Most Girl Scouts who are named top seller are one-and-done. But Aly Gustavson is not most Girl Scouts.
The 12-year-old from Lynnwood is the top seller among the Girl Scouts of Western Washington — again.
“It feels amazing,” Aly said. “I’m really grateful, honestly, because I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my customers.”
This year, 15,108 girls in Western Washington sold 4.1 million packages. Forty-five girls sold 2,000 or more boxes and 606 girls sold more than 1,000 boxes.
Aly sold the most with 3,500 boxes of cookies. And she might have sold even more, if not for the pandemic.
Her goal was to sell a hundred more boxes of Girl Scout cookies than last year. She sold 3,200 boxes in 2019.
But the seventh-grader who attends Edmonds Heights K-12 didn’t stop after selling 100 more. She never does.
A Girl Scout since she was in kindergarten, Aly has been the top cookie-seller of her troop for seven years running. Her first year, she sold 500 boxes. The second year, she sold 1,200 boxes. The third year, she sold 1,600 boxes. She sold 1,900 boxes her fourth year, 2,300 her fifth year and 3,200 her sixth year.
All together, Aly’s troop, Lynnwood Troop 43866, made up of 11 Cadette Girl Scouts in sixth and seventh grades, sold more than 9,500 boxes of cookies this year, earning their troop $8,000 in cookie dough to go toward earning badges, Girl Scout camp and other troop travel.
As the top cookie seller, Aly has earned a long list of prizes.
Here is just a sample: A custom Vans backpack. A trip to Girl Scout horse camp. An iPad Air computer tablet.
Most of Aly’s cookie sales are thanks to repeat customers. Some have been ordering cookies from her since she was 5.
Aly’s father and troop leader Elliott Gustavson said presales have been key to his daughter nabbing that top spot two years in a row. He said most of the girls in Western Washington don’t do presales because it requires them to go door-to-door. They prefer cookie-booth sales in front of local grocery stores.
“We had to maintain social distancing and hand sanitize every five minutes,” Aly said of selling cookies during the pandemic. “Well, we were supposed to sanitize between each customer, but I was obsessive.”
Preorders may be more work, but they pay off for Aly. Of the 3,500 boxes sold, 1,500 were in presales.
Each year, Elliott and Bethany Gustavson, who also share cookie manager duties for the troop, sit down with their daughter and come up with a new sales plan for cookie season. This year, they added a QR code to the door hangers Aly designed herself.
Aly’s door hangers ask last year’s customers if they’d like the same order again. If they want to change their order, they check a box. The QR code takes them to a website for ordering cookies that she built with her father. She also gives out business cards, takes orders with an app on her tablet, makes phone calls and sends emails.
Cookie season was cut short this year because of the novel coronavirus. Girl Scouts had to suspend door-to-door and booth sales to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“I was going to have another three booths, which would have upped my numbers even more,” Aly said. “But COVID.”
Then the season was extended by another 45 days — via online sales only. But there were still 300,000 boxes of cookies left over from the season.
So Bartell Drugs offered to partner with the Girl Scouts of Western Washington to help sell the surplus. Girl Scout cookies were on Bartell’s shelves through July 31.
“We want to thank all our cookie sellers this year, as it was quite a challenging road for them, with our public sale halting and then moving to digital,” said Stefanie Ellis, spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts of Western Washington. “And to see how creative they got, and how Aly and other top sellers still found a way to reach their goals. That’s entrepreneurship in action, and we’re so proud of Aly and all our cookie bosses out there.”
The retailer’s help was essential for the Girl Scouts to avoid budget cuts at the troop level, Bethany Gustavson said.
“While Aly sold until they closed us down, there were a lot of girls, for various health concerns, who stopped selling a lot earlier,” she said. “So it’s been great that Bartell’s stepped up and really helped out so we could still get close to what was projected. We’re trying really hard to have it not affect us at the troop level.”
After spending about 150 hours selling and delivering cookies, Aly is happy to get back to earning badges.
Troop 43866 now earns Girl Scout badges through a “subscription box” model. They meet via Zoom and go through activity boxes that the Gustavsons package and deliver themselves.
“That’s how our troop decided to move forward and stay connected,” Bethany Gustavson said.
At a recent virtual troop meeting, the girls each planted a Western larch, made their own pear sauce, bound handmade books, studied tree rings and pressed flowers. They earned a Cadette tree badge for finishing their projects.
Aly is waiting to set her cookie-selling goal for next year because of the uncertainty of the pandemic. If cookie season isn’t canceled because of the virus, she’ll make it a hundred more than the last year.
That means 3,600 boxes.
Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @sarabruestle.