From the Corporate World to Butter Cream: How a Bellaire Baker Followed Her Passions Later in Life

When I was put to the task to do a story on wedding cakes for a local magazine, I thought, “I’m probably not the person to write this.” Not only have I never been married, having a wedding isn’t something I ever plan to do- whether I find “the one” or not. The money, the planning, the people- it just seems like a recipe for a nervous breakdown (hey, at least I know myself). Having an emotional connection to anything I write is key, so I had to find a way to break my barrier of wedding cynicism and get excited about cake.

Typically declining a frosting-filled dessert to opt for a piece of apple pie, I like things simple- but then, I learned about a famous butter cream created in nearby Bellaire, Michigan. This is not the story I was asked to write, but it’s the story I would like to tell.

Ruthann Dexter has been baking for as long as she can remember. When she received her first Easy Bake Oven as a girl, she never dreamed she would leave her corporate sales career to pursue opening her own bakery.

“My manager asked me why I wasn’t baking full time,” Ruthann shared with a laugh. After bringing in treats to the office, this comment planted the seed for her to pursue her dream- to leave the corporate world and pursue her own business.

It all started when Ruthann began creating her butter cream frosting, a recipe she worked on for years until finally perfecting it in 2002. “My husband Gregg really pushed me in 2012 to start our own bakery,” she said. Today, both Ruthann and Gregg dedicate their lives to Ruthann’s Gourmet Bakery, helping brides and grooms create the wedding cake of their dreams, as well cookies, cupcakes, macarons, and other sweet treats.

The Dexters love to work with their clients on whatever their vision may be. Whether it’s a traditional wedding cake or a dessert table, Ruthann’s artistic approach and talented team loves to bring these creations to life.

“Determination and passion can get you wherever you want to go.”  

Ruthann wondered if she was too old to start her own business. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained is my motto!” She hopes to inspire others to follow their own dreams, no matter what stage of life they’re at. “I was really inspired by Colonel Sanders, who started Kentucky Fried Chicken at age 65. It’s true that it’s never too late to do what you love.”

This made me think about all the people who struggle with their purpose at age 15, 25, 35, and beyond. I’ve been one of those people. I’ve assessed all of my mistakes and taken inventory of my flaws. I’ve wondered if it was too late to try something new, or whether anyone would take me seriously as a writer after spending the past 12 years working jobs I wasn’t passionate about.

At 35, my conversations with Ruthann reconfirmed how it’s never too late to take a leap of faith and make a major change. “Running your own business is hard, but you can’t listen to what everyone tells you,” she told me.

You just need to keep following your heart- and continue telling the story that is authentic to you.

You can visit Ruthann’s Gourmet Bakery or follow Ruthann’s journey on Facebook and Instagram. I was lucky enough to get to try some of her delicious treats- and let me just say, I wasn’t disappointed.

Uniting A New Generation of Philanthropists- A Chat with Chelsea Toler-Hoffmann

I met Chelsea Toler-Hoffmann over a decade ago when I was working at her parent’s law firm in Austin, Texas.

We kept in touch over the years and always tried to catch up when she and her mother, Shawn, visited the East Coast to meet with clients. They are a joy to spend time with, so I was excited to see the family this past spring in Boston’s Back Bay to chat about life and their newest venture- a Family Foundation.

Chelsea now serves as the President of The Keep Families Giving Foundation, an Austin-based organization created to unite a new generation of philanthropists- something we both feel strongly about.

“You’re never too young to become a philanthropist. Whether you’re passionate about a cause as a teenager or are looking to contribute family funds later in life, there are endless ways to get involved,” Chelsea told me.

I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about the organization, her plans for the year, and hopes for the future.

How did you and your family decide to start a family foundation?

While my family has always been passionate about giving back to our community, the loss of my grandmother, the matriarch of our family, really served as the catalyst for the decision to start our family’s foundation. After her passing, I decided there was no better way to honor her than to transition into the role of serving as the President of the Keep Families Giving Foundation and to help other families identify their giving passions to better pursue their philanthropy journeys. 

