Mellody Hobson talks about how the Girl Scouts can teach a thing or two about money and business.
I’m not sure if you noticed, but it’s Girl Scout cookie season. I hate to play favorites, but nothing beats a frozen Thin Mint.
Whatever your poison, Girl Scout cookies are big business. In the organization’s century-long history, the cookies have played a major part in funding. And grown-ups can learn a thing or two from their business model.
The biggest advantage the girl scouts have, in addition to their adorable little pint-sized sales reps, is that they have mastered the art of supply and demand. The cookies are good, but they’re not AMAZING. So why the annual frenzy? How have they built a $700 million cookie empire? A key ingredient to Girl Scout cookie mania is the scarcity effect: the fact that you can only buy the cookies once a year adds a sense of urgency to lock in those orders.
So the scouts have it all figured out.
Actually, they don’t, and that’s primarily what I want to talk about today. The cookie business was created not only to help fund the Girl Scouts’ endeavors, but also to help the girls themselves learn about business. The five stated skills are setting goals, better decision-making, money management, people skills and business ethics. The Girl Scouts’ research arm conducted a recent survey and it that found that 88% of girls interviewed do not feel confident making financial decisions. 88%!
The study interviewed over 1,000 girls age 8-17. Another troubling statistic that came up was nearly half the girls agreed that debt was “a normal part of life.”
Unfortunately, I think these statistics say a lot about our whole country. Our young girls are not financially literate or confident. And it’s not for lack of trying on the part of the Scouts. In 2011, the Girl Scouts introduced a new set of personal finance-themed patches to help the young women handle their financial futures. The badges include “Good Credit,” “Money Manager” and “Budgeter.” That is a great start. And the real-world experience the Scouts provides with the cookie business is also wonderful.
What if your daughter isn’t a Girl Scout or you have sons?
Increasing financial literacy is my mission. And when we’re talking about young people, it starts at home—because for some crazy reason unbeknownst to me, we STILL don’t teach anything money-management related in school. The onus is on parents to start a dialogue with their kids, to help them to save and learn about how to make smart financial decisions.
When it comes to the Girl Scouts, sometimes their experiences are all too real world. Get this, a troupe in Oregon learned a hard lesson in business ethics when a corporate order for 6,000 boxes of cookies turned out to be a hoax. At $4 a pop, that was $24,000 of sugary goodness they were left with, because it was too late to cancel the order. It was so sad! In interviews, the girls said things like, “I don’t know what we’re going to do. That’s…a lot of cookies.” Luckily, the town rallied behind the troupe and purchased the cookies, box by box.
Is it too late to order cookies?
You can’t pre-order but you can download the Girl Scout Cookie app to find out when a troupe might be selling near you!
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