Special Bonus Episode: How Comcast RISE Grant Winner Cassandra Williams Is Building Her Business, Love by the Slice

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the episode is sponsored by:

Comcast RISE. Now in its third year, Comcast RISE celebrates having provided 13,500 businesses nationwide with more than $125 million in monetary, marketing, and technology grants to date. Business applicants have been selected to receive comprehensive grant packages, which include business consultation services, educational resources, a $5,000 monetary grant, creative production, media schedule, and a technology makeover. Comcast RISE is committed to supporting the growth of all small businesses, while advancing the objectives of diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as community investment. Join us in celebrating grant recipients in your community! Find your local RISE-supported businesses and show your support today: https://sidehustlepro.co/comcastrisewinners

Special Bonus Episode: How Comcast RISE Grant Winner Cassandra Williams Is Building Her Business, Love by the Slice

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This week we have a very special bonus episode with fellow Comcast RISE recipient Cassandra Williams. Cassandra is the founder of Love By The Slice, a Tacoma-based cake and treats company that is beloved by her community. 

In this episode she shares:

  • How she started as a side hustler and has remained in business for more than 20 years
  • How she was able to scale and grow as a small business with little funding
  • How she has navigated the challenges of post-pandemic business 
  • What she was able to do with the support of Comcast RISE 

Check out this bonus episode of Side Hustle Pro podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and YouTube. And join us in celebrating the rest of the Comcast RISE grant recipients in your community! Find your local RISE-supported businesses here and show your support today.

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Nicaila Matthews Okome 0:02

You're listening to side hustle Pro, the podcast that teaches you to build and grow your side hustle from passion project to profitable business. And I'm your host Nicaila Matthews Coleman. So let's get started

Hey, friends. Hey, welcome. Welcome back to the show. It's Nicaila here, and today I have a special bonus episode powered by Comcast rise. You guys know that last year I received a Comcast rise business upgrade, which included technology equipment for my team. So I received a desktop laptops, iPads for my team and I and I can say that winning the Comcast rise award was truly a game changer for my business. Being able to provide my team with equipment to work on side hustle Pro, it felt like a real boss move and, and it was actually helpful also. So it leveled up how I feel about my business, how I do business, how you know, my team is able to operate. And that's why I have been singing the Comcast RISE program and opportunity from the rooftops for the last couple of years. You guys hear about it here, you definitely hear about it on my email list, and a little bit more about it. So now in its third year, Comcast rise celebrates having provided over 13,500 businesses nationwide, with more than 125 million in monetary marketing and technology grants to date, business applicants have been able to receive comprehensive wrapped packages, which include business consultation services, educational resources, a $5,000 monetary grant creative production, media schedule, and a technology makeover. So Comcast rise is committed to supporting the growth of all small businesses while advancing the objectives of diversity, equity and inclusion as well as community investment. So in today's special episode, I also want to share the experience of my fellow Comcast rise grant recipient Cassandra Williams, Cassandra owns love by the slice, which is a Tacoma based baking and catering company that seeks to make her community sweeter every day. As you'll hear in Episode, love by the slice was inspired by a church fundraiser, which needed to generate just $700. Since that fundraiser, and for nearly 20 years now, over 20 years now, actually, Cassandra has created 1000s of memorable cakes and treats with the right tools, a dynamite recipe and, of course, love to help her small business survive and continue to thrive. Cassandra applied for $10,000 grant from the Comcast rise Investment Fund and one, Cassandra was able to expand her product offering. And it's also allowing her to offset the cost of payroll. So in addition to Cassandra is loved by the slice business, you can find your local Comcast rice supportive businesses at side hustle pro.co/comcast Rise winners, again, that side hustle pro.co/comcast Rise winners to check out other rise businesses in your neighborhood. So now let's get right into Cassandra story.

Right, all right, Cassandra, welcome. Welcome to the guests here. How are you

Cassandra Williams 3:24

doing? Well, this morning, thank you so much for having me this morning.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 3:27

Of course, I am very happy to speak to a fellow Comcast rise recipient and just hear how your experience has been. And also, once I started looking you up and hearing about your business, I'm so impressed with what you do and how it all came to be. So for those who don't know, tell us a little bit about the story of how love by the slice came to be. I understand it all started with a church fundraiser.

