Tara ’91 and Todd Storch ’91 have embraced a life of entrepreneurship, using their passion, knowledge, talents, and network to bridge emerging gaps and build strong teams to help companies improve their service. Those same resources have been instrumental in their efforts to build their personal passion project.
This project emerged in the aftermath of great tragedy, when the couple’s eldest daughter, Taylor, died in a skiing accident on a family vacation in March 2010. Realizing that Taylor would not recover, the couple chose to donate their daughter’s organs to give life to others. “Out of all the hard decisions we were making, saying yes to organ donation was an easy one. Taylor was such a giving child that we knew she would have wanted to help others if she had the chance. Tara and I both knew our family had the opportunity to make something good out of this very terrible situation,” Todd said, a testament to their resilience.
With their decision, Taylor’s organs saved and improved five lives. Realizing the need for more organ donation registrations and understanding, the Aggies created a 501(c)(3) named Taylor’s Gift Foundation. The non-profit has united all aspects of the Storches’ lives—from their education at Mays Business School, to their personal friendships, to their corporate careers—and now they are leaders in a societal movement.
From West Texas to Aggieland
Both Tara and Todd have West Texas roots—Tara was raised in Abilene while Todd’s earliest years were spent in Sweetwater and Midland. Both also are the first Aggies in their family.
But each took a different path to get to Texas A&M. Tara initially planned to follow in the footsteps of her two older brothers, who attended Texas Tech University. However, she changed her mind after visiting Aggieland with a friend late in her senior year of high school. “Texas A&M had a completely different feel. That was the biggest thing, how friendly and warm people were,” she said. “It just felt like where I belonged.”
In comparison, Todd always knew he was College Station-bound, but attended the University of Texas at San Antonio as a freshman to stay close to home. “I always wanted to be an Aggie, and quite honestly, I don’t know where that came from,” he said. “But, I do think it came from other people I talked to who were Aggies. There was just something special about Texas A&M and I knew I had to go there.”
The couple’s paths first crossed during a Business Analysis class, taught by Professor Louise Darcey, soon after Todd enrolled. “Todd sat behind me, and I thought he was cute, so I passed him a note saying something silly, I’m sure. Passing notes was the 1988 form of texting,” Tara remembered with a laugh. “That note started a great friendship.”
Both were drawn to studying business, with Tara focusing on marketing while Todd embraced accounting and finance. Tara was involved in Fish Aides, Fish Camp, MSC Hospitality and with sorority life as a Kappa Alpha Theta. Todd was a leader in Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity. They both appreciated the university’s commitment to students and the wealth of opportunities that Texas A&M and the business school offered to explore emerging areas of interest. For example, Todd credits his business classes and Texas A&M’s computer lab for giving him a deeper context about technology’s role in business and hands-on skills at a time when personal computers and the internet were just emerging. While a student, he was one of IBM’s first sales staff at Texas A&M, encouraging Aggies to buy new IBM laptops. “Looking back at it, I feel that Texas A&M was on the forefront,” he said. “They exposed me to this entire new digital world that was like a gold rush about to start back in those days.”
The couple gives special credit to the College of Business Administration Fellows program (now known as Mays Business Fellows) for increasing their professional opportunities. They pointed to the Business Fellows’ week-long trip to New York City and the many professional speakers who came to the Fellows’ meetings as opening their eyes to the wide range of possibilities they would have after graduation.
Being Business Fellows also offered the additional benefit of getting a paid internship with a major company, which has the potential to result in a job right after graduation. As an outcome of her internship, Tara accepted a position at Kraft General Foods in Dallas. Her decision prompted Todd, who was the first in his family to graduate from college, to reconsider his initial plan to move to New York City to work for Arthur Andersen; instead, he took an accounting and operational consulting job at the company’s Dallas office.