We are unique in that many family foundation’s are passed down from multiple generations and incorporate legacy as well as giving into their purpose. Some of these foundations have strict guidelines on what they will fund and give to and or have specific focus areas that each generation must learn to honor their family’s traditions. For our family, I had the unique opportunity to co-found this foundation along with my parents and really co-create what our foundation would focus on/give to. Together we developed our mission to cultivate and educate the next generation of philanthropists while creating a collaborative community across generations and sectors for social good. 

We have adopted a unique model in which our next-gen advisory board works alongside a mentor advisory board to nominate organizations and causes that they care about for KFG’s grant awards. Each next-gen philanthropist then has the unique opportunity to really explore their philanthropy passion areas and learn alongside their peers as well as mentors. Their interest areas range from film and the arts to healthcare and education.

Further, we do not limit our giving or partnerships to particular cause areas, but instead help support next-gen philanthropists in identifying and finding the causes they care about to make meaningful impact in the world.

We envision a world where the next-generation of philanthropists are provided with the education, mentorship, community, and tools needed to not only carry on their family legacy, but also champion their own social good causes and experiences.

What were you doing before you started Keep Families Giving and how does it correlate?

Prior to serving as the President of the Keep Families Giving Foundation, I had the unique opportunity to serve in I Live Here I Give Here’s, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, first development/fundraising role on a team of 6 women that helped raise $10 million in 24 hours for over 750+ nonprofit organizations in Central Texas as a part of our city’s only online giving day, Amplify Austin Day.

This unique experience helped me better understand philanthropy and the power of bringing sectors together for social good. In this role I helped work with the corporate sector on community engagement as well as family foundations that participated in the day to support many of their grantees. Helping others find their giving passions became larger than a career, but what I wanted to dedicate my life to. Together our city came together to better our city and support our local community in a unique and innovative way. 

After my time at I Live Here I Give Here, I felt prepared to transition into leading my own family’s foundation and continuing my lifelong purpose of helping others find their giving passions and pursue their philanthropy journeys to better the world. 

What are your plans for this next year?

We are thrilled to announce we will be launching our city’s first InterGEN Summit on February 29th-March 1st in Austin, Texas. This summit will bring together 150+ foundation, family office, university, nonprofit, and corporate leaders from around the globe for a unique opportunity to test, co-create, and innovate more impactful philanthropic models and solutions for change. This years’ summit will focus on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Our goal for the gathering is to inspire doing good together while establishing Austin as an innovative philanthropy hub for the rest of the world, just in time to kick off SXSW!

We have partnered with UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the Intergen Family Initiative with the Family Office Association, and Abilitie (a leadership training simulation company) for this initiative.

For our keynote conversation, we will hear from powerful philanthropic families like Jim Epstein (the great, great grandson of James Gamble — co-founder of Procter and Gamble, and the grandson of Clarence Gamble — the founder of Pathfinder International) from the Gamble Family about how they have successfully engaged many generations in their community work in partnership with a nonprofit organization their family founded, Pathfinder International. This will serve as a great example of the importance of the SDG goal — 17 Partnerships. Since the next-gen advisory board has selected the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as our theme for this year, all of our speakers will incorporate one or more of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals into their sessions.

We look forward to learning a great deal from hosting this inaugural summit about how to better our world when we work together across generations and sectors for change.

How can people get involved?

We will have various events and programs available to get involved in throughout the year. You can identify a next-gen board member that shares similar passions and connect to them by sending a message to summit@keepfamiliesgiving.org. We are also always open to partnerships and or collaborations if you might want to work together on a social good initiative. 

We are also in need of volunteers and a few mission aligned sponsor for our upcoming spring summit. You can learn more about this by reaching out to me directly at chelsea@keepfamiliesgiving.org.

What fuels your passion for giving back?

Seeing others find causes and initiatives they care about and then being able to make real change in these areas. Every person deserves to understand the gift of generosity.

Your voice and your passions matter — together we can make real impact in the world.

You can connect with Keep Families Giving on Facebook, Instagram, or register for the Intergen Philanthropy Summit via the links below. Use discount code KFG20 for 20% Off:

OFF THE RECORD 2 DAY PASSES

OFF THE RECORD SATURDAY PASS

OFF THE RECORD SUNDAY PASS

We hope to see you in Austin!

