A version of this story appears in Monday’s Your Life section of The Oklahoman.
Oklahoma Girl Scout savors great experiences during record-breaking run
Katie Francis, 12, of Oklahoma City, last month broke the long-standing national record for most Girl Scout cookies sold in a single year. In 59 days, she sold 21,477 boxes of the tasty treats.
After 59 straight days of towing wagonloads of tasty treats in the wind, snow and ice, singing and dancing through booth sales and honing her sales pitches, Katie Francis didn’t just break the national record for selling the most Girl Scout cookies.
She crumbled it.
The Hefner Middle School sixth-grader recently made news from coast to coast when she smashed the long-standing mark for most Girl Scout cookies sold in a year. In the 1980s, Elizabeth Brinton, who became known as the “Cookie Queen,” sold 18,000 boxes of the tasty treats in a single cookie season.
“When I was out selling, there were a lot of people (who) said, ‘Did you know that the Girl Scout that beat the world record is in Oklahoma?’ And I said, ‘That’s me’ … and they got really excited,” she said with a smile. “I was really, really surprised, but I really liked all the attention.”
By the time this year’s cookie sale ended on March 30, Katie had sold 21,477 boxes of popular Thin Mints, her favorite Samoas and other tasty treats. Along with setting the record, the Oklahoma City girl took her first trip to New York City for television interviews, toured the national Girl Scout headquarters and even got to sign autographs.
“Several people that I’ve met through the sale, they’ve wanted to take a picture with me, and sometimes I even sign their box. Sometimes people might ask for me to write what number box it is,” she said.
“During the sale, I meet so many people that are very, very kind. Everybody in Oklahoma is just so supportive, and I couldn’t do it without them. It’s a great experience for me. I learn so many special things that without it I wouldn’t be able to.”
Along with raising funds for Girl Scout councils and troops, the cookie program teaches youngsters five essential life skills: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics.
“We’re very proud of Katie and all the girls that have sold cookies this year. The cookie sale isn’t just about cookies. Girls learn many skills they will use for the rest of their lives,” said Elizabeth Caldwell, Communications Specialist with Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma.
Katie isn’t the only Oklahoma Girl Scout who surpassed her lofty cookie-selling goals: Sisters Alyson and Olivia Walker of Midwest City are both top sellers who moved more than 2,000 boxes. Brownie Sophia Iverson of Edmond not only made her goal of getting to Camp Samoa, the top cookie seller camp, she helped two friends reach that mark, too. And Troop No. 633 in Northwest Oklahoma City dedicated their cookie sale funds to filling backpacks to donate to Positive Tomorrows, a nonprofit school for homeless children.
But Katie is clearly a “Cookie Superstar,” the title she told Brinton she prefers when the Cookie Queen called the new record holder to congratulate her.
“She was really, really excited,” Katie said, adding she sought out Brinton’s advice before starting her record-breaking sales season. “When I first beat the state record, I started thinking about it, ‘OK, what can I be?’ When I heard that Elizabeth was the Cookie Queen, I thought, ‘OK, she can keep her title, and I’ll be the ‘Cookie Superstar.’”
Her first year as a Girl Scout, Katie moved a respectable 2,004 boxes, but in her second season, she sold 7,482 and broke the state sales record. Last year, she set out to smash her own mark, selling 12,428 boxes, prompting her to set her sights on Brinton’s national record.
“My original goal was 18,100, and I did that one week before the sale ended … and the total for that day was 18,107 by the end of the day,” Katie said.
“I started dancing around. I was just really, really excited. Then, we told our troop leader, and our whole entire troop just came to me – ‘cause I was at a booth sale – and they threw a party with me. They gave me cake, balloons, flowers, and they were all just really happy for me.”
The girl, who celebrated her 12th birthday last month with Thin Mint- and Samoa-flavored cupcakes, said it never occurred to her to stop selling cookies, not even when the national media offered to whisk her away to New York.
“Once I hit 18,000, I decided, ‘OK, I’ll keep on selling and see how much further I can go,’ and then I raised up my goal to 20,000. And then when I got that, I upped it up to 21,000,” she said.
“The ‘Today’ show called and wanted her the last week of the cookie sale, after (she hit) the 18,107,” added her mom, DeLee Francis.
“So, Katie had to make a decision whether she would still keep trying for the highest number or ‘Today’ show, and so she chose to keep selling.”
Katie’s record-crumbling efforts still were mentioned on “Today,” “Good Morning America” and even on the BBC.
“I got really excited and started saying, ‘Oh, the Queen could’ve heard about me!,’” Katie said with a giggle.
“It’s very possible,” her mom said, laughing with her. “Isn’t that something?”
And they still got to make Katie’s first trip to the Big Apple. After the cookie sale ended March 30, they flew to NYC to do interviews with “Fox & Friends,” “Inside Edition” and Canada’s CTV, as well as with the magazines Bon Appetit, Parents and Entrepreneur. They even made time on their four-day jaunt to visit tourist spots like the Metropolitan Library, Grand Central Station and Broadway.
“I got to go to the Girl Scouts national headquarters, and the CEO herself even let me tour her office – and that was really, really cool. I also spoke at a board meeting, and then we also went to the Girl Scout shop and museum. And we found the time to go see ‘Newsies,’ and our hotel was actually right next to Times Square, so every day we got to see that and it was really cool,” Katie said.
“It was very exciting. It was really big.”
However, the Oklahoma girl didn’t appear on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” which spoofed her success in a bit that featured an actress playing Katie. Her mom said Katie’s reaction to someone else pretending to be her on TV was comical.
“She saw it on her iPad and she pulled it up, and she didn’t know a thing about it. So she’s sitting there going, ‘Fake! It’s a fake me!,’” her mom said with a laugh.
“Now that I’ve gotten used to it – it’s actually pretty funny now,” the girl added.
Of course, she thinks her own parody is funnier: Katie accepted an invitation from Mashable.com to play herself as a cutthroat cookie peddler who has her mom read from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” and makes grown flunkies cry when their quarterly reports aren’t up to her standards in a video skit that has been shared more than 5,400 times.
“It’s like supposed to show me being really mean and harsh. But at the same time, it’s hilarious and makes me laugh a lot,” she said.
More big goals
All joking aside, Katie has big goals for her remaining Girl Scout years. The Cadette is still selling a few boxes to help her Troop No. 3469 make its lofty goal of moving more than 30,000 boxes of cookies, although sales after March 30 don’t count toward individual girl’s totals.
“Girls are allowed to start selling as soon they get cookies in hand,” Caldwell said. “And troops are allowed to sell cookies until the expiration date. … We don’t troops to be stuck with cookies because that’s part of their troop proceeds.”
Troop No. 3469, plans to donate a portion of their cookie sale proceeds to breast cancer research and animal welfare efforts, attend camp together and take a big trip, although they haven’t decided yet on a destination, DeLee Francis said.
Katie also wants to write two books: a collection of Girl Scout cookie recipes and a memoir of her cookie sale experiences, including how she crumbled the record. She’d also like to sell to a few famous folks, including Kevin Durant and Sam Bradford, and challenge Brinton’s career cookie-selling mark of 100,000 boxes.
“So I have about six more years to do that,” Katie said. “It’s a lot of hard work, but the experiences and everything I learn through it is definitely worth it. And I think it’s a ton of fun.”