Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cadettes Business Plan: Marshmallow Shooters

Recently my girls earned the "Business Plan" badge.  Girl Scouts designed this badge to be related to cookie sales, but my girls after selling cookies for the past 6 years groan any time I create meetings around cookie sales.  By Cadette level most girls have the concept of cookie selling down.  So in true Shannan fashion my concept for the "Business Plan" badge is a little less orthodox, but in no way any less rewarding, fun or educational.  In fact, this may have been their most favorite meeting to date!

I knew this badge had been successful when I had another leader contact me a few short hours after my meeting to tell me her girls were jealous of what we did at our meeting.  That tells me the girls were talking and excited!

Over the summer, while visiting our little lake place in Austin, we went to an old fashion soapbox derby.  While watching the races my girls saw a man selling marshmallow shooters simply made from PVC pipe.  He was selling the smaller guns for $10 and the more intricate, larger guns for $15.  The guns had been rudely painted with spray paint.  My girls were enamored by the guns.  Kids were shooting off mini marshmallows and having a grand time playing with the shooters.  My girls begged me to buy a gun and I told them, we could easily make one of our own for half the price.  At that moment I realized what a great GS project this would be for the older girls!

In my view, the Business Plan badge is all about creating a product or service and developing a business plan for marketing it.  When I began creating my schedule for this school year I remembered the Marshmallow Shooters and the Business Plan Badge seemed the perfect fit for this project.  Here is how I ran my meeting:

I asked the girls if they ever dreamed of making a product, marketing it and watching the millions of dollars stream in.  Next, we talked about young entrepreneurs and I asked the girls to name products that have been produced and marketed by young girls.  The girls mentioned silly bands, bottle cap necklaces and the bacon maker, all produced by young girls.  I then told the girls we are going to hypothetically market and design a business around Marshmallow Shooters.  We will build and test the product and look at ways to best market the product and discuss the barriers to sales.

I found a great Business Plan Worksheet (attached) on line which I tweaked a bit to make it more applicable to my girls and a detailed description on how to build the Marshmallow Shooters.  I purchased 5 - 10 foot 1/2 white plastic PVC piping from Home Depot and begged an employee to help me cut 15 - 8 inch sections and 90 - 5 in. sections.  (He was an extremely patient and kind man!  I plan to return to Home Depot with a photo of the girls and their completed project).  The shooters require 1 - 8in piece of pipe, 6- 5in pieces of pipe, 2 - end caps, 2 "T" connectors and 2 - elbows.  I also purchased 6 decorative rolls of duct tape to allow the girls to personalize their guns.  Duct tape is all the rage right now and was an easy, quick, inexpensive, non-messy way to customize the shooters.  Plus, it is essential that you buy a pair of goggles for safety ($1.99 Wal-Mart or $2.50 Home Depot).  The marshmallows are soft and harmless for the most part, but the guns have a surprising amount of projection and force.  The total cost of the project was about $5.00/girl.

As you work through the plan with your girls you will find that they are quite innovative and resourceful.  I asked the girls where they would sell their shooters?  Some suggested Wal-Mart, toy stores, internet and even "As Seen on TV" infomercials.  One girl suggested that the guns could be sold in crafts stores as a "do-it-yourself" project.  She noted it would take less packaging, less employees and factory work, could be sold cheaper and we could market accessories like, paint, duct tape, stickers, and/or adhesive gems to personalize the shooter - BRILLIANT!!!   A future fortune 500 business owner in the making!  So then we talked about making money from other products related to the shooters and a girl suggested we could sell targets like bulls-eyes or different colored chalk or paint which the marshmallows could be dipped in to see where the marshmallows hit on the bullseye - GENIUS!  We talked about our competition like Nerf guns and the reasons why the shooters might not sell.  The girls were well aware that guns have a bad stigma and they hope to diminish this parental concern by selling the product with goggles and writing the word "SAFE" in large print on the box.  They also wanted to capitalize on the fact that the bullets are marshmallows, easily found and soft.  We talked about how much we would sell the guns for and what our profit would be.  We created a company goal and talked about investors and what it might cost to "start" the business.

Overall this was a great activity and very educational.  The girls were extremely motivated to get involved.  We spent about a half hour discussing our Business Plan in an open forum and the girls wrote down their answers on a take-home worksheet.  We spent about 15 minutes building the shooters, I did not print out directions, I simply made a prototype and let them figure out how to build their own guns.  I think they enjoyed the challenge or puzzle of creating the guns from the prototype. The girls spent another 20 minutes decorating their shooters and then we went outside to play!  The meeting was over in the blink of an eye.  I did make time for them to help pick up the marshmallows.  I don't think the marshmallows would be good for birds and probably could create an ant fest!  Cleaning up is important and begs the reminder, "Leave No Trace," that all Girl Scouts leave their area better than when they arrived.  Just an FYI to leaders:  it takes a few tries before the girls figure out how to shoot the marshmallows and in the process you will need to sometimes take apart the guns and use a pencil to push out stuck marshmallows.  The humidity from the girls' breath and spit make the marshmallows very sticky!

How to make the shooters - very colorful, easy instructions:

or you can make your own here:

If you download my files please list your troop #, council and state in the comments area.  I love for readers to see all the active leaders in the area looking and sharing resources! Also this keeps me inspired to continue updating my posts!


  1. Hi Shannan, this is such a great alternative the Business Plan Badge. I too have Cassettes that think the same way! I would love your tweaked pdf version of the BP. Thank You!

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  3. I can't wait to do this badge at our next meeting! Thank you for the fantastic idea!

  4. As always, in a pinch to plan out another meeting during cookie season, and this was a great resource! The guns were super simple to construct and the girls were very thankful to have a subject other than cookies for once. Yes, the marshmallows are a mess, and shooting is an outside activity. Thanks!

  5. THANK YOU! I am so glad it was helpful for you. I am getting ready to d this again with my younger troop. It was a fun badge, come prep work involved but the girls loved it and that is what counts!

  6. Thank you for this great idea!! So much more hands on and concrete than the traditional badge.

  7. Troop #30067, GSNC, CA
    Thank you ... my girls are going to LOVE this!!!!

  8. My Troop LOVED this. Thank you for sharing!
    Troop 44589, GSRV, Minnesota

  9. Troop 60726, Brick, NJ

  10. THANK YOU! Troop7232 GSTETX, Coppell TX!