The Marketing Prodigy Returns: 5 Questions with Donovan the Popcorn Scout

The Marketing Prodigy Returns: 5 Questions with Donovan the Popcorn Scout
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Two years ago, a 10-year-old Boy Scout named Donovan came to my house selling popcorn and chocolate pretzels to raise money for the scouts and our troops. I was blown away by his presentation on his iPad, the follow-up emails and the Facebook page that he created with the help of his father. That just begins to tell the story. When Donovan returned last year, I knew I had to share the experience, so I wrote Why the Boy Scout Who Sold Me Caramel Corn is a Marketing Prodigy. I recently sat down with Donovan “The Popcorn Scout” Fisher, now 12, to see what he’s been up to and learn some of his selling secrets.

Interview With Donovan the Popcorn Scout

Question: You’ve been pretty busy this summer with the Boy Scouts. Where have you gone and what have you been doing?

Right before summer started, we camped out at the College of New Jersey, where they had the Special Olympics, and we volunteered there. That’s one of my favorite things to do. I also went to Mercer County Park for the Central New Jersey Council Cub Scout Day Camp and volunteered to help kids in first through fifth grade.  Then for the Fourth of July, I went to Veterans Park to sell candy for our troops and raise money for tents and stuff like that.

About a week after that, I headed down to Rodney, the scout reservation on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. I took four merit badges there. I left early on the last day to go down to the Bechtel Family Summit, which is one of the biggest scout reservations. I went down to West Virginia on a bus with kids I didn’t even know, so that was pretty fun. We got to go white water rafting, rock wall climbing and mountain bike riding.

When I got back, I volunteered as a Den Chief at Quail Hill, the Monmouth Council Cub Scout Camp, where my cousin is a Tiger Scout. Then I went to San Diego, which didn’t have anything to do with scouting, but I went to a summer camp and got started on another merit badge – the small boat sailing merit badge. I was on the bow of the boat, and dolphins came up so close that I got to touch one. That was pretty cool.

Question: In 2011, you sold $9208 in Trail’s End popcorn and chocolate pretzels, ranking 14th among all Boy Scouts in the United States. What are your goals for this year, and how do you prepare for the selling season?

Donovan The Popcorn Scout With iPad

Donovan with his trusty iPad

I have one specific goal, but it’s probably way too much. I did some math and I’d like to sell $13,000, but my real goal is to go up in sales each year. What I’d really like to do is sell so much that they put my face on a bag. I want to be on the chocolate pretzels because that’s my favorite. I could say to my customers, “If you want a bag of my stuff, it will cost you $22.” I don’t know if I can actually do it, but it’s something that I would really like.

To get ready for selling season, I need to look back at last year. I need to keep track of every sale so when I go to someone’s house next time, I know that they got a certain kind of popcorn. Maybe they like it or maybe they want something bigger, or even double it. Maybe they want to try something new. That’s one of the biggest things – getting all of the information down. Like, I know last year that you bought the caramel corn. And I know almost everybody’s sales. I need to know my customers, and it’s hard because I had over 350 customers last year.

I also have to work on my presentation and get comfortable with it. You don’t want to mess that up. Part of that is knowing the facts. With the Kettle Corn and the Unbelievable Butter Microwaveable Popcorn, I can tell you for a fact that each bag has almost 320 calories in it. I want to know for customers just in case they want low-calorie things. If you have a peanut allergy, I’ll make sure you don’t buy something that has any risks. One customer said her husband is diabetic, so I’ll make sure I know what products are low in sugar and low in carbohydrates.

Question: The thing that blew me away when you first came to my house two years ago was the presentation you gave on your iPad. How has your iPad helped you with your selling?

It impresses a lot of people. You can obviously see that the older you get, you lose your cuteness. It’s not like you’re a Tiger Scout and everybody says, “Aww, you’re so cute.” So you have to find something that amazes them and gets their attention. It also helps a lot with my database so I know exactly what they got last year, and I can pull up the information on the spot. Every year, it just wows people how I use it. I probably sell more iPads than popcorn. Also, presentation-wise, I’m not just showing people a piece of paper. On the iPad, I can make it all my own and do whatever I want with it. Nobody else has anything like it, and that’s what I like – to be unique.

Question: You and two of your fellow scouts gave a presentation about best practices for selling popcorn. What kind of advice did you share?

I wanted to focus on the little things that make everything look a lot better. Like, if your throat is scratchy, you need to drink more. Obviously, if you’re happier and more hydrated, that will help you to a certain extent. If you eat a good lunch or good breakfast, you’re not worried about your next meal and stuff like that. You stay focused on the customer.

Scouts in our council got a list of tips, which I co-wrote with Elian Rubin and Anderson Monken, the two scouts who gave the presentation with me. One tip says that a happy salesman gets a happy customer. I always bring water or Gatorade with me. One day, I forgot it, and I felt it the whole day. I missed that boost that I needed to give me energy, so that’s really important.

Donovan and Troop 87

Donovan (front row, center) with his fellow Boy Scouts of Troop 87

Question: Have you thought at all about what you might like to do when you get older?

Well, I’m still at least six years away from getting a real job so I really don’t know. I know every kid in the whole world wants to be a sports sensation, but there’s like a one in a million chance of somebody doing that. The good thing about scouting is that you can get different merit badges and learn about different things.  I have a cooking merit badge, so I can be a chef. I got my swimming merit badge, so I can be a lifeguard or a swimming instructor.

I have my disability awareness badge, so I can be a doctor or a teacher that helps people with disabilities. With my disability awareness badge, I talked before about the Special Olympics. That’s really fun to be at the Olympic Village, just to help and see what you can do to make people happy. You see the big smiles on their faces, and that was really cool.

