This Girl Scout can teach you a lot about business

The 12-year-old 'cookie entrepreneur' has chops. She crushed the national sales record and even made an Internet parody video. Here are key lessons from her success.

By MSN Money staff Apr 14, 2014 12:12PM

Katie Francis, holds the national Girl Scout cookie sales record. © Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman/APBy Kate Taylor, Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur on MSN MoneyKatie Francis is an entrepreneur, and proud of it.

"On my business cards, it says 'Katie, Girl Scout Cookie Entrepreneur,'" she says.

She's certainly earned the title. The 12-year-old broke the national Girl Scout cookie record this Sunday, selling 21,477 boxes.

The sixth-grader, who plans to sell 100,000 boxes of cookies during her time in Girl Scouts, is a shining example of the entrepreneurial spirit Girl Scouts aims to cultivate in its members. "The Girl Scout cookie sales program is the largest entrepreneurial program for girls in the country, if not the world," says Anna Maria Chavez, the CEO of Girl Scouts USA. Eighty percent of female small-business owners in the U.S. are former Girl Scouts, according to the organization.

But Francis isn't just an inspiration to other little girls. She's someone who can teach any entrepreneur a thing or two.

As more than two million Girl Scouts around the world learn about entrepreneurship by selling cookies, here's what even the expert entrepreneur can learn from Katie Francis's success.

1. Put in the time. The most important secret of cookie sales is the simplest and one that many entrepreneurs forget: Dedicate your time. For Katie, selling cookies became a full-time job. She worked at it seven hours a day after school and 12 to 13 hours on weekends. That meant two months of giving up riding lessons, dance classes, voice lessons and even a trip to visit her grandmother in Texas. She doesn't regret it, though. "I've had so many unique experiences that otherwise I wouldn't have had," says Katie.

2. Set big goals. Without a goal to aim for, Katie says she could never have sold the thousands of cookies. "I knew that I could achieve a really, really high goal. So every day, I woke up thinking, 'I know I can do this.'" No one had challenged the national record of 18,000 since the 1980s. However, Katie went into cookie sales armed with a concrete goal and confidence that she could shatter the previous records. And, when she did, passing the 18,000 mark with a week left in cookie sales season, she simply upped her goal to 20,000, then to 21,000.

3. Create manageable steps for success. Eighteen-thousand boxes of Girl Scout cookies is difficult to even visualize. So, Katie broke it down: She and her mom calculated how many cookies she would have to sell per week, then per day, then per hour. Knowing that she had to sell 30 to 46 boxes an hour meant that Katie could take the process one step at a time.

4. Create a team. Katie's Girl Scout troop is full of high achievers. While the average Girl Scout sells around 150 to 200 boxes, Katie's troop averages one to two thousand boxes per girl, allowing the entire group to push each other to set higher personal goals. Katie also found a mentor in the previous record holder, Elizabeth Brinton. After her mom helped her track down the woman who set the record in the 1980's and the pair talked on the phone, the possibility of breaking the 18,000 mark became an achievable accomplishment for Katie.

5. Connect with customers. When selling cookies Katie had a simple go-to line: "Do you want to buy or donate Girl Scout cookies?" Asking people if they wanted to "donate" was key: Even individuals who were on a diet or had already bought cookies had a hard time saying no to Katie's laminated info sheet with information on her troop's plans to support the food bank and deployed service members. Plus, having a cause helped Katie connect with customers, who were excited to hear about where their money would go, as well as learn about Katie's personal goal to break the national record.

6. Know your market. As an experienced cookie saleswoman (she broke the state record the two previous years), Katie quickly learned where and when her cookies would sell around her home in Western Oklahoma. If she had set up a booth in a subpar location, Katie wasn't afraid to pack up and leave when she wasn't hitting her hourly goals. Remember, it's not worth wasting time marketing to a population or location that isn't working when you can pivot to a more profitable market.

7. Make yourself memorable. Katie sported a unique hairstyle throughout her entire cookie sale season: a ponytail with a daisy. By the time she had broken the record, the daisy had started to smell like a parking lot due to her hours trekking to sell cookies, but it had served its purpose to set Katie apart. In addition to the signature hair style, Katie distinguished herself by drawing in the crowd at booth sales with cookie-centric songs and dances. "Every now and then when I was bored, I'd do an Irish Jig," she says.

8. Encourage competition. With Katie's success, more girls may be trying their hands at the national record next year. "I say go for it, try," she says. "I bet you could do it, too." For the Girl Scouts, getting more girls interested in entrepreneurship benefits everyone.

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Apr 14, 2014 3:18PM
Lazy, whiney, "The Man Be Keeping Me Down," useless liberal heads are exploding across the country as  12 year old does what they can't.  She finds a way to succeed, doesn't give up, and take on individual responsibility for her future.
Apr 14, 2014 2:53PM
Thank you, it's nice to see a young person willing to have motivations and dedication to a goal. Thank you to her parents for instilling good values and a work ethic that so many now don't have.
Apr 14, 2014 3:22PM
Well's an idea CO and WA scouts...set up camp out side Marijuana should shatter this record in weeks...
Apr 14, 2014 5:05PM

Katie and the other cutie Scout from a few weeks ago that set-up

her table in San Fran's Chinatown (in front of the Green + Cross store)

should go into business together -- they'll be millionaires !!!

Apr 14, 2014 4:59PM

40 boxes an hour?  how does one even make that a goal, let alone achieve it.   I'd be surprised if it were even people to ask 40 people to buy cookies in an hour, even in a high traffic area.  then you actually have to exchange the money and hand them the right cookies.  all this takes time...


and after the first few days, you'd just be asking the same people again and again.  a thankless job for sure.

Apr 23, 2014 9:17AM
My daughter's troop is only able to sell cookies for 3 1/2 weeks before we have to turn the orders in for processing.  Maybe it's a regional or council thing, I'm not sure.  If we had the four months like Katie's troop, I'm not even sure we'd be able to sell tens of thousands of boxes (small communities around here).  Katie has a good head on her shoulders, she'll make a killer business manager or marketing agent someday.  Congrats, Katie, on a job well done!
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