Booze-Free Bliss: A Conversation with Sober Girl Society’s Millie Gooch

Photo: Sober Girl Society

With 2020 around the corner, now’s the time to start thinking about New Year’s Eve plans, resolutions, and goals for what’s around the corner.

As I reflect on 2019, one of the major themes is how many amazing people I’ve connected with and gained inspiration from- especially other sober women.

One of those people is Millie Gooch, founder of Sober Girl Society. From her cheeky Instagram posts to those adorable enamel pins, Millie inspires other people to embrace their sobriety, one post, event, or booze-free beverage at a time.

I got the opportunity to ask her a few questions, from her own New Year’s Eve plans to how she decided to start Sober Girl Society (and yes, I am a proud member!).

When and why did you decide to put down the booze?

I’ve always had a very all-or-nothing relationship with alcohol. Blackout binge-drinking was my specialty because I never really saw the point in just having a couple. I could happily turn down a glass of wine at dinner but on a night out I’d be buying two triple-vodka Red Bulls and then mixing them into a pint glass.

Towards my mid-twenties I started to suffer with horrific anxiety (intensified by hangovers) and I began to realise that my one woman missions to get completey annihilated were becoming less about the party and more about a deep sense of self-loathing and unhappiness.

When I came out of a 6-year relationship at the start of 2018, my drinking escalated quickly in an attempt to patch up my heartbreak and in Feb 2018 on a particularly nasty hangover, something inside me snapped and I realised I could either continue in self-destruct mode or strap on my big girl pants and rebuild myself. To do this, I knew something had to seriously change and for me, that was my drinking.

I can completely relate to the “all or nothing” drinking. What tools did you use to help you stay sober when you first put down alcohol?

The first thing I did was listen to The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray on Audible and that was the motivational kick up the butt I needed. After that it was podcasts, finding new ways to relax (yoga, dancing, writing) and travelling.

How did you think of SGS?

I think it’s actually something I was trying to find for my own journey and just couldn’t so I decided to create it myself. Sobriety has made me a ‘see a problem, fix it’ kind of gal.

I was 7 months sober when I started SGS so I’d kind of already got past those initial stages and wanted something for the ‘what next’ to keep me motivated, hold me accountable and remind me why I stopped in the first place.

I always say SGS isn’t really about how to get sober because I’m not an expert but it’s more about staying sober and all the wonderful things that can happen when you are.

Millie Gooch

New Year’s Eve is coming up- what are your plans?

I’m actually at a wedding – 2 of the most difficult things in sobriety are weddings and New Year’s Eve – so I’m combining them because I do love a challenge.

How do you recommend other people stay sober on NYE?

Do things you actually like doing with people you actually like and if that means sitting at home alone watching season two of YOU on Netflix then do exactly that. More often than not I drank because I was anxious, unhappy, bored or because I thought it would make whatever I was doing, wherever I was or whoever I was with more fun.

I honestly believe it’s easier to say no to drinking when you’re happy and relaxed in your activity, company and surroundings.

Photo: Sober Girl Society

I’m really interested in these “booze free bars” and pop ups I am seeing in London. What can you tell me about them?

We are very lucky in London at the moment, pubs and bars are really recognising the demand for good alcohol-free drinks and some bars like Redemption (three venues across London) are completely alcohol-free. We also had Sainsbury’s (one of the biggest UK supermarkets) open a pop-up non-alcoholic pub called the Clean Vic (a pun on The Queen Vic from TV Programme Eastenders) in the summer and it was packed!

I’ve got my SGS pin to represent in the US! How can other women get involved?

Come follow us! At the moment we’re expanding our meet-ups across the UK but for those we can’t reach in other countries, we have threads where you can find your sober sisters.

There’s like countless friendships, a 30 strong group of women in Phoenix, meet-ups in Australia and a sober events company founded in Manchester because of those threads.

~

You connect with the Sober Girl Society community on Instagram and shop the goods on Etsy.

Photo: Sober Girl Society