The only way Donovan can reach his goal is with your help. To see Donovan’s iPad presentation and place an order, check out his online catalog on Facebook.

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Scott McKelvey
Scott helps business owners enhance their brand, build relationships and increase revenue by developing marketing messages that focus on the needs of their clients. Scott writes content for all things marketing, from websites and blogs to web videos and brochures. As Creative Director for New Jersey’s largest radio stations and TargetSpot, the nation’s largest internet radio advertising network, Scott has helped local, regional and national brands maximize ROI by combining powerful messaging with strategic geographic and demographic targeting. Scott's philosophy is simple: Show your target audience how your product can solve a real problem or fill a real need in their lives and you'll build a base of loyal customers. Visit Scott's site for more about his writing philosophy and experience.
Scott McKelvey
Scott McKelvey
  • http://www.thewordchef.com/ Tea Silvestre, aka Word Chef

    Just popped over (sorry) to his Facebook page so I could check out the presentation. WOWzers. That kid is going to take over the world when he grows up. I’m ordering a party box. Partly because I want to reward his talented presentation with a little positive reinforcement (yeah, that’s why I’m ordering) and partly because he did such a great job of injecting passion and story into his presentation. Way to go, Donovan!

    • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

      Thanks, Tea, that’s really popping awesome of you and I’m glad you enjoyed it. Donovan is pretty amazing and I hope he reaches his goal. I’m definitely going to be eating a lot of popcorn, lol.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ScottFisherCHA Scott Fisher

      Tea, Donovan Thanks you. We’ll get that order shipped out to you as soon as we get the popcorn in on Sept 8th. Thank you for Supporting Scouts! (If anyone else wants an order delivered out of state, we’ll be happy to make the Post Office runs and let you know the shipping cost — NO HANDLING! Of course, if you find the “Support Our Troops” options on Donovan’s website, it’s always great to support those that support us — a WIN-WIN — and the “Support Our Troops” foundation handles all of the distribution.)

    • Scott_McKelvey

      Hi Tea,

      Yes, he’s an impressive kid on so many different levels. I’m spoiled because I’ve had the pleasure of seeing that presentation more than once in person. I thought about adding a sixth question and asking if I can work for him someday, but I was afraid he might say “no.”

      Enjoy your party box!
      Scott

  • http://www.facebook.com/ScottFisherCHA Scott Fisher

    Scott’s Blogs on “The Popcorn Scout” made Scouting Magazine’s “Bryan on Scouting” blog today. Check it out at:

    http://blog.scoutingmagazine.org/2012/08/28/what-can-this-boy-scout-marketing-prodigy-teach-you-about-popcorn-sales/
    GREAT BLOGS, Scott!

    • Scott_McKelvey

      Thanks – and thanks for spreading the word!

  • Adrienne

    What a great post Scott and congratulations for making it to the Scouting Magazine as well.

    These young kids impress the heck out of me. Donovan has a darn good smart head on his shoulders and I’m sure his Dad has been instrumental in helping educate him. It sounds to me that he really can be anything he wants and I’m sure with each new year, cuteness gone or not, he’ll continue to move up in the ranks selling more and more popcorn. If I lived in his area I’d buy it from him. Why? Because he’s just too darn cute. :-)

    • Scott_McKelvey

      Hi Adrienne,

      Thanks! Honestly, I wish more adults put as much effort into their marketing and sales as Donovan does, from goal-setting, to presentation, to follow-up. He refuses to rely on cuteness :)

      Scott

  • http://www.donnamerrilltribe.com/ Donna Merrill

    Hi Scott,
    You have written an incredible story. I am amazed at this child. Just look at how this little entrepreneur is using technology!
    I was so impressed with his picture – all those badges! Donovan works hard and is focused. Imagine what he can accomplish in just a few short years.
    We can all take a lesson from Donovan. Not only is he empowered and good little entrepreneur, but he is so cute…who can resist buying anything from him!
    Donna

    • Scott_McKelvey

      Hi Donna,

      Thanks, but Donovan created his own story through his own hard work. I just asked the questions :) You make a great point about being focused. You don’t get 350 customers going door-to-door without incredible focus and preparation. Definitely an inspiration.

      Scott

  • Christine Brady

    Hi Scott,

    Amazing – I have a little scout, but we are not nearly as organized and committed to it as Donovan is – big Congratulations to him.

    I’m sure he’ll reach his goal with flying colors!

    Great lesson to be learned here – the next generation of marketers are going to be better and more innovative than ever before… Food for thought :)

    ~Christine

    • Scott_McKelvey

      Hi Christine,

      I have colleagues and clients who aren’t nearly as organized and committed as this 12-year-old!

      Excellent food for thought about the next generation. The most successful individuals must see how people are struggling right now, especially recent grads. They know they’ll have to raise their game, and they’re growing up with the technology and tools they’ll need to give them an edge.

      Scott

  • The Popcorn Scout

    Closing out popcorn season and my sales come to a close soon. Stop by (and follow) http://fb.me/ThePopcornScout for more pointers on pushing YOUR SALES to the limit! Share some of your best practices with others as well!

  • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

    Let us know the final tally!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ScottFisherCHA Scott Fisher

    With $16,167 Sold in 2012, Donovan “The Popcorn Scout” finished FOURTH in the United States among all Scouts. (There are over 6 million that could have sold popcorn last year!) THANK YOU to all “TPS” supporters — especially those on the list at the top of the page at http://ThePopcornScout.com/

  • http://twitter.com/CarolLynnRivera Carol Lynn Rivera

    Looking forward to the 2013 numbers!

  • Scott_McKelvey

    Wow, that’s great. Congratulations!