When 8-year-old Wild Freeborn became a Girl Scout earlier this year, she had a simple goal: sell 12,000 boxes of the organization’s addictive cookies. She wanted to earn enough money to send her entire troop (all new scouts) to summer camp in Brevard, N.C. After going door to door in her neighborhood, visiting stores in downtown Asheville, N.C., and consulting her parents about her precocious business plan, she asked her tech-minded dad, Bryan Freeborn, “Can’t we use what you do at work?” referencing his job as the chief operating officer of TopFloorStudio, a Web design and development firm.
In late January, they posted a YouTube video, starring Freeborn in Girl Scout gear, touting her straightforward sales pitch. “Buy cookies! And they’re yummy!” Soon after, they set up an online order system that was limited to customers within their local area (so Freeborn could personally deliver them). While her online sales strategy took hold, she continued peddling cookies the traditional way—going door to door and working booths at the local grocery store. Within two weeks, more than 700 orders for Thin Mints, Caramel DeLites and Peanut Butter Patties reached the Freeborns solely through the online form.
Considering that the national Girl Scout Cookie Program bills itself as the largest program to teach entrepreneurship to young girls, this e-commerce strategy seems especially savvy. But some families in the community felt threatened by the Freeborn’s unconventional efforts, likely because various prizes (including camp vouchers, stuffed animals and apparel) are given out by local councils to girls who sell a certain amount of boxes. “If you have an individual girl that creates a Web presence, she can suck the opportunity from other girls,” says Matthew Markie, a parent who remains involved in Girl Scouts even though his three daughters are well into their 20s.