One Cupcake at a Time

In a new and exciting series, I’m meeting up with inspiring millennial women who are challenging the perception that ours is a generation of spoiled, lazy and entitled young people. Featured in this inaugural series post is Kendra Coons, a fun, outgoing, and (despite her short stature), an exceptionally big-hearted young woman. I had the pleasure of getting to know during a volunteer stint in Peru, where we became friends amidst a community greenhouse project. Globetrotting on pause for the moment, Kendra currently resides in Toronto where she’s turned her apartment into the Bake-a-Change headquarters. Intrigued? Do read on…

Q: Kendra, in a nutshell, describe what Bake-a-Change is for people who have never heard of it.

A: The way I like to describe it is a modernized, glamourized bake sale. People place orders for whatever type of baked goods they want, (cupcakes, cake-pops, cookies, we’ll do anything), we bake it from scratch, deliver, and then all profits are donated to the charity of their choice.

Q: Mmm… sounds delicious. What charities are you currently working with?

A: I’m working with over a dozen charities right now that range in causes from the environment, health, animals, children and youth and lot more. But if a client has a specific charity that’s not currently listed on the website, we make that new connection and arrange for that donation to go exactly where the client wishes.

Q: So I have to ask, how did you wind up starting this?

A: Funny you should ask! Well, I have some very supportive friends that helped “push” me into this. Essentially, I’m obsessed with holidays, specifically baking for holidays. So every Christmas, Halloween, Easter (you get the idea), I used to bake for for all my friends and family. Eventually, though they loved the desserts, they begged me to stop bringing them so many treats and encouraged me to use my baking talents for my passion for non-profits. By day I’m a full-time professional fundraiser in the non-profit sector, so it was a natural progression to combine that love with my love of baking.

Q: So far, what has been the general response to Bake-a-Change?

A:  Honestly, I did not expect anything to really come of this. I thought I would just make a little Facebook page, get a few orders from my network, and have a little hobby but it kind of snowballed from there. The response has been overwhelming! People have been so supportive and positive about what I’m doing. My roommates especially have been incredibly helpful, allowing me to take over our kitchen with cupcakes, helping me bake, even my neighbors have opened up their kitchen to me! One of the most amazing things was being contacted by Jenny at Tangerine Chan productions, she offered her videographer services to create an amazing promotional video! (Coming soon!)

Q: What has been most challenging?

A: There’s just a huge learning curve in setting up and running a business. At one point I accidentally deleted the whole website. Not even joking. But at the same time I’ve managed to find a lot of help in my network. I’ve had friends assist me with setting up a website, designing a logo, so I’ve been learning along the way. At this point the most challenging part is just managing to get all the orders out the door. I’m using an oven right now that can only bake twelve at a time and at this point I’m probably averaging 500 cupcakes a week!

Q: What do you hope Bake-a-Change looks like in ten years?

A: In ten years I want to be running the bakery full-time, with some staff and volunteers. I’m hoping to initiate and manage special projects abroad that Bake-a-Change’s profits would contribute to. This is more than a bake shop, this is a non-profit organization. I’d love to support some projects with Awaiting Angels, that organization in Peru we worked with. Oh yes, and I’d like to have an oven that bakes more than twelve cupcakes at a time.

Q: What are some of the immediate priorities for Bake-a-Change?

A: I am always interested in meeting with people who would potentially like to volunteer with us. People with viral marketing experience would be helpful to us right now, as well as anyone interested in baking and decorating. In the next year, I’d like to put together a project on Kickstarter to raise money for a physical location – hopefully in Stratford (Ontario).

Q: Kendra, exactly what is your favorite cupcake flavor?

A: Okay this will sound really weird, but I’m actually not much of a cupcake person.

Q: Sorry, did I hear that right?

A: Yes… it’s quite shocking. But I’m told my raspberry lemonade cupcake is amazing! Personally I’m into gingerbread, or pumpkin spice tiramisu.

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Kendra reminds me that we don’t have to know all the answers in order to start something great. Often, it’s taking that first step that’s the most scary, but once you do, amazing things can start to happen – Kendra’s proof of that.

After wiping the drool from your chin I suggest you check out Bake-a-Change here! And while you’re at it, consider ordering cupcakes with a cause next time you have a little soiree, or just crave cupcakes and want to feel less guilty about indulging!