Tara worked at Kraft for three years before shifting to selling advertising at KPLX Radio, one of the biggest Metroplex radio stations. “I worked at Kraft because I had an internship there and enjoyed the work and the people, but knew it wasn’t the best fit for me about a year in,” she said. “It was just time for my next step. My manager knew I was losing interest, so she encouraged me to interview elsewhere. She was so supportive and knew I was good with people and sales. She knew the sales manager at KPLX Radio, so she made an introduction. I really respected her for being actively involved with me moving on instead of trying to hold me there.”
As Tara stepped away from her corporate career, Todd’s career began to skyrocket. He remained at Arthur Andersen for another year before moving into radio sales and sales management for 11 years. He then transitioned to the Center for Sales Strategy (CSS), a privately-held consulting company that helps organizations develop sales management and salespeople to improve revenue and strategic outcomes. Todd’s timing in joining CSS proved to be auspicious as digital social media platforms were just emerging and were not yet viewed as game-changers in marketing. “I helped develop a digital plan for one of the largest sales organizations in the country, Katz Media,” Todd said. “We built out a digital plan back when Twitter and Facebook were seen as a joke.”
Everything irrevocably changed in 2010 after Taylor’s death. The Storch family, which also includes Ryan ’21 and Peyton, a nursing student at Texas Tech Health Science Center, never had a conversation about organ donation before Taylor’s death. Yet when they were approached by a nurse about considering organ donation, Tara and Todd said yes without hesitation.
Even in their initial heartbreak, they realized that their decision honored Taylor’s legacy. “People flocked to Taylor, and she inspired people,” Todd said. “We’ve heard many beautiful stories about her over these last 11 years on how kind, caring, and respected she was. She was truly loved by others and had a true gift in lifting others up that was mature beyond her years.”
Seeing the impact of this decision on the rest of the family and close friends triggered their curiosity to learn more about organ donation. The couple was surprised to learn that only 2% of Texans were registered as organ donors in April 2010. That sparked a fire in Todd to do what he could to encourage organ donor registration in hopes of significantly raising that number.
As true leaders and entrepreneurs, the couple stepped into this societal gap to encourage organ donor registrations and spark others to share about the importance of organ donation. That decision also included Todd resigning from CSS to start a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Taylor’s Gift Foundation. It quickly became a national award-winning non-profit, winning “Best New Charity in the Nation” by the Classy Awards after only one year of being established.
The couple began to put themselves out there publicly, sharing their story to help other families in the same devastating situation. “The pain of losing Taylor was very difficult to talk about publicly when I first started doing speaking engagements, but I found that sharing our story was also helping others,” Tara said. “Sometimes hearing from someone who has walked a very difficult path, but still has joy in their life, can help others who are in a dark place find some hope. That was the spark that helped me continue.”
The family’s experience continues to grow Taylor’s Gift, which uses the marketing tagline “Outlive Yourself” to encourage individuals to consider the power of organ donation. “When people think of organ donation, they usually think of death. But organ donation is all about life,” Tara said. “Outlive Yourself is all about leaving a lasting difference in the life of others, and organ donation can be a beautiful way to outlive yourself.”
The couple wrote a book titled, “Taylor’s Gift: A Courageous Story of Giving Life and Renewing Hope” about their experience, which was a best-seller and won “The Most Inspirational Book” at the Books for a Better Life Awards in New York. Additionally, they began to increase organ donor registrations and helped others discuss organ donation more openly. This happened through national features on Good Morning America, The Today Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and People Magazine. They were honored with being People Magazine’s “Heroes Among Us” for their efforts surrounding the importance of organ donation.
Todd and Tara also realized that they needed something creative to make Taylor’s Gift more tangible. The couple reached out to OPI, which agreed to create OPI “Taylor Blue,” a nail color that was inspired by Taylor’s beautiful blue eyes, and that helped share the Outlive Yourself message globally.
And, unsurprisingly, the Storches relied on the Aggie Network for assistance. Near the top of the list was Hans George ’91, another Business Fellow and Todd’s fraternity brother and first roommate after college. George, who was a vice president at Nike, helped champion the company’s creation of “Outlive Yourself Socks” that incorporated the “Taylor Blue” color of Taylor’s eyes and five stripes to symbolize the individuals who were saved by Taylor’s gifts of life through organ donation. The proceeds of the sales support Taylor’s Gift Foundation and Taylor’s Place at the new Southwest Transplant Alliance Organ Recovery Center.
