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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?
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.
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.