Selling door-to-door isn’t always easy, but perseverance pays off.
That was one lesson two Billings Girl Scouts learned Saturday on the first official day of cookie sales for 2013.
Makayla Rockne, 9, and Baylee Erfle, 8, of Girl Scout Troop 2191, their mothers in tow, tackled a Heights neighborhood on Saturday morning to try to take orders for as many boxes as they could.
The girls, wearing their brown vests decorated with colorful badges, took turns knocking on doors. Both hoped to entice homeowners to buy a box or two.
“Hi, would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies or make a donation to the Salvation Army?” they asked when a door opened.
Baylee lucked out. At the first house, the couple bought three boxes: one each of Thin Mints, Samoas and the Do-si-dos.
Then it was Makayla’s turn. At home after home she struck out: some knocks went unanswered, some husbands said their wives buy the cookies, and at least one person just said no.
Makayla’s luck turned when she knocked on Kay Doll’s door. The older woman told Makayla to wait while she went to got her glasses.
Then Doll came outside, sat on a wooden bench and invited both Makayla and Baylee to join her.
“How much would it cost if I bought five boxes from each of you?” she asked.
When she got the correct response -- $20, since the boxes cost $4 each – Doll started picking out which types she wanted, chatting with the girls. Once she filled out the forms, her 10 boxes ordered, she bid the pair goodbye and went back inside her house.
The two girls continued on their way.
Girl Scouts around the country will continue collecting orders until Feb. 10. The cookies will be delivered in mid-March, and then sales will continue at booths set up at various locations by the troops until April 7.
That includes the 6,000-plus girls ages 5 through 18 who are part of the Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming. Bernie Steffan, product sales manager for the council, said last year alone, girls in the two states sold more than 1.2 million boxes of cookies, totaling more than $4 million in sales.
“When I look at some of our sister councils that have larger populations and way more girls, we sell even more than they do,” Steffan said on Saturday. “Our girls are incredible, and when you look at a lot of our areas, they’re rural.”
Some of the money goes to the national body, for upkeep of camps, programs and leadership training, Steffan said. Some goes to individual troops, which get to decide how they want to use the money. And some funds prizes the girls can earn, depending on how many boxes they sell.
The most popular cookies, Steffan said, are Thin Mints, Samoas and Tagalongs. The very first cookies every sold back in 1917 were the Trefoils, dainty shortbreads that are still available today.
Beyond enjoying the sweet treats, Steffan said she tries to remind people the impact the sales have.
“The big thing for us is we want our customers to know for each box of cookies they’re purchasing what they’re doing to help the girls,” she said.
Christy Rockne, Makayla’s mom and leader of Troop 2191, said the 15 girls in her group set a goal for this year to each sell 200 boxes.
“That’s enough for their membership next year and to get to go to camp,” Rockne said before the girls set out to sell some cookies.
The girls also voted to include the Salvation Army in their sales pitch. For people who can't eat sugar, they're invited to buy a box and donate to the charity's meals outreach program.
When the girls sell door to door, a parent accompanies them, Rockne said. But it’s up to the girls to close the sale.
“We say you can help your girls do networking,” she tells the parents. “But they do the ‘ask.’ ”
Tari Erfle, Baylee’s mom, is also the troop's cookie mom, helping teach the girls the skills they need to be young entrepreneurs. It’s broken into five categories: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics, Erfle said.
“It’s their own business and we want to help them to be successful,” she said.
The skills they learn now will be equally helpful as they grow into women and go on to adult careers, Erfle said.
Both of the girls already have set their personal goals. Makayla, who more than 1,000 boxes last year, hopes to sell 1,500 this year to earn a video camera. Baylee, who sold about 300 last year, hopes to sell 1,000 boxes for a critter holder for her stuffed animals.
Selling the cookies isn’t always easy, Rockne acknowledged, especially when going door to door. But she sees the girls grow through the experience.
“I like to see them have fun and I think that they really feel a sense of accomplishment when they reach their goals,” she said.