It's the most wonderful time of the year. For cookie lovers, at least. That's right, Girl Scout Cookies season is upon us -- when eager tweens in green polyester uniforms guilt us into buying countless boxes of Thin Mints and Tagalongs. (OK, let's face it, some of us don't need too much persuading.)
But for the young, eager girls who embark on their first real-world sales calls, the experience often marks their first foray into the entrepreneurial world -- much like the time-honored lemonade stand tradition during the summer months. In recent years, these cookie "kidtrepreneurs" have become quite resourceful. Already this year, we've heard stories about some Girl Scouts incorporating credit card swipers into their operations and others setting up popup shops in New York.
Laying claim to the most boxes sold is a noble pursuit, but this is of course intended to be a learning experience that just might spark future entrepreneurial ventures. After all, how many times have we heard successful entrepreneurs reflect on their paper routes, lawn-mowing jobs and other early pursuits as experiences that helped define their careers?
With that in mind, we asked our Board of Directors to share their best advice with future cookie magnates and other young entrepreneurs. Parents, take notice -- you could have the next Richard Branson on your hands.
Co-Founder And Chief Innovation Officer, UpSpring Baby
"As the mother of a Girl Scout, I am probably my child's best customer, as I can't stop eating the Lemonades and Thin Mints in her stash of cookies. My advice is through experience. My 10-year-old daughter and I are currently working on a business that we can launch together. My thought is if she is working on a business she is passionate about, she will want to come home from school and check what she sold for the day and help pack and ship our product as opposed to getting into trouble or watching too much TV. We held our first product design meeting in her school cafeteria. She treated the designer and myself to the large rectangular pizza they were serving that day and we laid out our product specs so he could quote the job. Still early stages, but has been a great experience so far."
Tom SzakyFounder, TerraCycle
"Have fun and enjoy the art of serving people's needs through your ideas and actions. Don't worry at all about the money you may make. If you enjoy your work and your clients are happy, then money will generally follow."
Dylan LaurenFounder, Dylan's Candy Bar
"My love for candy began when I was a child and it was always my dream to own my own candy store, so the best advice I can give is to never give up on your dream. It's important to understand what makes you happy and then develop that passion into a career."
Bob ParsonsFounder And CEO, The Go Daddy Group
"Identify what you love and have fun doing. Having passion for your projects is critical, whether you are selling Girl Scout Cookies or running a billion-dollar Internet company. My dad always told me, when you love something, it tells you all its secrets!"
Elizabeth Busch, Anne Frey-Mott And Beckie JankiewiczCo-Founders, The Event Studio
Anne: "Kids have the most innovative and creative little minds. My advice to a kidtrepreneur -- stay true to your idea and don't let adults mucky it up."
Investor And Author Of Rule #1 And Payback Time
"First off, don't slam the door on the Girl Scouts. They're somebody's child. As for kidtrepreneuring in general, I'm completely for it. It's about the only way to get around the incredibly stupid child labor laws. They can't come down on the CEO of a company using child labor if the CEO is a child, can they? Kids today mostly don't work until they are 25. If your kids are coming home from school and playing video games, you are totally messing them up. Get them out there selling something and bringing home something better than a merit badge -- money. Which you should tax at 40 percent so they can learn about how our tax system works in the bargain."
Co-Founder And Chief Brand Architect, Method
"People pay for a premium for what is scarce, so if you're selling Girl Scout Cookies during cookie season, there is plenty of competition and supply keeping prices in check. My advice would be to buy those cookies yourself and then sell a good two months after cookie season is over when we are all running out. You will have a monopoly on the market and I would gladly pay double for my Caramel deLites when I can't find a dealer."
Gary WhitehillFounder, The Relentless Foundation And New York Entrepreneur Week
"Get Square -- you can swipe Mr. and Mrs. Jones' credit cards right on the spot. Put on a smile and they won't be able to resist!"
Founder And CEO, Greenleaf Book Group
"It's not complicated. Most of the education out there tries to validate time spent learning a basic rule -- give people something they want at a reasonable fee. That can be a product (cookies, lemonade) or a service (cutting lawns, babysitting). We're all hardwired to be entrepreneurs, especially kids!"
Director, Texas Venture Labs at the University of Texas
"My advice is to the Girl Scouts, not the kids. The kids are great, but the Girl Scouts have completely over-extended the brand through over-distribution. I can't get past an intersection or a grocery store in their season without getting accosted by either a charming kid or their overly competitive parents. This on top of all the nieces and cousins I already buy from. Time to get back to the slightly hard-to-get cookies that everyone cherishes and will pay a premium for."
Founder And CEO, Nfinity
"Stay away from normal kid types jobs ('the man' already has too many rules and regulations to allow you to do business). Rather, focus on network-driven low-risk, high-yield jobs. Figure out what others won't do or don't feel like doing and then charge a premium. Then make sure to follow up with your 'customer' as to make a business out of it. Oh, and make sure you cut your mom into the gig since she is the one who gets you where you need to go. And lastly, if your business is a success, don't tell anyone. You don't want the whole neighborhood racing to market with their version of your product/service."
The original version of this article appeared on AOL Small Business on 3/17/11.