center was expansive and additional acreage was purchased in 2010, 2013 and 2016, bringing the property to a total of 92 acres for the STEM Center of Excellence operating today. The property includes The Rees-Jones Welcome Center, The Hoglund Foundation Program Center, The Moody Foundation Observation Tower, nature trails, archery range, ropes course, outdoor soundscape, sports fields, exploration center, butterfly pavilion and garden, aquatics center, Texas Instruments Innovation Center, amphitheater, a leadership center and a courtyard.
All of the activities have a STEM focus at the Center. “We want to help them understand the value that STEM can have in the world,” reports Jennifer Bartkowski, CEO of Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas.
In July 2018, Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) revealed 30 new badges that are available exclusively for girls ages 5–18 that “not only enhance the Scout experience but also address some of society’s most pressing needs, such as cybersecurity, environmental advocacy, mechanical engineering, robotics, computer science, and space exploration.”
The new programming for girls in grades 6–12 includes multiple STEM centered badges: Environmental Stewardship badges are badges that teach girls how to program, design, and showcase robots. The College Knowledge badge for Girl Scouts in grades 11 and 12 is the first badge completely dedicated to college exploration. Two Girl Scout Leadership Journeys: Think Like a Programmer (funded by Raytheon) provides a strong foundation in computational thinking and the framework for Girl Scouts’ first ever national Cyber Challenge, is coming in 2019. The “Think Like an Engineer Journey” exposes girls to design thinking to understand how engineers solve problems.
Join in, raise a girl leader
Do you want your daughter(s) to have courage, confidence and character, and make the world a better place? If so, any girl in grades K–12 can join Girl Scouts.
Much like Boy Scouts, there are several steps to advance through that coincide with age and grade. Young girls can progress through the following levels: Daisy (grades K-1), Brownie (grades 2-3), Juniors (grades 4-5) Cadette (grades 6-8), Seniors (grades 9-10), and Ambassadors (grades 11-12).
“Whether she wants to be part of a troop, sign up for exciting events, explore the outdoors, or travel the world, each age level has something for her,” says GSA.
Sachse mom and troop leader Brenda Rozinsky said, “I love the mission of Girl Scouts and take great pride in knowing that we are developing female leaders of tomorrow.”
In addition to the brand-new STEM Center, the North Texas nonprofit owns and operates five camp properties in the area.
Girls can choose from age-appropriate activities including: archery, paddle-boarding, backpacking, rock climbing, kayaking, zip lining, horse-back riding, and so much more.
GSNETX offers two outdoor focused special interest groups – Outdoor Adventure Interest Group (OAIG) and Travel Club where girls can experience the best of outdoor adventures and destination travel.
Parent volunteers and leaders are important to the success of the Girl Scout leadership experience and dads are encouraged to help out in different ways.
“I have always said that Scouting is what you (the parent) put into it. If you like the values of Scouting and all it teaches – STEM, outdoor skills, etc. – then the best way for your child to experience these things, is to volunteer yourself,” Jennings said. “You don’t always have to be the leader, but being involved and mentoring, teaching and participating will give you your daughter the very best Girl Scout experience possible.”
Studies show that the girls who participate in Girl Scouts are more than twice as likely to exhibit community problem-solving skills than girls who don’t. Through the goal setting process and cookie sales, they encounter fun, stimulating, and essential experiences that carry into their future careers and life success.
“Being a Girl Scout has introduced me to my life-long friends that I have made through my troop, camp and traveling to Mongolia,” Shelby said. “I absolutely love being a Girl Scout and I thank them for allowing me to participate in so many great leadership opportunities.”