Cassandra Williams 3:52

My husband and I had just joined the church about 10 months after having our first baby. And we were involved in the youth department and the music department at that time. And so we kept going to the meetings for the department and they kept bringing up the same $700 assessment. And I was like, Oh, $700 isn't that much money? Why don't we come up with a creative way to resolve this issue? Right. And so we decided we had a great pancake recipe that my aunt had handed down to us and I was like, let's make pancakes and sell pancake and see if we can't help the department raise money. And we used to bake that pancake one way. It was almond pancake or lemon pound cake and a hand cream cheese icing on it. So it just looked like this little white pile of deliciousness. Yeah, so we made those available. We had a bake sale, and we ended up raising enough money for them not only to cover the assessment for that year, but also the year following and the year following that. So it was very successful. Right. And so, after that happened, other auxilary started asking us to help them and as well. So we did this, for Sunshine pan, we did it for the US Department, we did it for the music department. And then all of a sudden, about a year later, we were having these bake sale down, looked up, we had baked, like 25 pound cakes. And people were meeting us at our car in the parking lot to get their cake. They were putting the money in our hands, and they were taking their cake, you know, right, and they were putting in their car. So that cakes weren't even going into church and more. Every cake we saw was pre order. So what being made at a bake sale started. And so I looked at my husband, I said, you know, this really feels like a business. And he was like, Well, I have a job already. And I don't want a second one.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 5:44

So he wasn't about to sign up for like, like, if you

Cassandra Williams 5:48

want to do it, I will support you. So I did. A year later, we licensed love by the slice baking and catering company in the city of Tacoma. And we started selling pancake. We had a CMS page and Pay Pal

Nicaila Matthews Okome 6:03

I love it, you got to start somewhere, tell the people where you

Cassandra Williams 6:08

bacon wherever we live, that's where we baked, okay, and so we had a CMS page who would go in there and order or they would get the phone number and call us and place our order, we will fulfill it and deliver the order. And we were doing that in 2002. So full circles. This is so many years later, we've now evolved, our customers started asking us to ice cakes and put decorations on the cakes. And so pancake being sweet by itself. You know, I couldn't imagine just laying buttercream on top of that, I had to find another solution. Right? So we expanded from pancake and started making all occasion cakes and event cakes and party cakes and things like that. And I think back in the day, my customers didn't even know what fondant was right. So 18 years later, we started getting requests for funding wrap cake. So we're gonna have to learn how to wrap a cake and find it you know, I'm still trying to learn. This is the funny part.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 7:07

How did you do that?

Cassandra Williams 7:08

I would ask people, How much time do I have before you need this cake? Nice, oh, I don't need it till next month. Also, I can learn anything in 30 days. So I will go, I will go out on YouTube. And I will watch videos and I would watch people icing cakes and making the icing smooth and getting the edges tightened. And then I would go in the kitchen. And I would practice and I would make it happen. I remember somebody asked me to draw a basketball on the top of their cake. And I was like, Well, how long do I have this about 30 days, I said, Well, I can learn anything in 30 days. So we learn out of that was a ugliest basketball I've ever seen on top of basketball. And I piped it and did it myself. So I was like, Oh, if I can do that I can do anything right?

Nicaila Matthews Okome 7:59

That is really inspiring. Because, you know, I know so many of us, we hear like we I can't do that I'm not a baker, I didn't grow up baking with my mom in the kitchen and you just count yourself out. But you said no, I'm gonna learn. And YouTube.

Cassandra Williams 8:12

My mindset was, if I had enough time, I could learn how to do it. And that's pretty much the principle that I've applied from day one, you know, we may step into something we're not familiar with, we may be faced with an opportunity to do something new to us. But there's always an expert at our fingertips. And so we utilize technology to bridge that gap. And it has worked for us for over 20 years.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 8:40

So it's really amazing to talk to someone who has been in business for over 21 years. It's not often that I speak to someone who has decades of experience. And so we're really going to talk about what it's been like to, you know, start from scratch to keep changing and figuring out new things, but also still be at a place where you're learning. You're trying to get to that next absolutely right, because you would still consider yourself a small absolute,

