Girl Scouts Are Better Hustlers Than Cub Scouts – And What It Means For Your Business

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Like I’ve mentioned, I’ve got a soft spot for cold callers, and a warm place in my heart for Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, so combine the two and I’m already pulling out my wallet.

Scouting was good to me, and actually one of my earliest businesses was selling candy at summer camp.

So the other night our neighbor’s grandson came by in his Cub Scout uniform, almost too shy to even speak, to sell some popcorn products as a fundraiser.

Happy to support, we ended up with a $20 bag of caramel corn. I had a little bit of sticker shock, but figured it was a small price to pay to support our neighbor and the scouts.

Here’s the goods:

cub scout popcorn

(Hand shown for scale — not a very big bag for $20!)

The whole thing got me thinking about how the Girl Scouts are a million times better at this fundraising hustle.

And it’s not like their model is a huge secret; the boys could learn a thing or two from their peers. Here’s my advice for the Cub Scouts, and how the concept applies to your side hustle.

Too Much Transparency Can Be a Bad Thing

In this case, the package says, “70% goes to local scouting.”

What they’re trying to say is, “Thank you for supporting our cause,” but when your charity runs on volunteer/child labor and you still have a 30% overhead, that’s not impressive.

The result of this statement is reinforcing in the customer’s mind, “Hey, you just paid 3x more for this than it’s worth. Sucka!”

Your customer already feels good about their purchase — otherwise they wouldn’t have made it. There’s no need to remind them of the hefty markup.

girl scout cookies 5 skillsInstead, you know what the Girl Scouts put on their cookie boxes?

The 5 skills the “cookie program” develops that girls will use throughout their lives:

  1. Goal Setting
  2. Decision Making
  3. Money Management
  4. People Skills
  5. Business Ethics

Boom! Delicious cookies and helping young women learn 5 important life skills.

Better messaging, right?

But your side hustle probably can’t rely on “cause marketing,” so what’s the takeaway? To focus on the benefit during and after the sale, not the price.

Can you imagine in your customer messaging, “Thank you for your order! 70% of your purchase today is going directly to my bottom line.”

Um, ok…

They don’t care what your margins are like; only about the value they get from doing business with you.

Simplify the Menu

When we were presented with our options, we were handed a two-sided fold-out brochure with at least a dozen different choices, all with different price points.

(And yes, they all said the “pass-through” dollar amount as well, further complicating the menu.)

It was overwhelming.

And sure, there are probably an equal number of flavors of Girl Scout Cookies, but the prices don’t vary (much) box to box and pretty much all the boxes are the same size.

It’s much easier to make a decision when some of the variables have been removed for you. Thin Mints only come in one size box, where the caramel corn had different size packages and add-in options.

For side hustlers, we’re seeing the power of the shrinking menu in the rise of productized service businesses, in specialized freelancing, and in single-use apps.

Offer Some Lower Tier Price Options

The least expensive thing I spotted on the menu was $10, and normally I’d be all about going for the higher price points.

But think about it from the customer perspective. If the average order is going to be $20 regardless, I’m a much happier customer walking away with 4 or 5 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies (Samoas, baby) than I am with 1 bag of caramel corn.

There’s more perceived value because I got more stuff!

The simplified menu and lower price points encourage sampling, multiples, and may even result in higher average order values as people are encouraged to add “just one more” box because it’s not that much more money.

In my painting business, I remember taking on some smaller jobs (decks, trim, pressure washing, etc.) because it would give me an “in” into a neighborhood. If we did an awesome job, maybe we could plant a yard sign out front, score a reference letter, or even earn a referral.

Make It “A Thing”

This one is hard to explain, but Girl Scout Cookies are definitely a thing.

Cub Scout caramel corn? Not a thing.

My take? If I was going to insist on selling food as a fundraiser, I’d try and sell something “scouting” or outdoor-related.

Trail mix.

Beef jerky.


But it doesn’t have to be food at all. How about some emergency preparedness kits? Or a service? Our troop collected people’s Christmas trees the first week of January.

People actually look forward to Girl Scout Cookie season. That’s how powerful a thing it is. That’s the kind of pull you need behind your brand to make a successful fundraiser year after year.

The Girl Scouts have managed to turn a commodity product (cookies) into a thing, which isn’t easy to do. Think of that in terms of your side hustle — are you positioning yourself as the ONLY reasonable choice for the product or service you offer.

After all, the Girl Scouts have a monopoly on Girl Scout Cookies, just like you should aim to have a monopoly on your service in the eyes of your customers.

There’s no one else who can get the job done like you!

The Bottom Line

Girl Scout Cookies are a $700 million a year business. (source)

I couldn’t find any data on the Cub Scout’s popcorn business.

Sorry fellas, the ladies win this round, hands down!

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21 thoughts on “Girl Scouts Are Better Hustlers Than Cub Scouts – And What It Means For Your Business”

  1. This is a perfect illustration of distinguishing your brand. I was a girl scout and, even though people love those cookies, we did hustle hard door to door for hours on end. It was a rite of passage and badge of honor to sell as many cookies as possible. And, the limited availability of the cookies certainly serves to heighten their popularity as well.

