Walt Disney. Steve Jobs. SO many incredible leaders started in some of the most obscure places. Many of them in the garages of their homes. Im inspired by them, and I bet so many of them had no idea what was ahead. For me, even though were still in the thick of our launching, our start-up, I can already look back at what once was with utter disbelief not having any notion that we’d be where we are right now.
Junior year of college my now husband, then boyfriend and I were talking about studying abroad. I was convinced that we are supposed to go to Europe, completely convinced actually, not leaving any room for other options. So I applied to maybe 6 programs and for one reason or another each door closed. Every single door!
<h2>Now let me tell you something, a disclaimer if you will. My faith is a HUGE part of my story, why im here, how im here! However I want you to know this to be more true than anything- Who you are, what you believe, how you eat, if we look alike or not, no matter where you live, your political beliefs or whatever you bring to this computer right now- I want you here. We may be different but your story matters. My story matters, and I want us to make space for others stories. No judgment, just vulnerability and grace…understanding. That’s our heart for Gather and it starts now!</h2>
So one day, i’m telling you it was something so much bigger than us! My husband and I had given up on our search to study abroad, a surrender if you will. That morning I was in a social work class (what I went to school for) and a presenter came in to talk about a study abroad program. As he proceeded with his presentation I sobbed, a cry that I hadn’t cried before. A knowing, that this was exactly where I was supposed to be. It all happened so fast. Having no knowledge of Thailand, no real previous desire. We were on our way. This time, for 3 months.
While we were there, I tell you God opened our eyes to some of the darkest evils, especially that of child trafficking and exploitation. If I knew this side of Thailand existed before, ill be frank, I wouldn’t have gone. Yes we were there to study but there was something more happening and by the time we were back in America, I knew that everything we saw was not in vein. I had to go back! So there I was my senior year- it came with turmoil, an uphill climb if you will, but this time just me. My senior semester in college- Again, for 3 months.
I was back in America again after experiencing another level, more hard truths, more ways that we could really empower, educate, come alongside and fight for change. We had a hard decision to make because we knew the fight wasn’t over. We decided to get married after a longtime dating- and just like any crazy couple would do- we moved across the world to continue the journey 3 months later.
Newlyweds with backgrounds in criminal justice and social work we worked alongside one of the most incredible, ground breaking, community shaking foundations/projects you could ever dream of. However it was early on that we discovered that our plans would be shaken.
In a new community, there we were! Fully and totally moved there. Knowing a few people but not many and away from what was familiar. I developed a deep desire for community. Community was hard to find. We quickly came to see that we were as desperate for community as those around us so we began to open our door and fill our table. It just kind of happened you see. In our rental house in a foreign land all strangers to this place, all in need of each other. Its messy at times, its broken at times, but we came to see what happens around the table and well- its what sparked the first side of our vision.
I became very sick. I mean very sick. Symptoms that I felt aged me 50 years. I had pain peddling a bike, I couldn’t stay far from the bathroom for more than 15 minutes. Something had to change. The way I fed my body and approached life had to change. The ONLY thing that brought healing and wholeness was the paleo diet at that time, whole clean foods. How, how in the name of entertaining could I make this whole hospitality thing work with clean eating? Well.. the challenge started here. To make food so clean everyone could eat it- so good everyone wanted to.
Can I just tell you it often wasn’t pretty, it often wasn’t even good, but man oh man did I take on the challenge and slowly but surely recipes started working, techniques stuck and well…. I found that I fell into this part of the journey. Then there I was, those around me also volunteers with health needs and health goals began to ask if I could make certain products for them, attempt cakes for them. One turned to 5, 5 turned to 20- I realized I needed help…I couldn’t manage this little “everyday hospitality” turned booming ‘business?’.
Social worker, I was working in the area of child protection working on policies, observing projects. I saw something, that the teenagers I was working with had difficulty re-entering society. There was a lack of understanding of their backgrounds. Lack of grace, lack of oh goodness- embrace. Even after healing, in the midst of healing or goodness at any point of the journey it was near impossible to find somewhere that could come along side them in the form of employment and help them re-enter society.
So, in ways that I still don’t know how this all transpired, I invited some of these now friends of mine, precious souls, qualified, capable, intelligent, talented teenagers to come help me fill these orders. It was a messy learning curve but can I tell you it was the most beautiful, transformational season- dare I say for all of us involved. They were learning, I was learning, they were earning, gather was growing.
I could write novel on this truly, I want to call it Grace & Strength. This whole relationship, this whole aspect is what birthed Gather really. It showed me how much influence a business can have on society. It showed me how transformational a healthy work place can be for employees. It showed me how even in my own brokenness together we could work for wholeness. It showed me how a little belief, loads of encouragement, and creativity could bring healing to the hurting heart.
