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
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.