When we first introduced you to Mason Schlafer, he was a 10-year-old Cub Scout who wanted to sell enough Scout popcorn to get better trophies for his Pack 4055’s Pinewood Derby.

The plastic cups spray-painted gold were OK, but “Mason said he’d prefer real trophies,” his Cubmaster said. “I remember thinking, ‘So would I, but we’re working with a very limited budget!’”

Not for long. Mason got to work selling Scout popcorn, and it turns out he had a knack for it. He sold $22,365 in popcorn that year, enough for 10 years’ worth of trophies for the pack plus plenty leftover to cover the cost of camp for Mason and his father, Matt Schlafer.

But Mason didn’t stop there. He’s now an Eagle Scout in Troop 1053 of Norton Shores, Mich., part of the Michigan Crossroads Council. And in the five years since we last talked to Mason, the young man has become one of the nation’s top popcorn sellers — amassing more than $275,000 in sales. 

“With the experience, I’ve definitely changed over the years,” Mason tells Bryan on Scouting. “I’ve gained lots of confidence in myself. Talking to strangers isn’t hard, and I can start a conversation easily. I’m much more involved with the customer during the sale, rather than just standing there.” 

Mason Schlafer as a Webelos with the Pinewood Derby trophies he was able to fund for his pack.

Where the money goes

As anyone who has participated in a Scouting fundraiser understands, Scouts don’t keep the money they earn. So no, Mason isn’t a quarter-millionaire.

But Scouts like Mason do benefit from their hard work, because all that money goes to support their Scouting adventures. (To say nothing of the social and money-management skills they learn while selling.)

In Mason’s Troop 1053, for example, Mason’s super salesmanship meant the troop could afford to build a 25-by-40-foot shed to store equipment. 

And what might go in that shed? Mason helped stock it with new tents, stoves, folding tables and coolers. 

He has funded $3,000 worth of camperships, sent $500 to Friends of Scouting and contributed $200 to fire victims. 

When Troop 1053 formed a linked troop for girls, Mason stepped up again, helping that troop get started with brand new camping tents.

With the support of Troop 1053, Mason has also partnered with the charity Feeding America to help families struggling with food insecurity. His popcorn funds have stocked 11 food trucks, each one feeding about 150 families.

“Positivity motivates me,” he says. “Helping others makes them feel good, which in return, makes you feel good. It fuels a drive in me that keeps me going.”

Mason Schlafer with some of the gear he has been able to provide to his troop over the years.

How he did it

Selling bags of classic caramel corn is the easy part, Mason says. That’s the lowest-cost item on the menu, so anyone who wants to buy something while spending the least will go for that.

But you don’t get to $275,890 in sales — including $49,000 in the pandemic year of 2020 — by selling only your cheapest product. 

“I’ve learned the powerful tool of upselling from fellow top seller Luke Fewx, and his dad, Jacob,” Mason says. “I know what it takes to be the best — my best.”

As you might hope from a Scout (helpful, friendly, courteous, etc.), Mason is willing to share what he’s learned. If more Scouts are able to sell more popcorn, that benefits everyone.

Here are some of our top takeaways from talking with Mason:

  1. Storefronts have their pros and cons: Many packs and troops set up a table outside a local grocery store to sell their product. “It helps you reach a lot of people in a short amount of time without too much effort,” Mason says. “And, to many, that sounds like the best thing ever.” But Mason prefers selling directly to customers because it’s more personal. “Running around the neighborhood for the day to hit your goal feels much better than doing it by sitting there,” he says. “You feel accomplished because you really earned it.”
  2. Have a plan: When you talk to a potential customer, start by introducing yourself and the organization you represent. Then tell them specifically what you’re raising money for. (“Support my Scouting adventures” always works better than “buy my popcorn.”) Finally, ask for their support.
  3. Appearance counts: “Your appearance is very important, especially in sales,” Mason says. “Wear a full uniform. Fix yourself up, put on a smile and get in the zone.”
  4. Upsell when you can: “Move them to a more expensive item by showing them the value of that item,” Mason says. 
  5. Use hand signals: When Mason is talking to a customer at their door, his dad is waiting at the car, which is filled with popcorn (no little red wagons here — they don’t hold enough). If Mason makes a sale, he’ll silently signal the order to his dad — like a catcher calling for a fastball. While Mason is finishing up the sale, his dad is readying the product. Efficient!
  6. Show respect: If you’re walking up to someone’s home, have a good attitude — and stay off their grass! Lessons of courtesy apply even during the pandemic. “I’ve temporarily stopped shaking hands, and I wear a mask,” Mason says. “Most people act normal about it, but occasionally someone will wave you away from inside.”
Mason Schlafer at a Feeding America event.

The most important question — ever

We had to know: When you’re one of the nation’s best at selling popcorn, do you actually still eat the stuff yourself?

For Mason, the answer is yes. He’ll chow down on some popcorn — especially his favorite flavor, salted caramel — when watching a movie or just hanging out.

“It’s one of my favorite snacks,” he says, “and I’ll probably never get tired of it.”

Mason and his dad, Matt, in 2016.

The dad/driver/runner/motivator

Matt Schafler is Mason’s driver, runner, motivator and accountant. Oh, and he’s also Mason’s dad. 

Over the past five years, Matt has watched his son take on more and more of the responsibilities surrounding his popcorn sales. That’s a great reflection of the Scouting journey, where young people learn to do more for themselves as they progress through the program.

“In 2016, we discussed the concepts of philanthropy and paying it forward,” Matt says. “I planted the seed in his mind, and it has grown in his heart since.” 

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