Out of my home, around our table, cookies all over the living room. Kids coming in an out, staying longer than hours, crying together, cooking together. We weren’t allowed to have an oven in this home and most Thai homes don’t have one either! So we bought this glorified toaster oven and it baked more cakes, more recipes, than I could ever explain to you! Truth be told we ended up buying 3 by the time we left.
“You baked this out of that” … I cant tell you the amount of times we heard that. Yes, by the grace of God and in ways ill never understand God allowed that tiny oven and (oh man, hideous kitchen) to be the beginning of something I may never fully see!
We called it Shabby & Chic Treats and Eats at the time. We knew it wasn’t the forever name but it gave what we were all doing together some kind of structure. Yet one night I was was sleeping and was woken up. I sat straight up it was about 2 in the morning and call me crazy but its so real to me. I knew that God had given me the name Gather. I remember vividly being so aware of the illustration of tables filled with people and I saw fences piled broken on the ground surrounding . GATHER. A business that uses food and creativity to gather communities. Gather people. Break down walls, bring us back to the table.
Providing food that everyone can eat, everyone will love is of course a massive part of my model! Really though, I knew that this was more meant to inspire everyday hospitality & intentional living.
I was convinced, absolutely whole heartedly convinced that when we outgrew my house and had more orders than hours in the day that we were supposed to make this a business. In fact I knew that Gathers next step was to become a business. We just thought it was in Thailand. My husband and I had made the decision to live in Thailand a few more years, move forward with the next steps to open it there. However with much respect for the country we still love- It was proving to be a very difficult process.
Impossible actually it seemed. Many up hill battles, many decisions that would have lead to contradicting our values. I lost hope, I lost hope in a real and deep, true and fast way! I thought Gather had died. I thought it was the end I really did. We knew that Gather was meant to move forward and the only way that could happen in this season was to pursue it in America. As im sure you could understand, this season and the decision to transition back is way more that I can fit into this paragraph.
I felt I let the kids down, I felt that I failed. Until I realized- wait maybe something greater could actually come of this.
Some of you may think, ‘oh Kayty, you were just cut out for this. Oh Kayty, I saw it all along!’ Ill tell you something! Public speaking, LOVE IT. Engaging in community my favorite! Staring at a perfectly baked and decorated cake, dreamy! However on the flip side of this, most days I feel unqualified! Failure slays me, and transition is in my heart some form of really intense torture.
I would never in a million years wish this away or to stop now. Everything about this in my human heart feels against the grain. However what the journey to today has allowed me to do is look calling, justice, dreams, hope in the face and say “you are worth persevering for”. So ive decided to make it a vulnerable journey because lets be real. No one can identify with perfection and if I want to be a table filler- I need to work at making this journey of my biggest table, through the business, the model. It will be a forever learning experience!
How I feel moving back to America: Just holding on to a hungry elephant!
We want to redefine the way people gather. We want to inspire you and equip you with the tools that you need to feel comfortable opening your own doors & filling your own tables! However right now, in this season we are working to host a few workshops, offer a few food items and slowly grow. My personality type wants to jump to the end goal now! However, theres beauty in the waiting, theres growth in the journey (remind me of that, ok?)
I know you dont think that Gather & Thailand ended when we left. Theres NO way. Right now, we need to focus on getting the wheels of the business turning so that it can be profitable and generous. Then next, oh gosh it just really takes my breath away.
I want Gather to be part of a Gather branch in Thailand. A life skill training project, a safe place, an employer that partners with our most trusted friends and organizations to see what we dreamed of become a reality. To empower, love, come alongside, this community through our community. The impact of this would be far greater than together we could ever imagine.
Its still in the works, its still on our heart in covered by prayer but its where our gaze is set.
To you, the person who has cheered us on when we thought the dream had died! To you, the one who has purchased! To you the one who likes pictures and shares posts! YOU are all part of this reality! TO YOU, you are valued- we are so thankful for you. Can you promise me something, that well stay on this journey together?
TO YOU! The one with dreams, frustrations, goals or longing for change. TO you the one who believes you cant but so badly wants to. To you with limited resources, insecurities, doubts, a long way to go- DO IT! Take the steps, after step after step. Its hard, its uncertain, its worth it. It may come with seasons of waiting, it may come with tears but ill tell you- you were made for more.
Its not over yet, its only just begun. For that, im humbled, awestruck and waiting anxiously for enough seasons to write Gather: Part 2.
Your FREE meal time-planning guide is coming to your inbox soon! Cheers to sitting at the table with a smile on your face instead of coming with that last dish 15 minutes late, again!