From selling cookies to CEOs
A simple task such as selling cookies can give young girls the skills they need to become leaders.
Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts in Savannah, Georgia, in 1912. It is a leadership development organization that teaches girls to have courage, confidence and character, as stated on the Girl Scouts of the USA website.
More than 1.7 million girls across the nation are members. In South Florida alone, there are over 10,000 Girl Scouts, according to the Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida. And over 100 years after the first Girl Scouts meeting, there are more than 50 million alumni across the globe.
One of those alumni, Nancy Proffitt, joined the Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida in 1960, when it was known as The Palm Glades Council. The council was the first of its kind to be chartered in Florida.
“Girl Scouts has provided me the guiding principles by which I live today,” Proffitt said.
The Girl Scouts was a place where she could be herself, while also be encouraged by mentors to try new things and take risks.
As an adult, Proffitt put those principles into practice by leaving the workforce and giving up the security of her own paycheck to become a small business owner.
Proffitt had previously worked her way up the corporate ladder to the senior executive level at FedEx over the course of 25 years. However, it was her foundation in Girl Scouts that brought her the courage she needed to become a CEO.
“Selling Girl Scout cookies helped me learn entrepreneurship, and that played a huge role in me becoming a small business owner,” Proffitt said. “Without all the skills I learned growing up as a Scout, I don’t think I would have had the guts to do that.”
In 2004, Proffitt Management Solutions was born in West Palm Beach. It’s purpose is to help small businesses be successful in reaching their goals.
Proffitt had been searching for a way to help her community, and she did exactly that by starting her own business.
“To be a valued member of society, we have to give back to it, and Scouting taught us the importance of that,” Proffitt said. “I wanted to see how I could help others make a difference in themselves.”
Lisa Johnson is the current CEO of GSSEF. Johnson grew up as a Girl Scout in Upstate New York in the ‘70s and has been with GSSEF since 1996. She was named CEO in 2016.
“I’ve been able to see an entire generation of Girl Scouts grow up and was fortunate enough to have had a front row seat to the impact that our volunteers and our program has had on girls everyday,” Johnson said.
Many of the core values she learned from the “Girl Scout Law” have helped her in her career, and now she is teaching young girls to be prepared as well.
“So many things that today’s workforce are looking for, girls are learning in Girl Scouts,” Johnson said. “The kinds of lessons and core values are spelled out so clearly in the law.”
Johnson continues to dedicate herself to the Girl Scouts and encourage young girls to pursue their passions in life.
“They should just follow their dreams because there is nothing they can’t do,” Johnson said. “I really do have the best job in the whole world.”
Whether it be selling cookies or donating socks, young Girl Scouts are learning how to be active leaders in their community.
Current Girl Scout of 11 years Amanda Kopelman has learned business, collaboration and planning skills during her time at GSSEF.
“Through these skills, I have been able to apply them to my everyday life as a leader,” Kopelman said.
She plans to be a leader in the biomedical engineering industry or a pediatric surgeon.
Fellow Girl Scout of 9 years Samantha White is planning to pursue a career as a journalist with the skills she has learned at GSSEF.
“During the cookie sale alone, we get to learn business ethics, people skills, goal setting, money management, and decision making,” White said. “The lessons I learn from the cookie sale and many of the other programs, I use every single day.”
By Morgan Therrien