    • I don’t remember doing to popcorn sales when I was in scouts. We did Christmas tree pickups as a fundraiser and “scouting for food” as a charity thing. Maybe we did the popcorn thing too but just never made it a huge priority.

  2. Girl scout cookie time is a great time for our girls and for business. The cookie program does teach our girls many skills that can later be utilized as an adult. Girls ages 5-18 and in grades K-12th are amazing at selling cookies and it is the largest girl led business in the world. We do very well in the business. Yes, Cookies only come once a year and this is the reason to stock up on them. Please continue to support these young girls.

    • Cub Scouts & Boy Scouts are all but forced to sell popcorn, if they don’t the local council gets irritated because the “70%” doesn’t go to the kids it goes to the council. The kids doing the selling get somewhere between 3-10% to go into there account. If the Troop or Pack decide to do anything else the council gets irritated because they don’t get there share.

  3. my som is a fitst year scout went door to door selling popcorn and raised 1900 in sales but it is much harder to sell popcorn vs cookies alot of people heard popcorn and got turned off so just on that alone it would make it easier for girls scouts to be better hustlers give boy scouts chocolate bars and see what a difference it would make i also have a first year girl scout sp i will see what a difference it makes

  4. Great analogy, as a former girl scout (who hated selling cookies) lol this does offer a great perspective on making sure to focus on the benefit. I don’t think I ever paid much attention to what selling those cookies was supposed to teach me but at least I knew there were going to be sweets in the house for a few weeks, at the time that was all the benefit I needed :-)

  5. As both a parent of a cub scooter and a daisy scout, I get to live in both worlds.

    Girl Scouts have it easier and yes there is pressure to sell since it is a major fundraiser for the council.

    Facts on the finances: 30% goes to the Pack, 40% goes to council and 30% goes to Trails End.

    With the cookies a far smaller portion goes to the Girl Scout Troop. I don’t know the exact numbers, but I think it is less than 20%.

  6. Just a couple of points from a Scouter involved in our councils popcorn sale.
    The 30% that you assumed is “overhead” is actually the money that goes to the popcorn company to pay for the costs of production and the salaries of the workers. It’s funny how often people forget that those folks need to be paid for their labor.

    Second. For Girl Scouts selling cookies is a requirement. The cookie sale is the major fundraiser for each GSUSA Council. For Boy Scouts the popcorn sale is just an option. Many Packs and Troops do other fundraisers from Christmas tree sales to recycling events.

  7. Girl Scouts get 69 cents a box and the girls have so much red tape to do any camping that it is no fun. Why we quit. My son joined boy scouts and it is such a better more organized organization focused on boys and activities not just cookie sales.

  8. OMG- I’ve been saying this for years or every time I’m accosted by a sweet-faced little boy and pay $20 for a little bag of marginally tasty popcorn. I want SO bad to “coach” the BoyScout leadership into a more win/win sales model…but I never do, I just hand over my $20 and leave feeling ripped off. Thanks for a great article!

  9. I didn’t even know Boy Scouts sold popcorn until my son was a Wolf Scout, and his leader said, “popcorn order forms are due Tuesday.” Wait, what?! It’s Saturday! We’re selling popcorn?!? I was livid. Instead of my son preparing something to say or ask, all we had time for was me asking my coworkers and family very quickly. Several were happy to order. They thought it cost too much, but wanted to support the good cause. I couldn’t even find information online about it. Somehow most of the Councils sell Trails End, but not us. It took a LOT of searching and work to find we sell Camp Masters. If you type Boy Scout popcorn into a search, you will not find Camp Masters. However when it all came in, the customers were very pleased with it (not portions, but quality). My mom said the trail mix she ordered was the best she’d had. My husband and boys said the microwaveable popcorn is the best also! We wish we had bought more boxes. So, with quality like that, maybe we can do better this year (we became den leaders, so now we’ll know when it’s time to sell).

  10. My daughter sold girlscout cookies, in 2017, and her troop received a whopping 50 cents a box when the cookies cost $4.00. Those girls hustle cookies but not for the local council. That’s lining someone else’s pocket.

    With popcorn, been part of that too with Cubscouts. Our pack received 37% of the sales, local council received 33% and the rest went to the popcorn manufacturer. While our pack may not have sold in dollars as much as my daughters troop, guess who made more money???

  11. For everyone who is highlighting how little a troop gets for selling cookies here is a more accurate picture. The entire profit after paying the cookie company goes to the local council, just like BSA popcorn sales do. At only $4-$5 per box it’s not a huge amount, but we make up in volume. It’s also not a requirement to sell cookies as some people have said, unless you want to do other fundraisers in addition to cookies.

    I do think the price point for popcorn hurts the boys though. Their strategy is to get in front of more people to maximize the number of people who can say yes. Only 1 in 3 will say yes. Not bad, but $4 box of cookies is a much easier sell and takes less time to get to your goal.

  12. I have two boys in boyscouts and we are so embarrassed selling that terrible popcorn to family. The product is overpriced and horrible quality. We just call it a donation for bsa. As a marketer, I wish I could tell the popcorn manufacturer how to improve the product – smaller single serve packaging sizes, lower price points, better flavor variety, and improved packaging design. I wish bsa could just find a different manufacturer for fundraising.


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