Cassandra Williams 9:03

right? Absolutely, yes. And so we definitely a small business, I wouldn't even say small, you might even call us a micro business. We have six staff. We are still learning the banking game, and how all of this works together. But one of the things that we've been really good at is that is adapting to what's happening in the economy, listening to what our customers and our community needs are and engaging there. You know, and it has worked for us time and time again, I can remember one of our customers used to buy a six inch cake, strawberry screen, same cake every single year for his birthday, and maybe six years ago now, maybe even longer than that. He called he said you know, I just you know I love this strawberry screen cake. I love it. But I'm just by myself and I'm struggling on what to do with the rest of the cake because I don't like throwing things away, you know? And he said, Had you ever thought about making a cupcake? And I look like a cupcake. Why haven't I ever thought of making cupcakes? It was the oddest thing, right? So I was like, Yeah, we could, we could do a cupcake. So I went bought a cupcake. And little did I know that cupcake, cupcakes, pay the rent, you know? So this is, yeah, I mean, we sell cupcakes to take care of our overheads, a large percentage of our overhead. So when did you start the cupcakes? I can't remember exactly. But I remember this was a conversation. We had an up at my house on a Sunday afternoon, because he was getting ready to place an order for his annual birthday cake. And the thought of a cupcake came, and as soon as he asked me, I was like, Well, my customers asking for a cupcake, I need to prepare a cupcake. And that's what we did. So it had to have been, yeah, probably about eight, nine years ago.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 10:55

Interesting. And what is it about the cupcakes versus the cakes? That is such a moneymaker?

Cassandra Williams 11:01

Well, I think people value smaller portions, they value being able to grab and go. And so that's one of the things that has helped us with cupcake sales is that we pre package and we're not just a bakery, we are actually a manufacturer of Premiere baked goods. So we make a lot of different desserts, we pre package. And we have a number of revenue streams, which helped to balance our revenues. And so we have been really fortunate, especially during COVID, I will tell you, during COVID, when people realize they can order a prepackaged cupcake, our business took off. Like it was crazy. People were having drive thru parties. And they would have boxes and boxes, 1000s of our cupcakes sitting to the side where they could just hand people, a pre packaged cupcake. And so I think people, especially during the pandemic, they value being able to keep people safe from germs and being you know, becoming ill. So the pre packaged product really served us well. And understanding too, that having the ability to take orders online, and deliver to people's doors without having any contact. I mean, that was people found names for contactless delivery. And we've been doing this for 20 years, we've always been drafted can't get people's front door, you know, it was like the norm for us. So we were able to just take off and serve the community and provide them with sweets to hear their sweet teeth. And it worked out really well.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 12:41

I want to go backwards a little bit and hear a little bit more about the actual process of making the cake. So how did you know when it was time to move out of your kitchen? And how did you go about getting a commercial kitchen.

Cassandra Williams 12:54

So we were actually forced into a commercial kitchen, to be honest, we were in communication with a friend who had businesses out at the sea TAC airport, and they were discussing branching out and launching a restaurant operation. And we were going to provide the desert for that operation. So to be a part of that whole package, we had to fill out paperwork. With SeaTac airport, we had to get involved with the Port of Seattle. And as we were going through that process and making sure we were checking all the boxes, I had to certify as a woman owned and minority owned business. So I've the old MWBE or old WNVE certification. And so going through that process, one of the consultants put my application together packet of paper like this. And he was looking, he's like, I don't see your certification, or your permits to bake. In this application. I was like, Huh. Well, I went to the health department, they said I didn't need a permit for what I'm doing. So what what else do I need? They said, Oh, if you're not permitted through the Health Department, you need to be certified through the Department of Agriculture, a Washington State and I was like, I've never even heard of them. Never even heard of them. So that led me to go to Washington State Department of Agriculture, learned that there was this whole other world that existed around food and realize, Oh, we're breaking from home. We make too much money to bake from home. So we have to find a commercial space. So that's how we found out that we needed to find a commercial space and it just so happened around that time a mutual friend. One of my business clients, she had a friend who was a biotech engineer. And he had just taken the lease out on a space downtown Tacoma and as a historic building called the way edge, historically had been a location for homeless people to come and have a hot meal throughout the day, and so he was going to use it and make labs so that people can come in and do science, right. But down on the bottom floor was his huge kitchen that he had no use for. So our mutual friend connected us. And that's how I got access to my first commercial kitchen. And so I moved in, and I started baking. And that was just phenomenal, because for the first time I had like multiple ovens, to use to bake products. So it allowed me to scale and be able to accept more business. And that was just I'm sure that was more efficient. It was wonderful, you know, you actually have a three compartment sink and not a one or two, you know, compartments. So it really made operation operations a lot more easy. And it allowed us to expand. So we started offering some other products and services as a result of that. But the challenge that goes with that is now you have overhead, right? So you got to pay for space and all of that

