For Acacia Overstreet, a cookie sale is just the beginning of the impact she wants to have.
When the pandemic began, the 21-year-old student at The Wharton School at The University of Pennsylvania — like everyone — was quarantined at home. She found herself regularly scrolling through social media, seeing the devastating need around her and realizing she wanted to do something to help. But what? Then she realized that the pastime she had turned to with her newfound downtime – baking macarons – could actually be used for a fundraiser. And, the impact she wanted to make was clear: Support Native communities.
“I saw Native Americans in need,” she said. “Mistreatment, and not enough resources. Poor government response and the withholding of funds that could have made a huge difference.”
Being of Native American heritage, with roots in Blackfoot, Choctaw and Cherokee, Overstreet said these issues hit home.”
So, she got to work.
Creating a plan
She figured she had five weeks to identify her goals, create a business plan, and get her ideas baking. She started in her “very small kitchen,” using the materials she already had. She invested only in the necessary materials so that more funds could go to an overall donation. Her brother, Rha, stepped in as the COO, and together they tackled a production schedule and a targeted sales approach for their “Pop-Up Macaron Bakery.”
They first reached out to everyone they knew to spread the word, Overstreet said, describing her network of college and high school contacts. From there, they expanded through social media and word-of-mouth, and soon they were selling on Fridays, baking every weekend, and making personal deliveries on Tuesdays.
The result was no small crumbs: 118 boxes sold and an almost $2,000 donation to First Nations.
Overstreet said the pop-up bakery was not only a way to raise funds, but also a way to make the most of the downtime.
“Before Patisserie Acacia I was feeling down because I felt like there was nothing I could do to help,” she said. “But doing something productive made me feel better. We only have so much time to make an impact, and I knew this was time I would never get back.”
In addition to raising funds, Overstreet was also able to raise awareness. She said when she began baking, she found many people were not aware of the unique needs in Indian Country. “I felt I had a duty to give back, especially during a pandemic,” she said.
A plan for broader change
Overstreet admits the bakery was a success and response was favorable, with friends telling her she could turn the pop-up into a full-time business. Still, she says, her ideas go beyond baking. “This was a way to make an effective donation, but I want to contribute on a bigger scale,” she said. “At school, I’m studying finance along with social impact and responsibility. I want to use my skills beyond baking, and drive long-term social change. I want to make significant change, not just a difference.”
“We think she already has,” said Raymond Foxworth, Vice President of Grantmaking, Development and Communications. “We are honored to have the support of Acacia and her brother. We are grateful for their donation, and we are excited to see where their paths take them in philanthropy, impact, and social change.”