Commentaries
1:00 am
Fri March 30, 2012

Merrie Spaeth: The Girl Scouts At 100

Amid the annual cookie sales, the Girl Scouts are celebrating their centennial this year. The organization has evolved during that time, and commentator Merrie Spaeth likes some of the recent changes.

As the Girl Scouts turn 100, they are modernizing their program and their image and their badges. I see the Girls Scouts as reason to be optimistic about our country’s future. Sure, we’re borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend, and we’re trillions in debt. But the next generation of Girl Scouts is getting ready to tackle those problems head on. Brownie-age girls can get a Money Manager badge, and older girls can get badges in how to read a profit and loss statement. The cookie business is a $700 million business for the Girl Scouts, and I’ll bet they’re not relying on deficit spending and borrowing.

I’m not the only one who thinks the Girl Scouts have found a winning formula. They’re attracting support from a wide variety of sources. Redfish.com, an online men’s magazine with an emphasis on finance, just announced their support of the Girl Scouts, specifically mentioning new badges for topics like good credit and budgeting.

True, there are some badges I’m a little less sure of: the 1987 “fashion and makeover” badge is out, although some legacy badges from the very beginning, like First Aid, are still in. The “room makeover” badge is pale orange. Well, I guess if you learn to budget and have good credit, you’re entitled to make over a few rooms.

There are badges in science, engineering, technology and math and politically correct badges like “locavore,” how to source food locally. But I’m most excited about encouraging these girls to become entrepreneurs to start and grow enterprises, not just so they can make money but because this is how we address our most pressing problem, creating jobs particularly for people who are unemployed or underemployed. The Girls Scouts will be in good company in thinking that enterprise can get our country back on track. Recently, Black Entertainment, BET, founder Robert Johnson told PBS host Rick Edelman, “I’m a serial entrepreneur…I believe fundamentally there’s a business solution to every social problem.” I agree.

Not everyone is happy with the Girl Scouts. Extremely conservative groups like the Family Research Council are urging “just say no” to the cookie selling legions. The Council charges that the Scouts are pro choice, and they’ve documented some locally questionable decisions at a website, 100questionsforthegirlscouts.org. But I say, “buy the cookies” and trust Mr. Johnson.

The Scouts’ badges about starting and running a business will teach them that the word “profit” is an important part of getting ready for next year’s cookie sales. The Scouts are joining a host of other organizations which encourage and foster teen age businesses: the National Foundation For Teaching Entrepreneurship, the Generation E Institute, Marketplace for Kids and many others. The Washington Post reports that student entrepreneurship in college is on the rise, in part because of the economy, and in part because the internet has created opportunities for new markets and new thinking.

As a small business founder and owner, and as someone who sold cookies as a Brownie myself, I say – you go girls! If you risk your capital and are successful, whether it’s cookies in a box or cookie cutters over the internet, you get rewarded and we applaud you. The badge is just the public acknowledgement.

Now, who ate my thin mints?

Merrie Spaeth is a communications consultant based in Dallas.