Nicaila Matthews Okome 16:04

you're going from your home, no overhead to this commercial kitchen. And how are you financing this at this point. So did you still have a full time job, or you just reinvest in revenue. So

Cassandra Williams 16:15

up until the point that I got the commercial space, I had been working full time, and doing this on the side 2017 I lost my job. And as I was packing up my office, I was one block from the City Municipal Building, where I get my business license renewed every year. I was one block in there, I heard a voice say go down to the municipal building and make sure that your license is intact. So I put the last of the items out of my office into my trunk. I walked from the building where I was down to the municipal office or municipal building, went into the license department ask them I know I have a business license. But how much time do I have before it has to be renewed? They said your license is good through the end of the year. And by the time I walked back to my car, I had a plan on how to launch my business full time. I made three phone calls and I had 10k quarters. And I have not looked back.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 17:26

Wow. Now you said 2017. So you initially started in 2008 started selling around 1000 in 2002. Right. So you were side hustling for 15 years. Let me tell

Cassandra Williams 17:39

you about the side hustle. Yes, please. When I first made up my mind that I was going to do this. There was a lady that heard that I was going to be baking cakes. She had a house that had two kitchens. She opened up the second kitchen for me. There were four ovens in this kitchen. And this was just like a residential house. This house was amazing, right? But she had a whole second kitchen that she didn't use. So she allowed me to come in there use all her ovens. She had mixers. I just brought the materials unloaded. Produced package reloaded. It delivered. And then when it was it was a whole thing, right. A lot of work kind of a lot of work. Yeah. So okay, that got me started. And in that location, I grew my business like over 300% Like, it happens so fast. The problem was, I was no longer getting sleep. And I had three babies, a husband, you know, to juggle with all of this going on. Yeah. So it was like, and did you have any employees? It was me, myself and I right. And so the blessing in it was that I had a company that they bought from me every every month because they had birthdays and anniversaries and everything and they just supported me. And it was a connection that my aunt, my aunt Denise Marsh, opened up for me and they just kept buying and kept my little regrowing and I was like I can't I'm not getting any sleep. I'm falling asleep on the road. This is not going to work right if I hurt myself. Make cake right? So I decided I was gonna quit. I'm done this. This is way more than what you was ready to throw in the towel. I told my aunt I appreciate everything you've done, but I can't keep this up. I'd start a business and create time for my family and now I have no time for my family. I only have time for myself. So I need to just shut down and then maybe I'll revisit it when my kids are older or something you know. So she told her boss what I was getting ready to do. And the boss and her sister called me on my phone and they said to me Cassandra, you have wonderful product you are in the process of building a fantastic brand. You cannot I quit. And I say, well, I need sleep. And then somebody got a plan on how they can help me get some sleep so I can keep up what I got going on. I'm happy to hear those two ladies proposed that I bake solely for their company until I was ready to launch my business full time. And they sent business my way. They kept me busy. They let me practice on them. I was creating flavors and profiles and desserts.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 20:29

And what was their company? Did they have a dessert company? Property

Cassandra Williams 20:32

Management, and development? property developers and property managers? Yes, they were all about real estate. Okay. And okay, for 10 years. That's what I did. I said, Okay, I'll give it a shot. So

Nicaila Matthews Okome 20:44

how, what was the connection? Sorry, I'm a little bit lost. So were you making cakes for their clients? Yes.

