Tough cookie: Ashley Hoefker is 'elite' seller in annual Girl Scout drive
WORTHINGTON -- Like any good saleswoman, Ashley Hoefker is well-versed in her product line. She can rattle off all the varieties of Girl Scout cookies and give a succinct description of each one.
"When you're younger, you have the cuteness factor going for you," said Ashley, the daughter of Kenneth and Ellen Hoefker of Worthington, explaining that as she got older it was more important to be knowledgeable of her product and incorporate other sales tactics.
Ashley's devotion to her cookie sales has put her "among the elite sellers in the country," according to Girls Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys, the regional organization. River Valleys has been the No. 1 cookie seller in the country for two years running, thanks to dedicated girls such as Ashley.
Last year, Ashley sold a whopping 1,001 boxes of cookies.
Except for her very first year in Girls Scouts, Ashley has peddled the cookies every spring. She started in kindergarten as a Daisy, following in the footsteps of her mother, who enjoyed her own years in the Girl Scouts and went on to be a troop leader and service unit manager. At the Daisy level, she first earned Learning Petals and participation patches, graduating to the more difficult badges as a Brownie.
"It was just a lot of fun to earn the badges, and you get to do a lot of things you wouldn't normally do," explained Ashley about why she enjoys being part of Girl Scouts and recalling one of the more memorable experiences. "I remember in the fourth grade we took a trip to the Cities and went to Build-a-Bear Workshop, and then we did a fashion show with the bears we built."
Ashley has worked her way up through the Girl Scout levels: Junior (grades 4-5) and Cadette (grades 6-8), and as a ninth-grader is now a Senior, aiming to reach the top level of Ambassador. She earned the Bronze Award as a Junior, and the Silver Award as a Cadette, and is now working on the Gold Award -- the highest award available to Girl Scouts, similar to the Boy Scouts Eagle Award. For her service project, Ashley is serving as a leader to a local Brownie Troop.
"There are nine in my Brownie Troop," noted Ashley. "They are second- and third-graders. They just earned their first-aid badge. We had an EMT come in and talk to them, and they made little first-aid kits. They also get to go to the firehouse."
When she started out in Girl Scouts, there were 13 girls in Troop 30071 -- now Ashley is just one of three who remain active. Also involved in a number of other activities, Ashley has found it more difficult to stay involved in Girl Scouts, but she's made it a priority.
"I'm in band, choir, orchestra and take piano outside of school," listed Ashley, who plays the cello in orchestra and percussion in band. "I'm also involved in dance, the musical and church, and I'm going to go out for golf this spring."
For the recent Worthington High School musical production, "Hairspray," Ashley was active behind the scenes.
"I did the tech crew -- props, costumes and wigs," she said. "I had to go around and make sure everything was back in place for the next show."
With so much already on her plate, Ashley decided early on that she wouldn't try to break her cookie-selling record from last year. She's set a more reasonable goal of 800-plus boxes and is already well on her way there. Over the years, she's built up a network of regular customers who know to contact her when cookie time rolls around.
In her early years of cookie selling, Ashley took orders and delivered the cookies later. More recently, Girl Scouts has changed its tactics, and the cookies are immediately available. The girls set up cookie booths at local businesses in addition to making private sales.
To facilitate distribution to the Girl Scouts, this year a "Cookie Cupboard" storage area has been set up in Worthington to service all the surrounding communities.
"It's a place for the leaders to come and get cookies," explained Ellen Hoefker. "Last year we had to go to Jackson to get cookies, so this way we've been able to help out our neighboring towns."
The Hoefkers also keep an ample supply at their home, so Ashley can fill quickly fill all her customers' cookie needs.
"I'm very competitive," said Ashley about her cookie-selling success. "And when it comes to cookies, it's probably better to be competitive."
"It's just been her thing," added Ellen. "We don't know what sparked it, but she loves it. She always says, 'This is my sale.'"
Gauging how many cases of cookies to order each year is based on the previous year's sales. Last year, some unsold cookies were returned late, so the local troops handed out boxes at the King Turkey Day Parade in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts. Surplus cookies are also donated to area food shelves and the National Guard, according to the Hoefkers.
In addition to earning money for Girl Scout programs, the organization stresses that the annual cookie sale is a learning experience for the girls. It is touted as the "only girl-led real-world business skills development programs that grows with the girls," teaching them five specific business skills: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics.
Beyond cookie sales and working with her Brownie troop, Ashley feels she still has much to experience as a Girl Scout. She particularly enjoys the annual camping opportunity.
"We've been going to Camp Foster, but this year we're going to go back to Olson Park," related Ashley. "That's where we do it all ourselves, and that's my favorite. We put up our own tents, make a fire, prepare everything to cook. When I was little, the older girls would take us down by the bay, and we'd find stick and leaves and acorns and make a centerpiece for the table."
Ashley looks forward to guiding her own young troop of Brownies through the rituals of Girl Scout camp. She's also tried to impart some of the cookie-selling tips she's learned over the years, the chief one being, "Be polite. Don't push people to buy, and don't be rude."
Girl Scout Cookie sales continue through March 17. Anyone who is interested in buying cookies can contact Ashley Hoefker at 376-9638. For more information about Girl Scout opportunities, go to www.girlscoutsrv.org.