The Big Greedy Business of Girl Scout Cookies and the Executives Who Lead Them

Posted by on Monday, January 28th, 2013 with 0 Comments

girl scout cookie business

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If you’ve seen the girls outside the supermarket hawking cookies, then you know it’s that time of year again – Girl Scout cookie time. With annual sales around 700 million, one has to wonder exactly how big is this business and who’s leading these brilliant little sales girls?

The whole shenanigans began like most business, with the numbers. In 1922, an enterprising troop member determined cookies made by the girls for 22 or 36 cents/batch (about 6 dozen) could be sold for 22 or 36 cents/dozen. (Eventually, thanks to Philadelphia, these evolved into commercial bakeries – but that’s a different article.)

Today, the principle is the same with 70% of proceeds staying in the local Girl Scout Council. From those numbers, a whopping 12 to 17% of each sale ends up with the troop itself.

Critics note immediately what that means: Of every $4 spent (mind you this is $4 for a 8 to 12 ounce box of cookies), only about 45 cents ends up with the girls. In essence, that means instead of buying 4 boxes of cookies for $16 from you kid, you could just give her $2 as a direct donation and be helping her troupe directly in the same way. So, are Girl Scout cookies a cash cow in the name of non-profit or what?


GS cookies sold millions

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In an interesting assessment of one Connecticut council, it was noted that a girl who sold $468 worth of cookies earned her troupe just $67 (plus a stuffed bear and a t shirt.)  The total amount of proceeds the actual troupe received, therefore, wasn’t even enough to pay for the girls badges that year.

On the other hand, when we really get into the nitty gritty of the executive leaders who manage this organization, the benefits of programs like To Get Her There can’t be argued. The executive leaders in charge of running, organizing and propelling these programs forward are beyond imagine. They have just as many responsibilities, long hours and sleepless night as any other executive leader.


Executive leaders profit with Girl scouts cookie sales

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For one, they need to be responsible for finding and engaging the large corporations, outside of cookie sales, who support these programs. The rub, of course, comes in with the fact that for a long time, salaries of executive leadership (and other Girl Scout employees) was supported by cookie sales. Salaries are comfortably in line with non-profits but still surprising based on the numbers alone. From just the salaries of executive leadership, you probably wouldn’t even know this was a nonprofit, right?

What’s the point here? Clearly, that Girl Scout cookies aren’t just a delicious semi-annual snack, but a big business venture strife with typical corporate greed and protest. The big business of Girl Scout cookies isn’t changing either. It continues to grow every year.

If you’re wondering what you can take out of this for your own business, consider:

Whether you have a daughter, friend or colleague who’s a troupe member, you’re sure to notice them hawking cookies for the next few months. If you can spare it, try to give them a few dollars – their executive leadership doesn’t want to have to take a pay cut this year because you didn’t buy enough cookies.





Larry Seal is an experienced Executive Coach, Facilitator, and Speaker with over 20 years experience working with senior and executive level teams. For executive coaching needs, corporate development and improved leadership skills, contact Larry Seal today!

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