Cassandra Williams 20:50

So my aunt worked for this company. And my aunt told them I was baking cakes. They heard about it. So they started buying cakes from me. So that's how we got connected? Well, when they heard I was gonna quit, they were like, Oh, that means our cakes go away. And no, that's not working for us, right? So. So they call me and propose that I just bake for them. And I could practice or try new things, and they were still gonna pay me to do it. And that's what I did for 10 years. So in that 10 year timeframe, you know, I moved from the first location, I'm now living, I think at one point, I was in an apartment. I mean, I had buttercream all over the place look like an art studio, I had frosting and everything. And so I just baked. And when that day came, when I lost my job, I was able to call them and let them know, Hey, I'm ready now. And they made sure that I had business coming my way. That's how I got the connection for the commercial space. They just believed in me, you know. And I think that's, that's such a

Nicaila Matthews Okome 21:54

blessing to have people believe in you at that level and support you and, you know, allow you the space to grow as a cake maker designer, and to just do things that are now reaping rewards for you in your business. So I just, that is just amazing. That's truly truly a blessing. When you did launch your business full time, what was the process of finding what is now the space for love by the slice? Where are you currently in Washington.

Cassandra Williams 22:30

We are currently located at 1112 South 11th Street, in Tacoma, Washington. This is the hilltop business district, and happens to be the neighborhood in which I was born and raised. I look at that

Nicaila Matthews Okome 22:43

full circle moment for you.

Cassandra Williams 22:46

I'm telling you, I'm so excited about being back home. And being able to serve a community that served me many, many decades, brought me so much love here, so much love and support to me. And so it is exciting to be back here. I now have people that have come alongside our partners have phenomenal Baker, outstanding cake designer, just two beautiful people, and they are passionate about what they do. They're taking us to the next level. So I mean is it's just been great to be here.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 23:23

That sounds awesome. I haven't been to Washington, but like that whole district sounds like a place I want to check out

Cassandra Williams 23:28

and we have construction so that the T line the hilltop T line is up and running. So we've got the tram that runs through our neighborhood all the way down to the stadium district. And I believe it also goes down to the Tacoma Dome. So you've got this whole thorough way that is opened up for public transportation. We have construction happening in every single direction of our business. So there's so much change happening around us. And of course would change you have to mitigate those impacts on your business. But the reality is, with the amount of support that we have garnered over the years, we just continue to find ways to make it work, you know, and I think the final say anything else to a person who's thinking about starting a business, you know, you got to have grit, right? You have to be able to adapt, because there are so many things that are beyond your control. You get up with a plan. But Tacoma Public Utilities can call you and say, Hey, there's gonna be a power outage in two days, seven days, and you got to figure out how to keep your material your raw materials, you know, safe and protected. Right, Fred? Yeah, nobody's cutting the check for you to go by generator and keep things cold, right.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 24:47

I'm always fascinated by that. When I walked by a bakery. I'm like, how did they remember? You know, how do you know what's fresh? What should be thrown out? If it's not bought yet? I'm always like looking at the cakes in the window. when it's closed

Cassandra Williams 25:04

we're thankful for the Pierce County Health Department. We're thankful for Washington agriculture, Department of Agriculture, they help us tell us the rules help us to stay within the guidelines. And they take our ideas and help us ensure that we have the safety measures in place to provide a quality product to the community. So

Nicaila Matthews Okome 25:24

yeah, speaking of that, I love that there's that support. I know, when you moved into the space, I understand that there's a learning curve there as far as permits and things you needed to do and and tell us about that process like of meeting the requirements and finding out like, hey, we actually need to invest X amount of dollars into this to meet cool, yeah,