If you ordered cupcakes from Kendra, what cause would you donate proceeds to?

Twitter: @BakeAChange

Phone: 647.210.1593
Locations served: Greater Toronto area, Kitchener-Waterloo (other locations upon request)
Causes: Current list here
Events: Corporate events, weddings, private parties, individual indulgences, etc

Photo credits: Alvin @ Tangerine Chan Productions

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Liked this post? Read some of my other musings on the millennial generation…

Too Poor to Have Kids?
New Number One Reason for Divorce

“Too Poor to Have Kids”

I came across this article in the Huffington Post, but if you don’t have time to read the article in its entirety here is the Modern Wife recap:

  • The article asserts that “young Americans are just too poor to have kids”
  • Population growth is at its all-time slowest growth rate since the Great Depression, and the birth rate has been falling since the housing bubble burst in 2007
  • Average wage of college-educated 23 to 29 year olds plunged 9% in the last decade
  • Three in 10 of these young adults are choosing to move back in with their parents rather than beginning their own households and families
  • For the first time in U.S. history, unmarried households outnumber married couples
  • Economic growth is expected to continue to be sluggish because the labor force is growing at a slower rate. Population growth is the key driver for consumer spending, housing demand, and household formation

Bottom line is, according to this article: poor economy is propelling many of us millennials to delay or opt out of having our own families.

So what exactly is going on here fellow Generation Y’ers? Are we really too poor, too down and out, too financially strapped to venture out and begin our own households? The more I considered this article the more convinced I became that the economy is just a small little piece of the “millennials aren’t reproducing” pie. We need a generational attitude shift.

I’m going to take you back to early1960 when a young couple decided to get married. Having emigrated to Canada with their respective families as children in 1950, they left behind a war-ravaged European country that had no jobs, little food, and scarce opportunities. With little more than the clothes on their backs and a few pieces of luggage, their families made the long passage across an ocean landing  on the east coast at Halifax. From there, a long train ride took them into southern Ontario. These large double-digit families rented small farmhouses built for six and worked on other Canadian farmers’ fields to make a living. Everyone, fathers, mothers, teenagers and young children pitched in.

The Dutch farming community of southern Ontario was fairly close-knit and that’s how this young couple met and fell in love. Barely past their teenage years, they got married and started their own household in much the same manner their parents did: renting and working on other people’s farms. Up until the day they got married, that young man gave his paycheque to his parents. The couple soon welcomed their first child and were thrown into parenthood in living conditions that involved outdoor bathroom facilities.

Year by year and four children later, they worked their tails off and gradually carved out a nice living for themselves. He went to night school and became a technician at a booming car plant and she became a self-employed cleaner when she wasn’t raising children. Fifty-two years later, they are retired and live in the third home they’ve owned, spend their winters in Florida, and play golf in the summer. These people were my grandparents, and they kick butt.

Considering their story, and thousands of other stories from grandparents just like them, the “we are too poor to have children” dilemma just doesn’t add up in this millennial’s mind. Are we actually too poor to have children? No. We think we are. And there’s a lot of other self-interests we want to pursue before we have them. The economy is a just handy excuse to use when you need to keep a grandchild-craving in-law at bay.

We were raised in a culture that promotes the pursuit of personal ambition. We were raised thinking things like televisions, video-games, cell phones, and iPods ranked right up there with water, food, and shelter on the list of life’s essentials. Have a family before you own your home? Shocking! Move out of mom and dad’s place before you have your own high def TV? Oh the humanity! Get married before I’m a senior manager and have a pension set? Stop! You’re killing me! These thoughts cause heart palpitations to millennials.

How can a generation who was raised with everything, be motivated to start out with less than their parents? Though our grandparents and parents had every best intention at heart in wanting to give us more than they had as children, something has become lost on us. Something to do with hard work, sweat, tears, patience, making something out of nothing, and a willingness to roll up our sleeves has become lost on the millennial generation. We want success, we want wealth, and we want it now. Children, families, and “settling down” have to take a backseat until we feel we have it all together.

Of course I am generalizing, of course there are exceptions. But take a good hard look at the 20-somethings in your life and I think you will find some truth to what I’m saying. Is it wrong to pursue a career? Is it wrong to want it all together before we start our own households and have children? Maybe not. But let’s call it for what it is.

