Cathie Anderson

Cathie Anderson: Cookie sales drive home business lessons for Girl Scouts

Cathie Anderson
Cathie Anderson

Entrepreneurs will tell you that they learn more from failure than they ever do from their successes. That might be cold comfort for some local Girl Scouts struggling to meet their goals on cookie sales, however.

The local council, Girl Scouts Heart of Central California, has extended cookie sales by three weeks until April 6 because a number of troops faced setbacks. The rainy weather delayed outdoor table sales, while Raley’s and other retailers implemented policies prohibiting solicitors outside their doors.

“Our troop and every other troop that I have talked to ordered for their site sales by looking at historical sales volumes,” said Jeanne Vance Bradley, a troop leader in Sacramento. “We had site sales this year where we sold 24 boxes as opposed to like 80 or something last year.”

Bradley said Heart of Central California officials had told troop leaders about the new policies and provided them with alternative sites. What troop leaders and the girls learned was that Raley’s customers were simply a lot more generous, said Bradley and Antelope troop leader Debbie Von Glahn.

“We ended up with 61 boxes, which our troop fund paid for,” Bradley said. “We’re out the 4 bucks per box. In years past, we’ve been left with zero. Girls earn 60 cents a box, so if they have to pay $3.40 times 61 boxes, that is a lot coming out of their fund.”

The cookie sales fundraiser is meant to teach girls five lessons: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics. Bradley and Von Glahn say their troops will definitely adjust their sales goals next year.

Some troops are continuing to sell through the extended deadline, rather than take a hit to their budget. Scouts will earn $1 per box during the extension period. If you’re a troop leader seeking sales ideas, call the Heart of Central California office at (800) GS-COOKS.

The change in retailers’ policies is happening all around the nation, said Julie O’Donnell, the local council’s director of marketing and communications, so the Girl Scouts organization is talking about experimenting with alternatives, including Internet sales.

A competitive environment

The audacity of Jenny Tran is almost jaw-dropping. She brings a new tutoring and test prep service into the Elk Grove market, and where does she put it? Smack dab in the middle of her competition.

Step out the front door of Tran’s Best in Class Education Center at 7811 Laguna Blvd., look across the parking lot and you’ll see Kumon. Look left, in the building next door, there’s Sylvan Learning. As if that wasn’t enough competition, the shopping center next door has a Huntington Learning Center.

Tran said her confidence stems from the impact that Best in Class had on her children while they were attending San Jose schools: “After six months of lessons from Best in Class, my daughter … was able to skip one whole grade in math. Both of my children became straight-A students.”

Tran’s family moved to Elk Grove last summer to be closer to her parents, but there was no Best in Class there. After discussing it with her husband, Tran bought a franchise and opened it last Saturday. Best in Class CEO Hao Lam was at the grand opening with Tran, greeting new students and their parents.

Lam, whose corporate office is in Seattle, said some parents have been driving from the Sacramento area to Oakland on weekends to the closest Best in Class center, so they were thrilled to learn of the new location. He said he foresees opening two or three more locations in the region.

Sylvan Learning announced Monday that it, too, plans an expansion in Northern California with as many as 10 centers.

Increasingly, parents are seeking out tutors and test prep services to give their children an edge, said Susan Heredia, chair of the Department of Graduate and Professional Studies at Sacramento State.

“I had a parent who called me the other day, and she was very concerned because her son’s GPA was only a 4.1,” Heredia said. “She was very worried about him getting into the college of his choice.”

Tutoring and test prep franchises grossed $840 million in 2013, according to Agata Kaczanowska of research powerhouse IBISWorld, who said the nation’s high unemployment and increasing competition from online tutors-for-hire have reduced overall revenues for tutoring and test-prep franchises since 2008.

She said the industry is poised to grow by about 1 percent a year for the next five years.

Prices set for baseball coins

The U.S. Mint has announced prices for coins commemorating the 75th anniversary of the National Baseball Hall of Fame that go on sale Thursday. The coins feature a glove image designed by Roseville’s Oakmont High School grad Cassie McFarland. The proof silver dollar will retail for $51.95; the uncirculated clad half-dollar for $18.95; and the proof clad half-dollar for $19.95. To learn more, go to and click on the “Product Schedule” tab.

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