Cassandra Williams 25:44

shocking, a lot of it. So what happened? So to end up where I am here in the hilltop business district, I was literally on my way to sign a lease in East Tacoma. And I got a call on my way to the lease signing to say, hey, we had a conversation about five years ago, right? As a property owner, we have conversation about five years ago, you probably don't remember me, but you had told me that you wanted your first storefront in hilltop where you were born and raised? Well, I think I have the perfect space. And I'm like, Oh, I'm on my way to sign a lease down. I'm on my way, like, I'm two minutes away from the location, she just screams don't do it. Don't do it. Turn the car around and come look at the space before you sign the lease. So I was like, Okay, let me call. So I made arrangements to come a little bit later to the lease signing, I drove over to hilltop and when my foot hit the threshold, it was a subway. When my foot hit the threshold, the Lord said, this is the place you're supposed to be. And so I was like, Okay, I gotta call other people tell them I'm sorry, I'm not gonna be able to move work. So you got this face sign the lease a month later. Yeah, we thought because it was a subway, you know, subway bakes bread every day, right? We'll just be able to roll my oven in there and start baking cakes, no. Had to submit requests to this city of Tacoma. That included a rendering of what we wanted the space to look like. So I don't know if anybody else knows how much architects charge for renderings is not cheap, right? Sounds expensive. In my mind at the time, I could have simplified it, but I wanted to do it the right way. You know, I hired an architect got the rendering of the space 1000s of dollars to do that submitted the permits 1000s of dollars to do that, only to find I have to do construction in order to bake a single cake in this face. Why we had to install a grease interceptor. We had to upgrade the electrical to ensure that it would be able to support all of the equipment that we're going to bring in. So you're talking $50,000 worth of work.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 28:05

Know what's crazy, Have you even heard of a grease interceptor before because I had it,

Cassandra Williams 28:09

I'd heard about it, because I work in fast food as a young lady. And they used to have to have people you know, clean the grease trap and make sure you know, was clear and all of these kinds of things. But Never had I heard that that was a requirement for a bakery, code changed, plumbing code changed, electrical code had changed over the years. And so what we learned was that the subway was grandfathered in under old coal. I was a new business. So new code applied to me. And so that was in February of 2020. Okay, so we got the lease August 2019. We got word from the city, February 2020. That you had to do construction.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 28:58

Were you operating in between that time at least making some money? No.

Cassandra Williams 29:03

Well, so listen, in April 22. The governor shut the state down. So we didn't even have time. I had just like, April, I had just finished my capital campaign to raise the money for construction. So dead in the water. I sat in this shop, looking at these gold walls, okay. And this New York subway wallpaper and I said, Lord, you brought me here. You helped me get this lease. What do you want me to do? I got 1200 50 square feet of space that we got to do something with. Obviously, baking is not it. So there must be something else from that conversation. To nine days later. I wrote a program because people were sick, and they could not get access to food. And so I slipped into nonprofit mode had years and nonprofit experience served on board nonprofits move right into that the Lord gave me a vision. And I created a program called revive Washington. And we boxed shelf stable food and supplies up for people who were in quarantine due to COVID. And we dropped the boxes at their front doors. So they have food, they have supplies, they had hygiene care. And it sustained them during that seven to 10 day or 14 day period of quarantine, they were still able to feed themselves and their families. And we did that for two and a half years.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 30:37

So was this something that you receive funding for? Did you get payment for this?

Cassandra Williams 30:43

What happened was I got the idea. I called a friend and told them what I was going to do. He said, I'm sending my wife down right now bring you a $500 check. I had no idea I would just

Nicaila Matthews Okome 30:55

the best friend.

Cassandra Williams 30:57

And I prayed Lord sent me good. Please, we're good people around me. And he's done that. And they brought me a $500 check. The day that I opened the program and launched the website, I got a phone call from a company here in the city of Tacoma, we got 1200 people that need the service that you're providing, can you help us? And I say, Well, I just spent 470 some odd dollars of the 500 that I had. So I'm happy to help. But I need to understand what level of support and like you got 1200 that's gonna cost, right. So they said we want to be served every week. I said, Well, I guess we better find some money. We found the money grant started coming, we reached out to a couple of agencies 20,000 here 15,000 From here, 10,000 over here. So it funded the program, it kept us working for that whole two and a half year period, until the knees started to dwindle. And then by that time, we had raised a capital for the construction. So okay, what is meant to be is going to be you know, and all of these things happen in concert. And it was an ebb and flow, it was a give and take, but everything flowed. And we were able to sustain during that whole course of the pandemic, you know, cuz in that we stay close a long time our state did

Nicaila Matthews Okome 32:23

that's really scrappy. And that's really just really smart of you and resourceful to think about, because I know that was stressful. And I know, being hit with a 50,000, unexpected $50,000 that you need to do in construction in this new place that you just invested in, and I'm so excited about for your business. I can't imagine like being hit with that. But you raise a lot of important points around why small business owners need so much capital, like we're constantly being hit with things that we didn't know, you don't know what you don't know, again, like this grease receptor, this changing out things that I just never would have thought that that was Yeah,

