FERGUSON, MO. - Many of us met Natalie DuBose during a difficult time in the St. Louis area. Riots in response to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown took a toll on her business, Natalie's Cakes & More.
"There was a fear in the community so there was no one walking the streets anymore so for two weeks, there was no one coming through the doors," DuBose said.
Then, there was damage to the store. But a stranger started a GoFundMe account to help Natalie stay in business. People near and far ended up donating more than $250,000.
Since then, Natalie's Cakes & More has become so much more. At first, five Starbucks stores started selling her cakes. Now, you can find them at 30 different locations. Natalie's desserts are also at Schnucks, Washington University campus cafes, and seven local restaurants.
"I had no idea, when I was baking my cake, my signature cake in my green little oven in an apartment, that it would become this," DuBose said. "I am so grateful."
Now, she's paying it forward by partnering with Connections to Success.
"Natalie came into our doors one day and it was just magic after that," said Jenita Hladyshewsky, Director of Workforce Innovation with Connections to Success.
Together, they launched a cookie line called Natalie's Sweet Success.
"It's just not a cookie, it's a cookie with a purpose," DuBose said.
For every cookie sold, 50 percent of profits go to the Ava's Grace Foundation through Connections to Success.
"It was started to help youth that have or had a parent incarcerated," said Kathy Lambert, CEO and Co-Founder of Connections to Success.
Cari Hill is a recipient of the scholarship. She recently graduated from William Jewell College.
"Sometimes people forget how challenging it can be to be a child of a parent who is incarcerated," Hill said. "To know that financially more scholars will be taken care of and they'll be able to go through the program and come out with job training and just more preparedness for their future, that's great."
DuBose says, once again, the community is showing its support.
"It's new, but believe it or not, we've already had Maryville University, we've already had a company called the Bridge that has called us, Washington University, they're definitely wanting a whole line of these cookies," she said.
Natalie's Cakes and More and Connections to Success have also launched a 90-day job training program. Participants are invited to spend time in Natalie's bakery to gain entrepreneurial, customer service, and culinary skills.