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Learning the business of selling cookies

Julia Roman, 15, spent Sunday morning at the Carroll County Agriculture Center teaching younger Girl Scouts tips and techniques she's learned during a decade of selling cookies. The Westminster resident showed them the most effective methods of selling via telephone, a technique that is often under utilized, she said.

"I'm teaching them basic strategies to make good sales," Julia said.

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Julia, whose vest was almost entirely covered by hundreds of patches earned from achieving goals in the Girl Scouts of America's various programs, was one of roughly 500 Girl Scouts who visited the agriculture center Sunday for the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland's 2015 Cookie Rally.

This was the first year the event was held in Carroll County, said Tony Roman, Julia's father and service unit manager for Community 66, which includes Westminster, Taneytown and Union Bridge.

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Scouts had a chance to become more prolific in the five skills linked to cookie selling, including money management, business ethics, people skills, decision making and goal setting, he said.

"This is not just about selling cookies, but teaching entreprenurialship, and all about business," Roman said.

Still, cookies are an integral part of the Girl Scout program and perhaps what the organization is best known for. Sylvia Stvrak, of Laurel, coordinated the planning of the event, which began six months ago, she said.

"In the past, it used to be held annually in Howard [County], but we thought it would be good to be closer to the girls here and then rotate it," Stvrak said.

The Girl Scouts of Central Maryland, one of more than 100 such councils nationwide, sold about 1.4 million boxes of cookies in 2014. Money collected is dispersed among the Girl Scout Troops and also funds the organization's programs, Stvrak said.

These cookies are mass produced at two locations in the U.S., one of which is in South Dakota and operated by ABC Bakers, said Clark Currier, director of business development for the bakery.

"We make about 6 million cases a year," Currier said. "There are 12 boxes in a case so about 72 million boxes a year."

Erin Saunders, 12, of Westminster, has been Carroll's top cookie seller for four years in a row, and each year she ups her goal. In 2014, she sold 1,118 boxes.

"There's this idea that only Brownies can sell cookies," Stvrak said. Girl Scouts are grouped by age, and a Brownie is any girl in the second or third grade. "[Erin] and other top sellers squash that."

Selling cookies encourages girls to step our of their comfort zone, Erin said, and she has not only learned how to talk to people she doesn't know, but even enjoys it.

Morgan Stolea, 12, the top seller in Howard County for three years running, agreed with Erin and said this brought her "out of my shell."

"This has changed us," Morgan said. "As little girls we were shy but now we embrace this," she said. Morgan's success has even garnered her job offers from the contracting company Whiting-Turner, Tri-Star Martial Arts, and a winery working with Turf Valley.

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Leslie Looney, 12, another Girl Scout from Howard County, said the years spent selling cookies has taught her that rejection is sometimes part of business, and she has learned to accept that graciously.

"Being able to talk to people, and whether they say yes or no, it doesn't matter," she said.

Julia said the lessons learned from selling cookies go beyond just improving social skills though.

"It teaches you a lot of life skills," she said. "It helps you grow up and leads you to being a woman one day."

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