Cassandra Williams 33:05

and this is the thing that I think a lot of people don't realize, and then we're not even going to talk about the community impacts like being black and being a female. The odds that are stacked against us being successful in business, you know, most black businesses are undercapitalized. I've been fortunate, I've been really blessed, I have great people. But I also listen to advice. I also seek consultation, I also put myself in places where there are people around me that know more than me, they're better at this than me. So that I can challenge myself that I can be challenged and grow and become the kind of business owner that is necessary to actually grow a business from a side hustle, right? To a whole, you know, limited liability company, and eventually a corporation. So, you know, we have to grow as individuals in order for our business to grow. Right. And so, just having, getting on the phone and reaching out, say, Hey, I don't understand this. What do you suggest? What recommendations do you have? What haven't I thought of, you know,

Nicaila Matthews Okome 34:20

and you're always seeking out these opportunities, because it's like, you can't do this on your own unless you're consistently learning, researching, just getting taken advantage of any funding that's out there. And, you know, speaking of that, how did you even hear about the Comcast RISE program? Do you remember

Cassandra Williams 34:44

it was an email that was sent to me? Okay, I think a member of the Pierce County black collective sent it and I filled it out for sure

Nicaila Matthews Okome 34:52

what made you want to apply at the juicy right away and say let me do it because

Cassandra Williams 34:56

at the time I needed to get access to a car I'm Tim services. And I needed to get all of my data into some automated something that was going to automate my financials. So that at some point in time, I'd be able to look at my financials at a glance and see what I need to see about my business. And so I just saw this as a perfect opportunity to an ad for me to gain access to that. And then also, there was another commerce had put out something as well. And so I was able to gain access to the accounting services through that grant. But the Comcast rise that actually came up, I applied for the same year didn't get it. The next year, I got it. And it helped me with marketing. So doing some work around social media, getting some consultation around, hiring staff, finishing up my employee handbook, I made some really critical deliverables I was able to get through the Comcast Rhys grant. So I'm excited. Yeah, it is open.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 36:03

I'm glad that you mentioned a lot of people don't know that you can apply more than once. If you didn't get it the first year, like, apply again.

Cassandra Williams 36:10

I had intended I was going to apply until I got it because I knew it was a resource that

Nicaila Matthews Okome 36:18

don't count yourself out yet. That's it. So but you just to clarify, you apply for a grant, and you want that from the Comcast rise Investment Fund? I did. Okay. How did you feel when you want that? Like, I mean,

Cassandra Williams 36:31

almost like, Lord, thank you, somehow.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 36:36

Like, I know, sometimes we feel like we apply for stuff. And we're not sure like, Oh, could it be ever meet me, but you actually,

Cassandra Williams 36:43

let me tell you, I was so grateful. Thank you, Comcast, thank you so much, because it really was what we needed to accomplish at least two to three critical steps that we needed to make. And it helped us to accomplish those steps and get us to this place. And now we got, I can't release all the good stuff that's getting ready, however, but it's positioned as to further capitalize on the growth, the development that we were able to get through the Comcast rise grant. And it has set us up for the next phase of expansion. And I can't wait to share what's happening. I gotta keep it under wraps right now.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 37:25

Expansion, though, how does it feel when in order to expand, you have to keep what you were holding close to your chest and start to tell people how to do your recipes, how to, you know, do your secret sauce? How do you manage that? With expansion?

Cassandra Williams 37:41

So I think that it's give and take, right? I have a inner circle that I can trust with anything. So this inner circle has yet to fail me. So if I have an idea, I take it to my inner circle. They'll either bakit No, or they saying, Yeah, right. And if they give me an if they say thumbs down, we don't go any further than that. If they say thumbs up, then we go to the next step, right? And we start involving consultants and start asking the industry experts, how are people doing this? How has it ever been done? And just establishing you know how impactful this will be to community? I think that one has to decide in business? Am I going to be in business by myself? For myself? Or is this something that will grow beyond me? Yeah. And it's different answer for everybody, you know, for me, this business will grow beyond me. So there's a certain level of trust that has to be applied in order for this to grow beyond me. Does it come without risk? Absolutely not? Are you going to have situations that don't work out in your favor, probably so. But at the end of the day, if I know, this is supposed to grow beyond me, I have to take that risk. I'll take calculated risks, and I will certainly do all that I can to mitigate the level of risk. But there's always going to be that risk. But here's the blessing in it. I'm a creative. So if something happens over here that I didn't anticipate, there's another path. And all I got to do is get on it and pursue that. It always works out. This is I love that one. Because if he gave me an idea today, over here, exactly gonna give me an idea. I can do it again. Yeah, so that is

