Like a lot of Girl Scouts, Rogers Park eighth-grader Phoebe Williams is hoping to increase her year-over-year cookie sales this season.
Here’s the thing: She sold 5,155 boxes last year. (And 5,004 the year before.)
“All of my Saturdays and Sundays and after-school days that I wasn’t doing sports or student council I was out selling cookies,” Williams, 13, told me.
She also set up a cooking-selling table decorated with signs and streamers, which she carted to various stores – Jewel, Dollar Store, Walgreens – that allowed her to set up shop.
“I’m a very competitive person,” she said. “I always want to do more. I want to sell 200 more this year than last year and see if I can put the money toward a college fund or a local food pantry. Something that gives me and the people around me a chance to experience new things.”
The proceeds from Girl Scout cookie sales are passed on to individual Girl Scout councils and troops, who then decide how to spend the money – travel opportunities, group activities, donations to a chosen cause.
“The cookie program is the largest entrepreneurship program in the country for girls,” said Nancy Wright, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana. “It teaches them about financial literacy, setting budgets, reaching targets, thinking about the future. They’re running their own business.”
And Williams, by all accounts, is a boss. Her past sales figures earned her the title “Cookie CEO,” which means she spent Columbus Day at Wright’s office, along with other top sellers, shadowing the actual CEO.
“Phoebe is so well-spoken and confident,” Wright said. “One of the joys of my job is meeting these amazing young women. They’re so hungry and eager and curious. They’re just brilliant. Phoebe is brilliant.”
Williams has six siblings – five older and one younger. Girl Scouts gives her a space to carve out her own identity and use it to set an example for others, her mom, Autumn, told me.
“She’s one of the older Girl Scouts – a lot of them lose interest by now,” Autumn Williams said. “So to see her recognize the impact she can have and make every effort to be kind and helpful and supportive to the younger girls, with absolutely zero prompting, it’s just so much fun.”
Her Cookie CEO gig also landed her in the spotlight at Allstate Arena recently, when 5,000 or so people gathered to watch Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana compete for the official Guinness World Record for most cookies dunked in milk at one time.
They clinched the record, dunking 3,236 cookies simultaneously and beating out the previous record of 1,800, which was set in India.
Williams dropped the puck for a Chicago Wolves game that took place after the Girl Scouts event and posed for photos with Scouts and their families.
“It was wonderful to watch her in her element and see her so proud of the choices she’s making,” Autumn Williams said.
If your workplace and your social media feeds are anything like mine, you know that cookie sales are well and truly underway right now. I love Williams’ story because it’s the human side, the happy outcome, of those sugar-fueled transactions.
“Selling cookies teaches me people skills and how to be out there with strangers in a way that’s safe, but also allows me to represent myself and show people who I really am,” Williams said.
She wants to open her own diner when she’s older, where she can put some of those skills to work.
“I want to go to business school first and then get a job, so I can pay my way through culinary school and then go open up my diner,” she said. “I don’t really know where. I just want it to be a place where I have regulars, like people who I really get to know.”
I look forward to visiting.
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