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Minting Success: Medina found spark in cookie sales

Girl Scout Cookies

The 2018 Girl Scouts cookie sales program continues through Feb. 25. As part of the program, Cookies NOW! was held Jan. 12-13 at the Fort Worth Zoo. About 3,500 Girl Scouts picked up more than 500,000 boxes of cookies to jump-start their cookie business.

To locate cookie booths in your area: www.girlscoutcookies.org

Those of us who order Girl Scout Cookies annually know what time of year it is. Those delicious Thin Mints or whatever flavor is your favorite are on their way to your door.

And for some, selling Girl Scout Cookies has been the start of what later became a successful business career. Take, for example, Susan K. Medina, founder of SKM Communication Strategies, a company she started 16 years ago while living in Houston.

She moved her business to Fort Worth in 2004. She and her public relations firm have worked on a variety of projects of historical significance, including the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon explosion and the $14 billion TransCanada Keystone Pipeline project.

Medina, who said she just joined the “50 club” in age, grew up in the small Czech community of Taylor – her maiden name is Karkoska – about 30 miles east of Austin. Her dad died when she was 12, so they left Taylor and moved to Corpus Christi to be close to her grandparents.

“I started my Scouting experience as a Brownie and then went on to be a Girl Scout for another few years. I just loved it and have such fond memories,” she said.

Medina’s never forgotten the influence being a Scout had on her. She recently talked to the Fort Worth Business Press about parts of her life in which Scouting has played a significant role.

Your first taste of being an entrepreneur came as a Girl Scout. Can you tell me about your cookie sales/business and its success?

Selling cookies might just be the thing that sparked the competitive spirit in me. Once we knew the cookies were coming, I recall sitting at the kitchen table with my mom and making a list of friends and family we would “target” for my cookie sales. No one was off limits.

I remember wanting to sell cookies at church and my mom saying, “That might not be a good idea.” After making those key phone calls to friends and family, I sold cookies door-to-door as well as in front of the Piggly Wiggly in my hometown. At that age, you don’t realize that you’ve just developed your first marketing strategy with various levels of selling techniques and targets.

What role has Girl Scouts played in your life and does what you learned continue to inspire you today?

I recall our troop leaders – my mom included – were always prepared and so very organized. There was always a list.

For example, we had to be extremely prepared for our camping trips, and we each had a check list for our camping supplies. There are definitely some key elements to camping that you don’t ever want to forget when you are literally out in the woods.

A big Girl Scout mantra is to always be prepared, which helps you start thinking about what might be ahead and the steps you need to take in any given situation.

Being a leader was a phrase we heard often during meetings and outings. Be a leader and not a follower. That resonated with me so much back then and still does today. We’re now teaching that to our 5-year-old daughter.

So many elements and experiences parlay us into who we ultimately become and what we do professionally. To have had an opportunity to be a Girl Scout early on – learning invaluable leadership skills along with confidence and self-assuredness – what a gift that was.

Do you recall what badges you earned as a Girl Scout?

Some of the most memorable badges I earned were sewing, cooking, camping, first aid, community volunteer and gardening. I recall that my grandmother – who is no longer living – taught me how to sew and she helped me earn my badge by directing me through the steps to make a patchwork quilt for my parents’ anniversary. My mom still has that poor little quilt, and it’s a lovely memory that I have with my grandmother.

Are you still involved in Scouting in any way?

Actually, our daughter is just old enough to start her Girl Scout experience, so we will be doing that soon. I keep telling her about all of my Girl Scout “adventures” and she’s excited to become one.

What are the goals ahead for your company?

While my business goals have changed over the years, my commitment to integrity, honesty and offering the best strategic counsel to clients has not. I’m very fortunate that most of my client base are referrals, and if I don’t think a potential client is a good fit I will recommend them to a colleague.

SKM’s client roster is one I’m very proud of and am fortunate to have been a part of many historic projects over the years. I think it’s important to have fun and enjoy what you do every day professionally. If you aren’t having fun and staying challenged, it might be time to reassess. My goal is to continue to work with clients and people I enjoy, while having time to dedicate to my family. I’m blessed to have the support of my husband and our daughter.

Any additional thoughts?

With the level of social pressures our girls are faced with these days – so much more than when I was growing up – I think the more leadership opportunities and fundamental skills we can teach our girls the better equipped they will be to be successful and stay on the right track.

Girl Scouts offers a leadership training structure for girls at a very young age that they might not be exposed to otherwise. To learn goal-setting, preparedness, life skills and the importance of community involvement at such a young age – these are invaluable life lessons.

There are so many successful women who were Girl Scouts: Madeleine Albright, Mary Tyler Moore, Sally Ride, Venus Williams, Barbara Walters, Katie Couric, Taylor Swift … and the list goes on.

When I hear that these women were Girl Scouts, I feel an immediate kinship, knowing that we have shared experiences that have shaped us into the women we’ve become. It’s a powerful thing.

There’s a song that you learn in Girl Scouts and we’d sing it at meetings and around the campfire. It has stuck with me all these years:

Make new friends

But keep the old.

One is silver

And the other’s gold.

What a great philosophy to garner in our personal and professional relationships. Many people don’t value their relationships and as a former boss always told me, “You might be my boss one day.” And she was right. We never know what the future has in store or who’s going to have a role in it. Always value your relationships.

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