Lisa Hall Zielinski, Director of The University of Scranton Small Business Development Center, shares entrepreneurship wisdom

By Colleen Buck

As we continue our Cookie Season here at Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania (GSHPA), we remain focused on bestowing entrepreneurship knowledge and skills upon girls to help them succeed in their cookie endeavors. As our young entrepreneurs are busy out in the field promoting and selling cookies, we got the chance to chat with former Girl Scout and entrepreneurship guru Lisa Hall Zielinski, Director of The University of Scranton Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

Zielinski kindly imparted valuable entrepreneurship advice for us to share with all of you future female business leaders, so read on to learn how to take your passion for entrepreneurship to the next level!

“I think women of all ages can do amazing things when they put their minds to it, and we can achieve more by working together.”

Lisa hall zielinski, director of the university of scranton small business development center (SBDC)
Lisa Hall Zielinski, Director of The University of Scranton Small Business Development Center (SBDC)
Lisa Hall Zielinski, Director of The University of Scranton Small Business Development Center (SBDC)

According to your online profile, you were raised in a family business. Can you describe what that experience was like and how it influenced your career path?

Growing up in my family’s automotive business, I learned a little bit about everything! I helped out with everything from finances to inventory to changing tires and rebuilding engines. I was voted Most Mechanical in my high school class – maybe not what every girl dreams of, but not every girl is the same. I learned to appreciate small businesses and how important they are to families and communities and, while I was not always clear about exactly what I wanted to do for a career, I knew small businesses would be an important part.

What are some of your responsibilities as director of The University of Scranton SBDC?

As Director of The University of Scranton Small Business Development Center (SBDC), I oversee the organization and lead an awesome team of staff and interns who provide educational programming and individual consulting to entrepreneurs in eight counties in Northeastern and Northern Tier Pennsylvania. Aside from leading the team, I manage our operation from start to finish. I make sure we are on task on every project, achieve goals and keep in compliance with all policies and grant guidelines. Collaboration is also a major part of my job, working with colleagues and partners across the region. I also teach some of our training classes, and I teach undergraduate classes in the Kania School of Management.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The people and the variety! My team, our university students, our partners and the clients we serve are what I love most about my job. I am an extrovert and get my energy from connecting with others. I also like the variety of my work. I get to do a little bit of everything and I use many of the skills and knowledge I learned through my education – leadership, marketing, psychology, accounting, math, and so on. Believe it or not, I even use algebra!

What challenges do you face in your job?

Running a nonprofit means lots of juggling. There is never enough time or funding to reach all of the people or do all of the projects. With so many people to serve, it can be really hard for me to prioritize and set boundaries and to help my team do so also.

Lisa Hall Zielinski with Tomorrow's Leaders Today (TLT) participants.
Lisa Hall Zielinski with participants of the Tomorrow’s Leaders Today (TLT) program.

Can you speak to the importance of mentorship within the field of entrepreneurship/business?

I think mentorship is positive in any field, but especially when it comes to entrepreneurship and business. Having someone else to talk to and learn from can be extremely helpful, especially when you are on your own trying to run a business. You don’t have to do everything exactly as a mentor would do, but hearing their experience and getting their input can be really helpful when it comes to overcoming challenges or pursuing opportunities.

Do you mentor any girls/women in the area of business and/or entrepreneurship?

I have worked with many women and young women over time, starting with my time at Keystone College where I ran a leadership center and continuing when I came to The University of Scranton through my work with the SBDC. I have closely mentored a handful of young women because I think it’s critically important that we help each other succeed. I think women of all ages can do amazing things when they put their minds to it, and we can achieve more by working together!

The Girl Scout Cookie Program is the largest girl-led entrepreneurial program in the world. What challenges do you think Girl Scouts face in the program that might mirror challenges adult entrepreneurs face?

No matter what your age, it’s hard work to market and sell products or services with all of the information and competition in our world today. Coming up with new and innovative ways to reach customers is something every entrepreneur should be thinking about these days and it’s not easy. The good thing is that Girl Scout Cookies are delicious! (I have two favorites, by the way, Caramel deLites and Lemonades!)

What benefits do you think entrepreneurship skills provide young girls?

