Cookie Bosses: Sweet Dream Comes True for Crozet Girl Scouts

0
1178
Girl Scouts Kylee Hughes and Bella Saucerman of Crozet Troop #246 learned some effective marketing techniques that helped with record-breaking cookie sales last year. Photo: Malcolm Andrews.

At first it was just a sweet dream. Twelve-year-old Bella Saucerman started out in January 2021 hoping to sell a few thousand boxes of Girl Scout cookies. But then she recognized an especially enthusiastic public, lonely from pandemic restrictions, nostalgic for simpler times, and overjoyed to spot a cookie booth outside Lowe’s or Walmart in Charlottesville, or the Crozet Market in her home town. “Everyone was just so happy to see us,” she said. “They spotted us right away, and recognized the cookies. One customer told me that she had been a Girl Scout 67 years ago, and she wanted to talk about it.” 

So, she persevered, surpassing her original goal and then setting her sights on selling 5,000 boxes, the previous record held by the Virginia Skyline Girl Scout Council, which includes her Crozet Troop #246. Another member of her troop, 16-year-old Kylee Hughes, began with the initial goal of selling 1,000 boxes. She kept pushing her goal up as she realized the potential of the unusual season. Kylee agreed with Bella’s assessment of pandemic cookie consumers: “When people saw us selling cookies as though it were any other year, it gave them a sense of normalcy,” she said. The girls realized that the Thin Mints, Samoas and Tagalongs were comfort food, flavorful and familiar and a balm for the bitter and stressful days of the long Covid winter. 

And that’s why, masked and gloved and observing plenty of distance during a time when many people didn’t venture out, both girls went on to shatter the Skyline record and then some. Bella ended up selling a mountainous 10,021 boxes and Kylee a most impressive 6,501 boxes. 

Crozet Troop #246 will be headed for Europe, funded in part by outstanding cookie sales. From left, Ava Saucerman, Kylee Hughes, Reagan Gresge, Maya MacMillin, and Maya Saucerman. Top cookie salesperson Bella Saucerman is in front. Submitted photo.

There were other reasons, too, inspired both by the pandemic and by the natural entrepreneurial instincts of these hometown cookie bosses. Bella’s mother, Lisa Saucerman, is a co-leader, with Julie MacMillin, of the local troop. She found the coveted spots at Lowe’s or Walmart, or Michael’s—usually parceled out to troops according to a set schedule—just didn’t have many takers. That meant that the scouts could set up for the full four-hour Friday shift and most of the day on weekends.

Luck had a little something to do with it, too. Bella recalled that Walmart shut one its doors for reasons of social distancing. “So, everyone coming and going had to come out the same door, and we were there,” she said. The Crozet Creamery continued its tradition of buying a couple of cases of cookies to fold into “Troop #246 Thin Mint Ice Cream.” The Creamery also mixes up “Troop #3020 Trefoils and Cream” to support another group of Crozet Girl Scouts. For various reasons, the cookie season was extended to four months, so that helped, too.

Girl Scouts learn about cookie history, and it’s a long, sweet story, beginning before few people on earth today were born. In 1917, an Oklahoma troop decided to bake and sell cookies for a fundraiser. This proved successful and, in 1922, it became formalized, with the Girl Scouts of Chicago printing a simple sugar cookie recipe and suggesting widespread use of cookie-driven fundraising. In 1933, some Philadelphia Girl Scouts organized the first commercial sales at a prominent city business. From 1933 to 1935, organized cookie sales increased, with troops in Philadelphia and New York City adopting cookie selling not only for fundraising but also to teach the girls marketing and sales skills. Demand grew, and in 1935, the Scouts enlisted several commercial bakeries. A formula evolved for distributing the cookie proceeds: more than half goes to the regional council, 20 per cent to the troop, another 20 percent or so to pay the bakeries, and two per cent towards prizes and incentives for the girls.

Michael Mitchell delivers a scoop of ice cream to Bella Saucerman. During cookie season, the Crozet Creamery uses Girl Scout Cookies in a few special edition flavors including “Troop 246 Thin Mint Ice Cream and “Troop 3020 Trefoil.” Photo: Malcolm Andrews.

Today, there are only two bakeries licensed to make Girl Scout Cookies. This accounts for the seasonal confusion: Trefoil or Shortbread? Samoas or Caramel deLites? It’s because the two bakers, Little Brownie Bakers and ABC Bakers, have different names for the cookies and sometimes slightly different recipes. There are plenty of opinions about subtle differences between the two bakers, and a lot of discussion about which flavor is the best. Many flavors have come and gone (does anyone remember the Juliette?) but a grateful public with a universal sweet tooth has never wavered in its appreciation for Thin Mints, Trefoils, and Tagalongs. 

In the 2021 cookie season, circumstances were on the side of Bella and Kylee, but that’s not to minimize their perseverance, salesmanship and resourcefulness. Both girls said they were happy to be out among people, even with the masks and distancing. In a normal year, they said, they would not have wanted to spend almost every weekend day selling cookies. Kylee said her success in this endeavor has led her to consider sales as a future option. Bella’s not so sure. They recognize the impossibility of repeating last-year’s performance in the cookie season underway right now, and have scaled down their goals to a more modest but still amazing 1,000 boxes each. There are shortages of some of the cookies week to week, and one new cookie, Adventurefuls, proved to be so popular that it’s no longer available. 

As the original Girl Scout cookie masterminds had hoped, the experience taught the girls a few things. They loved seeing shoppers’ eyes light up when they spied the piles of familiar cookies, and they practiced greeting potential customers in a friendly but not pushy way. Bella said eye contact and a simple greeting was important. They made sure to let people know that those without cash could pay with a credit card or Venmo, and that there was a gluten-free option (Toffee Tastic). 

They gave everyone the opportunity to donate a box of cookies to local members of the military serving overseas, a collaboration with Central Virginia Blue Star Families that had widespread appeal. “It also gave people who didn’t want to eat the cookies themselves a reason to buy a box,” Kylee said. She observed that cookie season follows on the heels of New Year’s resolutions, so offering this choice was important. In the pandemic months, they also offered customers another reason to increase their purchase by a box or two. Many were more than happy to donate a box to health care workers. Sometimes customers watching their sugar consumption would make a donation to the troop, or buy a box for the Girl Scouts themselves to enjoy. At the end of the 2021 cookie season, Troop #246 was able to give 1,324 boxes to homesick local service men and women, and 356 boxes to local healthcare workers.

The routine of packing boxes, setting up tables, and greeting customers every weekend for months became repetitive, but the girls were determined not to think of it as drudgery. “I made up my mind to enjoy it,” Kylee said. The girls had other incentives as well. Their salesmanship funded a two-week overseas trip and they, along with the other hard-working girls of Crozet’s small Troop #246 (Total sales, 21,246) will leave for Europe when Covid restrictions allow.

Like other savvy salespeople, Bella and Kylee became experts at sizing up potential buyers, and made a game out of predicting what kind of cookies each customer would choose. Kids love the S’mores, they said; older people grab the Trefoils and Do-Si-Dos. Hungry college students (the girls sometimes set up at Bank of America on the Corner, near U.Va.) prefer Thin Mints, S’mores and Tagalongs. 

The cookie experts both have the same first choice: “I love the S’mores,” Kylee said. “I think they’re underrated.” Bella agreed. “Someone bought me a box of S’mores,” she said. “It didn’t take me long to finish them.”

Hungry for Girl Scout cookies? There’s a “cookie finder” at girlscouts.org.  

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here