George Bush and Big Bird were customers. Walt Disney made a film about her. She lectured million-dollar-club salesmen and published a book--all before the ink was dry on her high school diploma.
Markita Andrews was “the cookie kid,” the queen of the thin-mint set, the motivated Manhattan youngster who in 1985 alone sold 11,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies.
The poised 19-year-old now is a sophomore at Princeton University. Though she hasn’t declared a major yet--history-politics appears to have the edge--it likely will have ties to her special talent: selling.
In her 13 years in the Girl Scout program, Andrews has sold 60,000 boxes of peanut patties, shortbread and all their calorie-laden cousins.
At an average of two dozen treats a box, that translates to an amazing 1.4 million cookies--and $75,000 to $100,000 in charitable contributions for Girl Scout coffers.
Scouts who sell more than 200 boxes of cookies earn a “super seller’s” badge for the back of their uniform sashes. Andrews has 13 crowding her sash.
She sold more than 200 boxes her first year--when she was 6. Last year during spring break, she sold 900 boxes, most in a matter of days.
But her personal high was the 11,000 boxes in 1985. The first 5,000 were the hardest, selling door-to-door to neighbors and businesses around her Lincoln Towers neighborhood on Manhattan’s East Side.
She sat nightly in the lobbies of the 10-building, 40-story complex, waylaying residents who were getting their mail. “That was the best time,” she recalled, “because I would hit them right when they were thinking about dinner.”
The rest were sold in an hour at a meeting of The Million Dollar Round Table, the annual gathering of the world’s top-selling insurance salespeople held that year at Radio City Music Hall.
“I was supposed to sell a box to one man on stage to demonstrate my technique, and I ended up selling a box to every member of the audience,” Andrews said.
A media darling was born.
At 13, when others her age were in the grips of adolescent Angst, Andrews was on the front page of the New York Times and in National Geographic, Newsweek and People magazines.
“Good Morning America,” “The Merv Griffin Show” and “Late Night With David Letterman” were calling for bookings. Walt Disney productions made an eight-minute sales training film about her called “The Cookie Kid.”
She became a regular on the lecture circuit, traveling to Bermuda for the International Business Machines convention, Hawaii for Lotus Development Corp. and other stops in Canada and Helsinki, Finland.
The teen-ager realized her celebrity in Bermuda when a woman kept staring at her throughout lunch at an outdoor restaurant. “Finally, she said: ‘You look familiar,’ and it turned out she had seen my Disney film at an Audi convention in Germany.”
Looking back, Andrews said: “It was just incredible.”
“Here I was this kid and they were asking me to tell them what I know about selling, which was their careers.”
When she was 14, Random House called and asked Andrews to write a book with the help of a co-author. The result was 50,000 copies of “How To Sell More--Cookies, Condos, Cadillacs, Computers and Everything Else.”
Her more famous clients have included Bush, then-vice president, and Caroll Spinney, lovable Big Bird on “Sesame Street.”
Bush, she said, was an easy sell: “I was going to give him a box, but he insisted on purchasing them.”
Spinney, a neighbor, was harder, but only because he was rarely home during her cookie-selling runs, Andrews said. Once she did get him, he invited her inside and gave her an autographed picture of Big Bird for her younger cousin.
Despite her brush with fame, Andrews grew up unaffected, swinging easily from the adult business arena to the playgrounds of youth.
“I spent a lot of time with adults, but I was just as comfortable with kids,” she said. “I went to camp every summer and did all the regular things.”
Offers to sell cosmetics and skin care products still come in, but Andrews said school comes first.
In addition to her classes, she works 10 hours a week as a dining hall manager and is an associate business editor of the Daily Princetonian--selling ads and subscriptions, of course.
She also has worked as a legislative aide to a senator in Washington and as a volunteer in several national and local elections, but said she prefers working behind the scenes to a career as a politician.
When the media hullabaloo died down, Andrews said she didn’t mind.
“It hasn’t bothered me because I was just so surprised when it first came,” she said.