The Girl Scout Cookie Program® is officially underway with thousands of eastern Missouri Girl Scouts beginning to execute their marketing strategies for the season. Throughout the months of January, February and March, the GSEMblog will feature Cookie-related stories, time-tested advice and resources—all in the hopes of providing as much assistance and answers to the region’s young entrepreneurs and adult volunteers!

This week, we connected with Barbara Bowyer, a retired U.S. Navy Captain and long-time eastern Missouri Girl Scout troop leader. After more than 20 years of Cookie Program participation, Barbara has a few key things she reminds herself (and her troop) before the season begins. Barbara took the time to share the insights she’s gleaned from over the years.

Barbara’s Pro Tip #1 ASK YOUR GIRLS HOW THEY WANT TO SPEND THE PROCEEDS: It can be difficult getting girls to speak up when they’re at booths, especially the younger ones. Frankly, when we had really young girls, we didn’t do a lot of cookie booths. For the younger girls, it should be a fun, learning experience so if you try to schedule too many booths, it can become difficult. Just think about the age of the girls and ask yourself ‘what are your girls going to do with the money?’ If your girls have an idea of what they’re going to do with the funds, then it’s easier to plan your booths.

So, start with your girls and always find out what they want to do! And remember to have fun with them!

Barbara’s Pro Tip #2 PRACTICE YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH: Once girls have decided how they are going to use their cookie proceeds, they should make certain potential customers know. For example, last year my younger troop used their proceeds to spend the night at the zoo, sleeping in the sea lion sound tunnel. We practiced so they could speak about their plans whenever a customer came up (sometimes with a little prompting from myself or my assistant leader). When customers know what the plans are for the proceeds, they are more likely to purchase.

Barbara’s Pro Tip #3 MONEY MANAGEMENT: Above all, be mindful of the money! We have a guideline in our troop that if they get a $20 bill at a booth, it doesn’t even go in the cash box. It gets handed to an adult. We don’t keep more than $50 in the cash box at any one time. There were too many instances of people keeping all their money in the cash box and the cash box disappears. Just don’t keep a lot of money in your cash box, you don’t need to! We normally keep one $10 bill and some five’s and one’s – but that’s about it.

Barbara’s Pro Tip #4 TAKE HEALTHY RISKS: I still remember teaching young sailors how to lead and giving them the opportunity to try things and make mistakes. I think a lot of that is the same way I approach my Girl Scouts.

Too often, in my opinion, we don’t allow children to fail. Well-meaning parents and caregivers will often step in and not allow them to fail but it is through failure, we learn and gain in experience. I believe very strongly in letting my Girl Scouts try things and if they don’t work out (as long as it’s not a safety issue), it’s okay to fail. Then we take a step back and ask where did we go wrong and what can we do differently next time?

Barbara’s Pro Tip #5 THIS EXPERIENCE IS FOR THE GIRLS: Last summer, Barbara and her co-leader took five of her Girl Scouts on an immersive, educational 12-day European trip using some of their Fall Product and Cookie Program proceeds. This year, the girls decided they want to save for a South African adventure for June of 2022!

Best of luck, Barbara and Troops 652 & 3486!