I believe the skills young girls can learn through entrepreneurship are skills for life! Through entrepreneurship, girls can learn critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, innovation, self-discipline and much more. They can build skills in financial literacy and leadership and learn how to set and achieve goals. All of these things help build strengths that are important no matter what they choose to do in life. Also, we need more woman-owned businesses! Through entrepreneurship, women can create their own economic independence, create jobs for others and make a positive impact on our economy.

Lisa Hall Zielinski recognized as Northeast PA Business Journal's 2013 Top 25 Women in Business.
Lisa Hall Zielinski was recognized as one of Northeast PA Business Journal’s 2013 Top 25 Women in Business.

What advice would you give to girls interested in a career in business/entrepreneurship?

Try lots of things and don’t be afraid to fail! I keep quotes posted near my desk to create a motivating environment. This one is from Woody Allen: “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.” While most of us strive for success and want to avoid the pain of failure at all costs, I think we often learn more from our ideas that don’t work and it often leads us to come up with even better ones!

Were you a Girl Scout? If yes, can you share your favorite memory from your time as a Girl Scout?

I was a Girl Scout and my mom was a leader. I have very clear memories of meetings, specific projects and outdoor adventures. I remember towers of cookies piled in our kitchen during cookie time! I also helped my mom when my younger sister was a Daisy. In fact, the day after I got my driver’s license, I drove a car full of Daisies to the airport for a tour!

Colleen Buck is a Program Coordinator for Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania. Reach her by email at csypien@gshpa.org.

Tips and tricks for your Girl Scout Cookie Booth

By: Colleen Buck

Girl Scout Cookie Booth season is just around the corner! Booths are a great way to increase troop sales while having a fun time. To have a successful booth, it is important to make sure you have everything you will need the day of, including smiles and excited girls! While we have had to adjust the way we hold cookie booths in the past two seasons, it’s important to be prepared to set the troop up for success. Read on for some tried-and-true ways to help your troop have a successful cookie booth season!

Teach girls cookie booth etiquette.

Service with a smile: Don’t forget to thank your customers!

This is a very important first step for cookie booths! Girls and troops are representing Girl Scouts to both their customers as well as the location that has allowed a booth to be set up. It is important to remind girls that stores and other locations may have certain rules in place, so knowing those rules ahead of time will be helpful. Actions like running around the entrance or inside of a store may result in that location not allowing us to return in the future.

No matter what age girls are at the booth, it is also important to remember to smile and say, “Thank you!” Showing customers our Girl Scout spirit will not only encourage them to return as customers in the future, but might even help to increase sales at the booth. Making sure each girl knows the cost of each cookie, what each cookie tastes like, knowing which cookies fit certain dietary concerns and how the troop will use the money earned can help boost sales as well.

Dress for success!

Look good, feel good: wear your Girl Scout uniform with pride!

Whenever we are representing Girl Scouts we want to dress for the part! Uniforms are the perfect way to not only represent Girl Scouts as an organization, but to catch the eye of potential customers. With that said, here in Pennsylvania we all know the weather in March and April can have a mind of its own! Be sure to check the weather forecast the night before a booth, and notify families that dressing in layers is always best. Even if the start of a cookie booth is warm and sunny, the end of a shift may not be.

Dress and prepare for comfort as well. Having one or two camp chairs for girls to take short breaks in can be helpful. Standing for hours on end is difficult, so taking measures to ensure comfort is important and will help the girls recharge throughout their shifts. Similarly, having things like carpet squares to stand on, or hand warmers for pockets can provide comfort and allow for a more successful booth shift.

Create an eye-catching booth.

Advertise with flair: make your booth stand out with bright colors and signs!

Bring the customers to you by decorating the booth with vibrant colors, signs, cookie themed décor and more! This is the perfect time to let the troop’s creativity shine. Little Brownie Baker has some great ideas for booth crafts and decorations that can really help jazz up the presentation and draw in customers. Having fun with the booth and using decorations, signs and even costumes will also create a fun energy that will allow the girls to have fun and the customers to have some fun as well!

Don’t forget, cookie cases and individual cookie boxes make for some great materials to use while crafting. A cookie box pennant to hang above or on the table takes care of advertising what is being sold and checks the boxes for fun and vibrant! For even more awesome cookie booth crafts, Pinterest is also a great resource!

