Something sweet is baking on Tacoma’s Hilltop. Peeking through the frosty glass on a cold February afternoon, passersby on 11th St can see pastry cases full of individual treats and cake slices, a shelf lined with cheerful teddy bears, and an entire wall blooming with hundreds of bright red roses.
Love by the Slice Baking & Catering Company hasn’t been open in its physical storefront for very long—it celebrated its one-year anniversary this month— but you wouldn’t know it from how dedicated a customer base the bakery already has. They offer 14 signature flavors of pound cake in addition to a wide variety of other confections like banana pudding, sugar cookies, cupcakes, and custom cakes. They also have a year-long “Cake of the Month Club” that gives customers a chance to sample a different flavor of pound cake each month.
While it may be a newer addition to the neighborhood, Love by the Slice has a long history of baking cakes and satisfying sweet tooths in the Tacoma area. The company was born from the brain of its owner Cassandra Williams in 1999 and officially licensed in 2002. For Cassandra, it has been a long road to seeing her dream realized of having a storefront in the city she loves. That journey wasn’t always easy and came with many unexpected turns for an entrepreneur.
Cassandra’s baking roots began with a noble mission: wanting to help her church’s youth division raise several hundred dollars. She and her husband took on the task of raising the money through a bake sale because, in Cassandra’s own words, she didn’t think $700 would be too hard to raise if she tried it.
She was right. At the end of the first bake sale—selling pound cake, of course— she had already raised all the money the youth division needed for that year and the following two years. Her pound cakes were a hit. Soon, the bake sales turned to a high demand for pre-orders from her church community. What started out as a simple formula of pound cakes with cream cheese frosting quickly transformed into requests for custom birthday cakes, and even wedding cakes. With every new challenge, Cassandra was quick to rise to the occasion. When a customer asked if she could possibly make a tiered and decorated wedding cake for an event 6 months away, the voice inside her head told her “I can learn anything in six months!”
As her home-based microbusiness became a larger enterprise, she was faced with the reality of how much time, effort, and energy it took to keep things running. On top of owning and managing her own business, she was still working a full-time job and commuting two hours a day, and it was starting to wear on her. To Cassandra, it felt like Love by the Slice was coming to a natural end.
Then, some of her biggest fans stepped in. Love by the Slice had been providing birthday cakes to the company where Cassandra’s aunt worked, and they were so passionate about her cakes and her business that they couldn’t stand losing it. So the company made her an offer: bake exclusively for them as a corporate client while she figured out where she wanted her business to go next. So that’s what she did for the next ten years. During that time, Cassandra says she was able to truly hone her recipes to perfection, experiment with new ideas, work on her business plan, and grow capital.
Even with a lease signed, the road ahead was still a difficult, and surprising, one. She signed the lease for her space in 2019. In February 2020, she learned that she would need to have $50,000 of construction completed in the storefront before she would be able to bake a single cake. Then, in March 2020, a pandemic brought everything to a complete standstill.
In the face of this daunting setback, Cassandra knew she needed to be creative. She sat down and brainstormed what she could possibly do to make use of her storefront, keep a staff employed, and be useful to her community facing this unprecedented crisis. She decided that providing food and supplies to her neighbors in quarantine was an important way to give back. Starting off with a $500 check from a friend, she and a small team started putting boxes of goods together and delivering them to those in need. The response was incredible, and requests for more boxes, as well as funding to make this work a reality, started to pour in. Through this creative solution, the current storefront of Love by the Slice didn’t sit empty throughout the pandemic. It was ground zero for a coordinated response to help our community’s most vulnerable. Overall, this program was able to be sustainable for two and a half years while Cassandra waited to be able to open her store to the public.
Her store is open now, but Cassandra doesn’t see that as a reason to stop her efforts to support the community. In fact, it presents new, exciting opportunities. During her ten years working for the Salvation Army, Cassandra became passionate about helping the local homeless community. Now, with a business of her own, she sees pathways to make that happen. Her goal is to have two staff positions reserved for individuals experiencing homelessness to help them earn a stable income and be surrounded by support while they work to improve their situations. Love by the Slice is currently in the phase of hiring its key staff members who will oversee the day-to-day operations. Once this happens, Cassandra is excited to get to work implementing this new program and making the vital community connections for it to succeed. Love by the Slice’s “Cake of the Month Club” is also going to play a key role in funding this ambitious idea.
As a business owner who is so deeply invested in her surrounding community, Cassandra is also passionate about promoting access, affordability, and inclusivity when it comes to resources for small and microbusinesses. She believes it is important that small businesses like her own, and other businesses owned by groups often left out of the conversation—such as Black-owned and woman-owned businesses—always have a seat at the table in organizations such as chambers of commerce. Cassandra shares an important reminder that when it comes to equity and inclusion, things won’t always be easy. Sometimes hard conversations, sacrifices, and struggle are necessary to make real change happen. In the end, however, it is worth it to create a business community where everyone is able to access and afford the tools they need to succeed. “We just have to keep coming to the table and presenting ideas and being willing to listen and try new things,” says Cassandra.
Throughout every challenge the universe has thrown at her, Cassandra credits “great faith and grit” as her recipe for success. She also gives credit to her team of “the best baker, the best decorator, and the best admin staff in the whole wide world.”
After one year in business at its first permanent storefront, Love by the Slice has no plans to slow down anytime soon. It has been a long, storied journey for owner Cassandra Williams to get to this point, but it has all been a labor of love.
