Dawn Urrutia has been serving sweet potato pies, cookies, cupcakes, and other goodies to the Louisville community since 2016. But her business, Georgia’s Sweet Potato Pie Company, is about more than just yummy desserts. Dawn began her baked goods venture with the goal of starting a nonprofit — and that dream is on its way to becoming a reality. Meet our inspiring new FACE of Louisville, Dawn Urrutia!
How did Georgia’s Sweet Potato Pie Co. come to be?
I wanted to start a nonprofit, so I set up a meeting with some people that I highly respected. We were trying to figure out how we could financially sustain a nonprofit organization — but after an hour or so, we hadn’t come up with a solution. At the end of the meeting, I served them tea and some of my pie. After that, my niece suggested selling pies to support my nonprofit. It was something I’d never considered. At the time, I was only making pies for family and friends. I wasn’t really a baker; it was just a product I was good at making.
What happened next?
The following weekend, I sold 11 or 12 pies to family and friends, and people on social media. It got me thinking that maybe we had something. It was 2016 when we gave away our first pie at The Flea Off Market. The community was so welcoming and really embraced us. That’s when we decided to make it official; we got our paperwork together and our commissary kitchen approved.
Where did the company name come from?
What I really wanted to do was give back and help children, and my grandmother was a giver. When we started looking for a name, I think it was my niece or my sister who suggested naming it after my grandma — her name was Georgia. It was perfect. That’s how Georgia’s Sweet Potato Pie Company came to be.
Tell us about your current give-back program that involves providing books to children.
I’m an early childhood educator by trade, and in 2018, the social injustices and the social unrest started weighing heavily on me. I felt like I had to do something, but I knew I wasn’t the type of person to be protesting out on the streets or posting all kinds of things on social media. I did, however, understand the importance of having an impact on children when they’re young — that’s where the books came from. I started giving away books about love, diversity, inclusion, and acceptance. I truly feel like if I can plant a seed in a child when they’re young, it might make a difference when they become an adult.
I believe it is hard to kill what you can relate to. If I see you as a human being and I see that we have something in common — if I look at you and relate to you, even though I might be outside of my community and outside of my comfort zone — it’s less likely I will take your life. I’m more likely to find a way to de-escalate the situation instead. There have been studies that show if you put a police officer in their own community, they are less likely to shoot first; they’re going to try to de-escalate the situation.
I feel like if I can give away these books about love, diversity, inclusion, and acceptance, it will show children that we all come from the same creator; underneath it all, we’re all the same. They can learn about people who don’t look like they do, or don’t go to the same church that they do or have a different sexual orientation, and they can find books that they can relate to themselves. Whatever it is, they can learn through these stories, and they might grow into adults with a little more compassion and empathy.
Can any child pick up a free book?
Yes! At first, we’d use profits from Georgia’s Sweet Potato Pie Company to buy books, and we’d take them to farmers’ markets and other community events to give them away. But when COVID hit, people stopped coming out, and I started getting messages requesting books. We started mailing them to people all over the country, free of charge. We’d pay the postage, and we’d put little affirmations in each book. Now, people can also come to our brick-and-mortar location — which we just opened on National Pie Day! — to pick out free books in person.
What’s next for you?
We’re currently in the process of filing paperwork to start our nonprofit, which is going to be called Pies with Purpose; it will be funded by Georgia’s Sweet Potato Pie Company. My mission is to help families build diverse in-home libraries, because even though I know they have access to books at school and they can go to the free public library, those books eventually have to be returned. I understand the importance of children being surrounded by books that they can see themselves in, so we’re planting those seeds into children and into the parents and siblings of the younger children, who have to read the books to their little ones.
When children are exposed to lots of books in their home, their socioeconomic level is higher; they suffer from fewer illnesses; they’re less likely to be incarcerated; they eat a healthier diet, and they’re more likely to demonstrate civic responsibility.
What is the best advice you’ve ever given or received?
Let things be what they’re going to be. I have a Type A personality, and I used to freak out over the little things that I couldn’t control. Now, I’m at the point in my life where I know that whatever is going to be is going to be — and it’s going to be okay, and perfect, and right. If you have done your best, that’s all you can do; let the cards fall where they may. If you haven’t done your best, you need to go back and reevaluate. But if you have, then what’s meant to happen is going to happen. If you can accept that, a lot of your stress is going to go away.
Aside from faith, family, and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
I love to eat, so food would be first — then fun and rest are neck and neck. My husband and I co-own Georgia’s and we work hard, so I appreciate when we can get a weekend away. We’ll take a staycation and order room service, and we don’t have to worry about anything. I’m just in a cozy room, taking care of myself — we’re having fun, but I’m also getting rest.
Thank you, Dawn! All photography by Jess Amburgey unless otherwise noted.
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