Meet 6-year-old Stella Vanwhy. She joined the Girl Scouts just 5 months ago and is already a cookie entrepreneur managing her first sale and a very big goal: sell 4,040 boxes by January 31. To make sure this happens, the young scientist and cat mom with high functioning autism and severe OCD has been bravely pushing through her fears by going door-to-door, talking to strangers, and shaking hands every single day, all so she and her mighty troop of six can fund some very big plans for themselves and their community.
Stella is part of Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania, Daisy Troop 28043 in Pittsburgh. Because in-person sales can be extremely difficult for her, the blossoming Cookie CEO is covering all her bases compliments of a strategic business plan she put together with the help of her mom, Alicia Phillips. Building on her strengths, Stella is now overseeing an impressive operation designed to turn every opportunity into an order. She uses maps to cross off the streets she’s covered on-foot with her mom; she makes door hangers that she leaves on unanswered doors, then returns to collect; she hands out business cards with her contact info and QR code that links to her digital cookie site to promote online orders.
“This is not her comfort zone. Stella has some serious struggles that require intervention and medication. So while people see a little girl selling cookies, I see a strong girl facing her worst fears over and over again,” Alicia told WYSK. “She still stops sometimes and asks me, ‘What if these people don’t like me? What if they think I’m weird? What if…? What if…? What if…?’ But after the 100th door, that’s calmed down, and Stella is becoming less afraid and more confident.”
At the close of business each day, Stella excitedly tracks her sales by coloring in the Rocket Ship Goal Keeper she made for herself. And she’s been coloring her way to success even faster, of late, because of the attention (and orders) this commercial Stella scripted and helped edit is generating on social media.
So why would a brand new Girl Scout with a cookie start-up set the bar so high her first-time out? She’s driven by a purpose-filled and purposeful mission: “I want to go camping with my new friends,” Stella told WYSK, “and because my troop leader Chelsea [Stone] told me 2020 was too many!” As Alicia, also the troop’s co-leader, explains it, Chelsea was simply trying to manage entrepreneurial expectations and potential disappointment when Stella initially proposed selling 2,020 boxes. But the tenacious ‘Titan of Trefoils’ took her well-intentioned troop leader’s guidance as a personal challenge, instantly doubling her goal number to 4,040, even more fired up to hit it.
At the time of our story publishing, Stella has sold over 1,500 boxes, and she’s got 9 days left to get to goal. In addition to funding that dream camping trip for her and her friends, the money raised through Stella’s cookie sales will help Troop 28043 execute six new community service projects they’ve come up with (i.e. “clean up the river”).
Stella says she’ll be “happy” if sells 4,040 boxes of cookies, but her mom is deeply content and grateful knowing just how much her daughter has already gained and accomplished. “Stella did not have any real friends before Girl Scouts. It was a real problem and fed the little monster in her brain that convinced her she was unworthy, unlikable and sometimes even unlovable.” Alicia added, “These girls, this troop, this cookie sale may be the best thing that’s ever happened to her. Stella has a sense of community now, friendship, and in addition to a booming cookie business has built a sense of self-worth.”