This Member Feature story is part of a series by the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber to promote stronger connections and increased engagement between the Chamber, its members, and the local business community. Member stories are non-promotional opportunities to share members' business stories with the community. If you are a Chamber member interested in being featured for a story, please contact Digital Marketing Manager Audrey Widner at email@example.com
Last Thursday, February 23rd, we joined Therapeutic Associates Inc. to celebrate their new clinic location with a ribbon-cutting! Thank you to everyone who attended and made this milestone so special! View photos from the event below.
Last Thursday night we hosted our February After Hours at The Press Room in Tacoma. Nearly 200 members of our business community came out to check out this amazing event venue in Downtown Tacoma, network with friends and peers, and enjoy delicious food and beverages!
Thank you to The Press Room for hosting this month's event and to everyone who came out and made this such a special evening!
View photos from the event below!
Thank you to all the businesses and organizations who have chosen to join our Chamber community! Explore the businesses who have joined so far in 2023:
Therapeutic Associates Physical Therapy-Lakewood
PhysioStrength Physical Therapy
The Tangled Gardener, Art & Craft Studio
Divine Living Ministry Health and Healing Center
Mind Body Spirit Massage Ellie Esteves LMP LLC
The Village Senior Living
Capital Business Machines
Giant Leap Management Solutions
Morris Verdonk Accounting
Ginkgo Forest Winery LLC
Pure Infusion Suites
D & M Truck LLC
Bio Clean Inc.
Our Chamber’s annual Horizons Economic Forecast event recently took place on January 26th, 2023. This year’s event was sold out and saw over 500 guests in attendance. Expert economists, industry executives, and local business leaders convened to candidly discuss the economic outlook of the coming year and offer insights and advice to business owners.
Some of the top issues on everyone’s minds at Horizons this year were inflation, workforce development, and the possibility of a recession. Event speakers covered all these topics and more through presentations and live discussions. Read a recap of our top 10 takeaways from Horizons Economic Forecast below to be the most informed and prepared you can be for 2023!
1. PROGRESS AT THE PORT
The Port of Tacoma, one of the South Sound’s biggest economic drivers, has big plans for workforce development in our region. The Port is launching a new Workforce Development Strategic Plan in 2023 that will focus on pathways to well-paying jobs in maritime trades that do not require 4-year degrees, as well as increasing internships and paid work opportunities. The Port plans to partner with local organizations such as the Tacoma Youth Marine Foundation, as well as working with Tacoma Public Schools to develop a Maritime Skills Center for youth to gain practical on-site experience.
2. BOEING BREAKING RECORDS
Boeing, a company in our region that saw some of the biggest economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, is on the road to recovery and expects to see growth over the next 3-5 years. In December, Boeing announced a record-breaking order from United Airlines for the largest purchase of 787 Dreamliners in the company’s history as well as one hundred 737 MAX jets. Boeing is entering the first quarter of 2023 strong and is actively hiring.
3. INFLATION ON THE DECLINE
Inflation, while still a major concern for both businesses and consumers, has peaked and appears to be on the decline. According to Fiqri Dine, Head of Investments for the Pacific Northwest for J.P. Morgan Private Bank, we should expect to see inflation continue to drop with each coming month in 2023. However, getting inflation to below 2% may prove to be a challenge with variables such as China reopening, de-globalization of commerce in the U.S., and energy transition. The good news is that low unemployment and record high profits can serve as a stabilizing force for the U.S. economy while the Federal Reserve continues its efforts to curb inflation.
4. GET READY FOR RECESSION
A long-anticipated recession is likely to occur in Summer or Fall of 2023. However, experts predict that it will likely be short and mild.
5. UNEMPLOYMENT COULD INCREASE
Along with this, unemployment in Pierce County is likely to rise in 2023 to around 5.9% from an average of 5% in 2022.
6. ECONOMIC WELLNESS FELL FOR PIERCE COUNTY IN 2022
The Pierce County Economic Index (PCEI) fell by 1.5% in 2022. The PCEI is a measurement designed to gauge the economic health of Pierce County driven by changes to metrics in total real personal income and real personal income per capita in Pierce County, as well as other factors. The PCEI was previously forecast to fall by 0.4% in 2022 but had a more significant change due to factors such as the end of pandemic stimulus funds.
7. PIERCE COUNTY ECONOMIC INDEX FORECAST TO RISE IN 2023
The PCEI is forecast to rise 1.4% in 2023, which is positive news for Pierce County. The PCEI is useful for predicting how well residents in Pierce County are doing, as well as retail sales and consumer spending.
8. WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT STILL A FOCUS
Workforce development continues to be a top priority for investment in Pierce County. According to Samuel Bradshaw, Business Solutions Manager at WorkForce Central, skills-based hiring is an area of major interest for many jobseekers and employers. The skills-based approach to hiring prioritizes individuals’ skills and experiences rather than degrees. This is a way for employers fill open positions and practice diversity, equity, and inclusion by offering opportunities to workers from historically underserved communities and backgrounds.
9. CONSTRUCTION BUILDING BACK STEADILY
The construction industry struggled with high labor costs, high interest rates, and supply chain issues in 2022 which led to issues with many projects stalling or stopping in Pierce County. Rob Brewster, president of InterUrban Development, says that costs appear to be steadying for the industry which will lead to more consistency in development and the success of project completion.
10. JBLM PROVIDES ECONOMIC STABILITY AMONGST UNCERTAINTY
Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Pierce County’s largest employer, was an important stabilizing force for the South Sound economy from 2020-2022. While many industries faced shutdowns and decreased staffing, JBLM remained open and operational. JBLM will continue to benefit the economy of our region in 2023 with increases to its military housing allowance, payroll, and basic sustenance allowance leading to more money being spent in South Sound markets.
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