BENJAMIN WEY: Girl Scouts Cookies Are Delicious — and Digital

Journalist Benjamin Wey applauds Girl Scouts for its newly announced "Digital Cookie" app — and helping teach young women valuable business skills.

Journalist Benjamin Wey applauds Girl Scouts for its newly announced ‘Digital Cookie’ app — and helping teach young women valuable business skills.

Technology has disrupted business the last couple of decades in unprecedented ways. If you are in business, you have a choice: You can either embrace the technology and adapt it to your needs, or you can get steamrolled by it. This is also true in the non-profit sector, where people aren’t as bottom-line driven as their for-profit counterparts. Technology can either enhance fundraising or really put a dent in it. So I, Benjamin Wey, applaud the Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA) for embracing the change with its “Digital Cookie” tool.

This app goes live on Friday, Dec. 12, and the press release from GSUSA explains, “Marking the first national digital platform in the history of the iconic cookie program, this revolutionary enhancement adds a digital layer that expands and strengthens the ways girls learn the essential 5 Skills of goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics. The future of the Girl Scout Cookie Program, Digital Cookie will introduce vital 21st-century lessons about online marketing, app usage, and ecommerce to more than 1 million excited Girl Scouts who will be in the driver’s seat of their own digital cookie businesses.”

As an entrepreneur, this makes me incredibly happy for a number of reasons:

1: Women still lag behind men in technology careers …

… and that is largely due to inadequate exposure in ways that make technology useful to them. As a result, we are throwing away talent before it even gets a chance to develop, and I, Benjamin Wey, think that’s beyond wasteful, it’s a damn shame.

The GSUSA press release also noted, “Thanks to the Girl Scout Cookie Program, over two-thirds of female CEOs on the Fortune 500 list learned basic business acumen by selling Girl Scout Cookies. Yet just 21 percent of chief information officers at Fortune 100 companies are women, and an even smaller number are CEOs of firms engaged in science, engineering, technology, or mathematics, known as the STEM fields.”

2. As an American by choice, I have a soft spot for the Girl Scout’s annual cookie sale.

There isn’t much that says “America” louder and more positively than the way these girls have sold Thin Mints and Shortbreads to fund their activities. “Get up and do things for yourself” is a valuable lesson, and to learn it at such a young age prepares them for success later in life.

3: It bothers me a great deal to think what would happen to these kids if the Girls Scouts weren’t there.

Everybody needs a passion and a place to belong, and some kids get it from sports, others from music and art and some from scouting. Some of our social troubles would be worse if scouting suffered financially.

What impresses me is the way the GSUSA has grabbed this opportunity with both hands. Digital Cookie actually offers two different platforms. “Some girls will market their online cookie business by inviting customers via email to visit their personalized cookie websites. There, consumers can order cookies from the comfort of their living room. Other girls will take in-person orders using a unique mobile app newly enhanced to allow for credit card processing and direct shipping, in addition to directing customers to a non-personalized website where cookies can be purchased.”

Another point is that technology doesn’t stay rooted in place, and GSUSA knows it. This is “an initial phase of a program that will progress over time. Future versions of Digital Cookie will see improved user experiences for girls and customers alike and a more robust customer interface. The majority of the 112 Girl Scout councils nationwide are participating in Digital Cookie during the 2014–2015 cookie season, with additional councils expected to be on board by the end of 2015, using an updated ‘version 2.0’.”

Anna Maria Chávez, CEO of GSUSA, said, “Digital Cookie is a game-changer for Girl Scouts, and a quantum leap forward in the evolution of the cookie program, coupling traditional sales activities with an online sales experience that teaches skills like online marketing and ecommerce, all in a digital space that puts an emphasis on learning, fun, and safety. If you buy Girl Scout Cookies online this year, you could be helping to prepare the next female leader of a global tech giant who changes our world forever.”

The Girl Scouts — all that and a box of cookies.

Benjamin Wey is a financier, investigative journalist, professor and a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine and other media outlets.

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