Have fun!

When it comes to running a cookie booth, the most important thing to remember is to have fun. Customers will naturally be drawn in to a booth where girls are energetic, smiling, conversational and happy to be there. Be prepared, create a visual booth that draws people in and remember that Cookie Season helps provide our girls with amazing skills and opportunities for the future!

Colleen Buck is a Program Coordinator for Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania. Reach her by email at csypien@gshpa.org.

GSHPA’s Cookie Story Finds Success

Janet Donovan
President and CEO
Girls Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania

A recent Associated Press story regarding unsold Girl Scout Cookies on a national level highlighted the challenges that many Girl Scout Councils faced as we emerge from a nationwide pandemic. This was not the story for Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania.

Like many nonprofits and businesses, Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania (GSHPA) was not immune to the trials COVID-19 forced upon our organization.

But we met those challenges and in many ways exceeded our goals. Our Girl Scouts thought like entrepreneurs. We found creative and innovative ways to reach our membership, our volunteers and to continue to implement our important girl-led programs. Those connections were especially crucial to many girls in our membership during this time of unprecedented isolation.

GSHPA, which represents 30 counties in central and northeastern Pennsylvania, worked hard to seek out that success during this past cookie-selling season, which officially ended in April.

We are proud of our efforts!

In fact, our local inventory controls, unlike the overall theme of the AP story, were actually tighter this year than in years past.   

We did have fewer Girl Scouts participating in the program this year, but our program leadership, which collaborated with every department in our organization (as well as neighboring Girl Scout Councils), projected, budgeted and adapted appropriately.

We found new and exciting ways for our Girl Scouts to sell safely both online and in-person, which included holding traditional cookie booths.

Here are some key highlights:

·         In our S’mores Executive Club, which is an exclusive club that spotlights our brightest entrepreneurs who go above and beyond our product program efforts, the number of girls reaching that benchmark in 2019 was 94. In 2021, that number was 138, an increase of 46 percent.

·         In that same time period, our Girl Scouts increased their average number of cookie packages sold from 178 to 231.

·         When COVID hit in 2020, Girl Scouts sold about 300,000 packages that year in direct sales. This year, and under most of the same conditions, our planning paid off. Our Girl Scouts sold more than 580,000 packages.

In fact, when our council began our booth sales for 2021, we couldn’t meet the initial demand.

“Although our booth opportunities were down 50 percent this year (locations where businesses allow us to sell directly) our girls created safe and innovative ways to continue to reach their goals. During the first two weeks of our direct sales in March, we connected with a sister Girl Scout Council to purchase cookies from them so as to meet the demand of our local entrepreneurs,” said Jess Delp, GSHPA Director of Product Program and Retail.

We are also very proud of the overwhelming success of our 2021 Gift of Caring program. This council-wide service project gives our GSHPA community the chance to donate cookies to military troops overseas and other nonprofit partners.

This year, Operation Gratitude was the recipient of our Gift of Caring initiative, and we easily surpassed our goal of donating 30,000 boxes to troops. Donations were up by 60 percent! Those donations are a testament to the giving nature of our local Pennsylvania communities.

It’s important to note that all proceeds from the Girl Scout Cookie Program remain local and help to fund all of our programs: our camps, outdoor programs, STEAM, leadership training and more.

We know that we will continue to face many challenges as we tackle the rest of 2021 and plan for 2022. But the lessons learned during these past 15 months have certainly shown us that we can adapt and find success in the most trying time period in recent history.

We are grateful to note that we have a strong and resilient GSHPA community to thank for our support as we move forward and we thank the central Pennsylvania community. Your support allowed us to experience the success that we enjoyed.

How you can help

GSHPA has received questions regarding how to reduce the excess cookie inventory of our sister Girl Scout Councils. We appreciate your outpouring of support!

To help, please visit digitalcookie.girlscouts.org/scout/girlscouts2021 where you can donate cookies to first responders, food banks, and other worthy causes. In addition to helping other Girl Scout Councils with their cookie inventory, part of your donation will support local GSHPA Girl Scout Troops as well.

Thank you!