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Corner Office

Selling Girl Scout cookies in the digital age

Kai Ryssdal and Daisy Palacios Apr 6, 2015
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As CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, Anna Maria Chavez has been working to bring the organization into the digital age.
Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Girl Scouts of the USA

Think of Girl Scouts and immediately, the mind wanders back to a box Thin Mints stored away in the freezer. But besides building business savvy with cookie selling, Girl Scouts also aims to teach young women leadership, compassion and other lifelong skills.

Anna Maria Chávez grew up in Eloy, Arizona, participating in her local Girl Scout troop. Now, as CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, Chavez wants to be an advocate for the organization.

“I go out to local communities and talk to their local leaders about the need to invest in girls,” says Chávez, who took on the organization’s top job in 2011 and is the first Latina at the helm.

Today’s young workers will be part of one of the most technologically advanced generations. With that in mind, the Girls Scouts decided to integrate technology into their famous cookie business.

“Just this year, we created the first ever digital cookie program,” Chávez says. “It allowed girls to use the technology they use every day to create their own business online.”

The digital cookie program teaches some basic principles of running an online business, and as well as giving buyers an option to have orders shipped or delivered in person. Taking the cookie business onto the web was a slow process, Chávez says, because of safety concerns about exposing Scouts to new technologies.

“It’s a pretty complicated Girl Scout program,” she says. “When you think about the millions of customers we touch every day during our Girl Scout cookie program, and the transactions that happen, we had to ensure that customers felt comfortable giving us their Visa numbers and that girls were also in a safe space to communicate with adults.”

Chávez says the biggest type of investment young girls need from adults is time. Unfortunately, there are not enough adults volunteering to lead troops, she says.

“Right now, sadly, I have about 30,000 girls on a wait list to be a Girl Scout,” she says. “The reality is, because of the economy, people having to work two jobs, it’s harder and harder for adults to find time to volunteer.”

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