When Dawn Urrutia of Louisville, Kentucky, told people she was ready to open a brick-and-mortar location to sell her sweet potato pies in the middle of the global COVID pandemic, they told her she was crazy.
Yet, despite the warnings from naysayers, she persisted. She ignored their negativity and instead listened to her inner wisdom, the voice that said to proceed when others would falter.
Dawn was on a mission and she was willing to leap without a net to make it happen. She had dreamed for years of creating a nonprofit to inspire and support children, and she knew in her heart that selling her pies was the best way to realize her dream.
She wasn’t afraid; she was inspired. It was that inspiration that sustained her in the early years, when she had to bake her pies throughout the night in a borrowed oven to sell at Farmers Markets on weekends.
And it was that same inspiration that led her to a prime location for her bakery in Louisville’s Highlands neighborhood. Dawn’s instincts and intuition were right. She transformed her vision from an idea into a money-making company that funds and supports the nonprofit she had always dreamed of creating. And on her bakery’s opening day, a line of customers snaked from the front door down Bardstown Road.
Now, Dawn Urrutia is the co-owner of Georgia’s Sweet Potato Pie Company and the head of a nonprofit that gives away children’s books.
How her vision became reality
Dawn selling her much loved sweet potato pies in 2016 as a way to fund her dream of creating a nonprofit. For years, she wanted to create a way to support and help children and to use her life to make a difference in their lives.
“I was searching for a way to teach them the value of all people,” she said. “I have always wanted to be a source of light, someone who plants seeds of positivity to let all children know that they can overcome anything.”
Her sole focus was on baking pies in the beginning. That success gave her the confidence to slowly expand the bakery’s offerings to include other items like brownies, cupcakes, ice cream, and wraps. Her inventory now also includes scented candles and room spray.
Pies with a Purpose
Despite the success of the bakery’s pies and other desserts, Dawn’s true passion is giving away free books to children.
“The bakery is a for profit enterprise that supports my dreams of developing a nonprofit. Yes, the bakery is a bigger blessing and success than I could have ever dreamed, but the truth is, Georgia’s Sweet Potato Pie Company is more than just a bakery,” she said. “It’s a tool that enables me to do my real work.”
The proceeds from the bakery’s sales are what fund the nonprofit and enable her to give back to her community and make a difference in the lives of children.
“The bakery opens doors and helps me meet people, she said. “And it pays the bills so we can continue to do the real work, which is giving away children’s books.”
Building a nonprofit from scratch
When the idea of creating a nonprofit came to Dawn, she realized she needed an income source to fund it. She realized that financial support for nonprofits is difficult to sustain. There is often one small pot of money, and nonprofits have to compete for a share. Sometimes the smaller ones are left with crumbs.
She brainstormed with her family about ways to support a nonprofit. It was a suggestion from her niece to sell her sweet potato pies that started it all.
“I had baked sweet potato pies for years, mostly for holidays, special occasions, or to give away as gifts. At first, I thought my niece’s idea was crazy. Who would buy my pies, and how could I ever sell enough pies to make the money I needed to support a nonprofit?” she said.
But, Dawn said she sat with the idea, and began to feel a nudge from something bigger than herself.
“People had always said I made the best sweet potato pies they had ever tasted, so I decided to listen to that inner guidance. And in 2016, I baked my first pies to sell at farmers markets.” she said.
On the first day, her sister and niece sold 11 of her pies, and that’s when she realized that pies were the solution she had been searching for.
“I truly know in my heart that I’ve been called to this mission; it is my soul’s journey. It comes from something greater than me.”
Georgia on my mind
Dawn named her business after her Grandmother Georgia. She said she wanted her bakery to embody everything her Grandmother represented.
“She was such a giving person who truly loved people, God, her community, and good food,” Dawn said. “Because of her example, I am able to bake pies with a purpose.”
Sweet potato magic
The not-so-secret ingredient to Dawn’s success is the unassuming sweet potato. It’s the special ingreadient that she adds to everything she bakes.
“Yes, everything I make--from pies, to cupcakes, ice cream and candles-- contains sweet potatoes. It has a mild flavor and I can mix it with almost anything because it takes on the flavor profiles of the other ingredients I use. I call it sweet potato magic.,” she said.
From pies to books
The first two years that Georgia’s Sweet Potato Pie Company operated, they sold the pies solely at local farmer’s markets on weekends. But in 2018, Dawn felt called to do more.
“That’s when the country was at the height of the movement to spotlight social injustice and race relations. I drew on my upbringing and my personal beliefs to do something that would ripple out through the community.”
In the middle of the chaos, marching, and protests, Dawn saw a clear path to how she could be a part of the change she wanted to see. That’s when she said she was blessed with the idea of creating a nonprofit that would give free books to children.
“I saw clearly that planting seeds in children’s minds early through books about inclusion, diversity, love, and acceptance, we could counter the hate and change the world.
I believe that if we see each other and relate to each other as people, we will both recognize that we are all basically the same. Education is the way to de-escalate bad situations that come from ignorance and hate. And what better way to do that than through children’s books,” she said.
Dawn said she believes racism and hate are conditions of upbringing, not something people are born with.
“I don’t believe people are born racists. I give away books to children to teach them the value of all people,” she said. “Books can teach all children that we are all the same. We all want to feel loved, safe, and accepted as we are. I think books are the best way to teach these lessons early.”
When she started dreaming of creating a nonprofit, she had no idea that baking pies would be the magic she needed to make that dream become real. She merely baked pies to give to her family and friends on holidays or special occasions. She baked because she loved it; she says she felt called to do it. And she was good at it.
Dawn Urrutia’s dream led her to start selling her pies at Farmers Markets, and the success from that venture eventually led her to opening a bakery in the building that now houses Georgia’s Sweet Potato Pie Company.
Dawn did exactly what we’ve all been told to do to find happiness and success: She listened to her inner voice and followed her bliss. When she started, she knew what she wanted: to open a nonprofit to support children. What she didn’t know then was how to make it happen. Realizing her dream took time, trust, hard work, and a lot baking. She put laser focus on what she wanted (the nonprofit) and trusted that the how would be revealed to her overtime. She was right. It all unfolded perfectly.
I think there’s a lesson that we can all learn from Dawn’s story and her success.