No, we are not too poor to have children. My grandparents were too poor to have children, my parents didn’t “have it all” to have children, but they had children anyway.

Thoughts welcomed. Was I too harsh on my generation? Are we too poor to have kids?

Climbing the Corporate Ladder

A few months ago I had the privilege of attending an informal women’s breakfast panel with the IWF (International Women’s Forum) in Waterloo. This was another inspiring experience where, once again, I had to pinch myself a couple times and wonder how I ever managed to roll with the likes of these awesome women! Pinching aside, this event was an incredible information-exchange in which panelists told personal stories and answered questions about their own unique career paths. I feel like I would have to write a novel to capture all the wisdom that dripped from that session but for now, I’ll settle for a brief blog post. So here you have it, curtesy of the amazing ladies of the Baby Boomer generation: the top five things millennial gals should know about succeeding in the corporate world:

1. The best career paths are winding, never straight.

We heard from a lawyer, marketing director, and HR VP. These same women had collectively quit a high paying job to take more education in Australia, obtained an advanced musical degree in voice and opera, worked in arts management, been a dancer, travelled the world for an international company, been involved in national companies, been part of local start-ups, taken mat leaves to raise children, worked in the financial sector, government sector, high-tech sector, and so much more. The resounding message from these women was that every single job, even the bad ones, provide you will tools and experiences that make you even more equipped for the next opportunity. The most valuable people in an organization are the ones who have vision. And the best visionaries understand the breadth and scope of different people, places and industries. Weigh the risks of taking on new experiences, but don’t be afraid to take them.

2. Language is power. 

What phrases are you guilty of using in the workplace?

  • I know you are really busy but I really need . . .
  • If it’s ok, I think we should …
  • I was thinking it might possibly be a good idea if we …
  • I really appreciate you taking the time out of your schedule to do this with me …
  • Let me know if you have any concerns about this and I can change it!
If you answered yes to any of the above (and we all have); STOP DOING IT.

Unfortunately a young woman’s tendency to think of others and not step on toes has made many of us into unassuming, beat-around-the-bush, never-want-to-interject pacifists. It’s all in the language ladies! If you called a meeting, don’t act like your time is less valuable than your colleagues, don’t crowd your sentences with “maybes” “possiblys” or “perhaps-es.” When someone interrupts your sentences don’t be so quick to back down. Put a polite finger up or mention that you were not done speaking. Use plain, direct, confident language that sets you up for respect and attentive ears, even from the oldest and most male co-workers you deal with.

3. Set goals for roles, not titles.

This piece of advice is golden. So often we have set the bar high with certain titles and salaries we want to achieve by a certain time. VP of this, director of that, make $100K by 30 and the list goes on. Goals are important, but make sure you set the right kind of goals. Decide what kind of work you want to do, what kind of role you want to play. What makes you happiest? What makes you want to pull your hair out? What kind of life do you envision? What kind of work environment do you picture yourself in? The great thing about these kind of goals are that by moving more and more toward roles, responsibilities, and environments that you enjoy, the chances are you are going to be more passionate and effective at what you are doing. Even more important than the name of the company, the industry, or the job, is the role.

4. Be patient.

Sounds simple, but then why are so many of us killing ourselves trying to achieve what took our parents and mentors years and years of hard work? Patience my dears, patience. The very best things in life take time. No other substitutes accepted. I’m not saying sit back and expect your career to just happen, I’m saying you need to view your career as a cultivated journey, never a final destination. Relish each moment for where you are in that time and don’t waste your energy lamenting over the fact that you haven’t made partner or junior VP quite yet. Excel at where you are, right now.

5. Long hours ≠ effectiveness.

Come again? Long hours, do NOT equal effectiveness. Here’s the truth ladies, you can burn the midnight oil and send emails to your team late into the night but the truth is that kind of thing isn’t going to put you ahead. Can you really be 100% at 1am after a 16 hour day? You need to figure out what it is in life that recharges your batteries and then carve that activity into your agenda. Is it a good workout? Some reading time? Art? A good night’s sleep? Spending time with family? Whatever it is that you need to do to keep yourself at 100% and healthy make sure you make the time! You are not helping anyone by running yourself ragged.

What lessons have you learned about creating success in the workplace?