The non-profit continues to evolve, as Todd stepped into the role of chairman emeritus and Tara took on the role as the volunteer President. Tara continues to speak regularly at different events around the nation, sharing the heartfelt story of her daughter’s legacy. The next chapter of Taylor’s Gift also is broadening to start providing emotional support to families who have donated their loved ones’ organs through their Kindred Hearts Program, which is a partnership with Heritage Health Solutions. Also, to expand the program, Johns Hopkins University and NYU have partnered with the foundation on a pilot program and research study about the Kindred Hearts Program.
Back to Business
After dedicating three years to Taylor’s Gift, Todd built and executed a transition plan for the foundation’s sustainability and continued growth. He then returned to the corporate world in 2013 where he continues today focusing on technology and leadership. He’s worked as a vice president and general manager for a technology company called FormStack, a software-as-a-service platform, as well as CEO of Kindrid, a high-tech payment platform delivering solutions to non-profit and church sectors. After working in strategic development with companies in technology, Todd was recruited to become CEO of a national media publishing company. He recently was named chief revenue officer for Futuri Media.
These companies value Todd’s deep experience, his vulnerability and how he has learned to strategically leverage his knowledge and skills to benefit the company as well as its customers. “A strategic entrepreneur is constantly looking to innovate and improve an existing organization or company where you work or belong,” he said, adding that this mindset requires, “the constant curiosity and ability to find, unlock and implement value with people, processes, new markets, new customers, and new products.”
Tara believes it’s this ability that sets Todd apart. “He has this innate skill to hone in on people’s talents to bring out the best in employees and teams,” she said. “He’s so good at developing teams, culture, and talent in people, all the while being very approachable.”
Always Ready to Return
Now married for 28 years, Tara and Todd remain firmly committed to both Texas A&M and Mays Business School. Both are regular speakers at various Texas A&M events, including Fish Aides, Musters in Texas and Arkansas, Mays Business School marketing and non-profit classes, Business Fellows, and fraternity and sorority meetings. Tara was on the board of the Aggie Women network while Todd serves as a member of Mays MS Marketing Advisory Board. “It’s been such a joy to give back,” said Tara, who received the Aggie Women Network’s Legacy Award for her work with Taylor’s Gift. “Whenever we’re asked to do anything to help at A&M, we do everything we can to be there.”
The Storches also have come full circle personally in relation to the class where they initially met. “In 2016, we were on a campus tour with our son, and we called Professor Darcey to let her know that because of her class, we met, got married and now have a son who was going to be an Aggie,” Tara said. “Then our son, Ryan ’21, who was in the Business Honors program in marketing and a Maroon Coat, had Ms. Darcey as a professor before she retired. It was just amazing to us that our son had the same teacher as we did at the business school!”
Focusing on the Good
Years ago, the Storches had to make the best out of the worst situation, so they decided to focus on the good, which is not easy to do. “The good was that Taylor saved lives and so we decided to create something to honor her legacy and keep her spirit alive, while helping others,” Tara said. “Our sweet girl is still impacting lives to this day.”
Despite enduring one of the most difficult crises—the death of a child—that a family can face, Tara and Todd have found ways to thrive professionally and personally. Both credit their faith for their strength and Texas A&M for creating a strong business foundation that has helped them succeed in a variety of professional roles where they were able to leverage change as entrepreneurs. They also are thankful for the power of the Aggie Network. “When you have an Aggie Ring, you immediately have a bond with Aggies everywhere,” Todd said. “So many of these Aggies came to our side to carry us during those dark days of grief and have celebrated with us in times of joy and success.”
Todd and Tara Storch truly exemplify the Aggie Core value of Selfless Service. What they have done nationally brings to light the importance of organ donation, which is a selfless gift in itself. By contributing their time and talents to Mays Business School and Aggieland, they are outliving themselves by making a lasting difference in the lives of Aggies across the globe.