Girl Scout Cookie Entrepreneur Stymied by Internet Sales Ban

Mar 16, 2009

But one eight-year-old from Asheville, N.C., found that there are limits to where you can sell the cookies. Her dream of selling 12,000 boxes of those cookies to send her entire troop to summer camp has been dashed by a technicality that’s left a lot of people scratching their heads.

Earlier this year, Wild Freeborn (yes, that’s her real name) posted a YouTube video, with the help of her dad, with an enthusiastic pitch: “Buy cookies! And they’re yummy!” They set up an online order system where customers in their area could purchase Tagalongs, Thin Mints and Samoas. Within two weeks, 700 orders came in.

But Wild Freeborn’s e-commerce plan hit a major snag. The Girl Scout Cookie Program, which according to Newsweek “bills itself as the largest program to teach entrepreneurship to young girls,” says it prohibits all online sales of its cookies — primarily because of safety reasons. Its guidelines state that Internet use should only be for advertising. “When we sell door to door we always have adults accompanying girls,” Denise Pesich, spokeswoman for Girl Scouts of the USA told the “Today Show.” “In this case, we have a very concerned father overseeing the process, and we know she’s relatively safe. But not in all cases is that true.”

As a result, the Freeborns had to take down their advance-order site and the YouTube video as ordered by the Girl Scouts’ national organization. Bryan Freeborn, chief operating officer of Web-design company Top Floor Studio, says that Girl Scout’s policy sends mixed signals and is confusing. He told Matt Lauer of the “Today Show” last week, “We knew there was a policy that it wasn’t OK, but we thought we were taking orders and promoting the cookies and we seemed to think that was within the spirit of the rules. The whole intent was to help my daughter meet her goals, utilizing up-to-date marketing principles.”

Those principles are something that the Girl Scouts have known and encouraged in recent years – but only to a point. A New York Times article two years ago told the trend of some Girl Scout troops all over the country setting up so-called cookie academies and cookie colleges to teach marketing, selling and business skills to girls 11 and over. One 14-year-old in Chicago used email messages to snag cookie orders, selling 1,510 in 2006.

Seems like Wild Freeborn’s just ahead of her time. She even has a Facebook group with 280 members: “Help one girl sell 12,000 Girl Scout cookies in Asheville!”

Does the current rule go against its mission to encourage Girl Scouts’ entrepreneurial spirit? Or do you think the safety concerns are legitimate and trump marketing online efforts?


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