Nicaila Matthews Okome 39:33

yeah, that is the mindset of abundance that we all need to have because sometimes the fears while warranted, they keep us in this limited, like if I lose this one thing that said, I'm done, and you forget that No, like the ability to come up with this idea, the ability to do what I just done. It is a testament to what I'm able to throw, I can do it. I could do it in a different way. So I love that she said that um That is just so such an important reminder

we didn't touch on this, but I wanted to make sure that I highlighted that with the money that you want. With the Comcast rise fund, you were able to invest in expanding your product offerings, invest in payroll. So all of the things that we just touched on with expansion also comes with getting the resources continuing to go out there and get funding and get, you know, as much as you can for your business.

Cassandra Williams 40:33

Yeah. And the Comcast rise, always thinking about how can I take this pot of money and do the best that I can with it? How can I best steward these dollars, because at the end of the day, I'm not doing this alone. I'm standing on the shoulders of somebody else's vision. Somebody at Comcast had a vision to help small black own woman owned business, I don't want to disappoint that vision, I want to contribute. I want to bring a positive light. And I want Comcast to be able to say, hey, we invested in that business over there. And guess what, it was a good investment. And that goes for anything. Everything I do I think about my mom, I think about my dad, I think about my grandparents, I think about my husband, I think about my children. This is legacies that were built Yes, you know, we're not just doing this to be doing something we're building. And we're not just building things, but we're building people. And we're building a future for somebody else, you know, the land on which the the shop that I have, the land that it's built on, was donated by a man by the name of John Connor in the late 1800s, a black man in real estate, and also an attorney, he donated 67 acres of land to the city of Tacoma for public use, you think is by happenstance, I'm here. Absolutely, I kind of had a vision hundreds of years ago, that somebody like me, was going to need a place a safe place to do business. And here I am. You I am. Filming. This is a really great season. And it's just up.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 42:22

So Cassandra, it was so great having you in the guest chair for this special episode. Before you go, I'd love to know a little bit more about your experience with profitability, you've spoken openly about how that kind of still eludes you, or at least the last time I heard this. So you can be a small business owner, you can be in business for a long time. But it's still challenging. So what's been your experience? And what are you working on to change that?

Cassandra Williams 42:47

So one of the things that we did that was very pivotal for the business was to automate our finances, we can now see the business at a glance, right. One of the things that I think has helped us when you don't know something, you just don't know it. But there are some things you do know, right, your gut serves you quite well, my gut serves me very well. If I take on a new project, that project has to be profitable. If I have 15 projects that are profitable, then nine times out of 10, my business is going to be profitable, right? So watch what's in the bank. If I don't have it, I don't have it. Bottom line, right, we have to balance how we use the utilized credit, there are times we have to use more credit than we really want to, to get us through to a certain point. But there's always got to be a plan to bring that credit back into balance. So there's ebbs and flows, there's ups and downs, the post pandemic, economy is a beast. I watch casemix go from $86 for 50 pounds to $216 for 50 pounds. Oh my gosh, I don't know about you. But that makes making cake really, really expensive, right? So it's not. And that's just one product. I every single product that I use, sustain an increase of over 30%. So imagine the impact that that's had on my business is hard out here.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 44:20

Yeah. And then you have to balance raising prices, customer happiness, customer retention, right, all of that sometimes

Cassandra Williams 44:27

you have to narrow what you're able to offer. Right? So you can't keep doing the same stuff. When costs go up like that you have to think about, okay, what's selling the most, let's focus on selling that and just do more of that. So you have to streamline sometimes you have to scale back sometimes you have to pivot sometimes, you know, we have multiple streams of revenue, right? You have to look at the most profitable stream and grow that you know. So once again, it's just about being adaptable. People talking about Being bankable, listen, I haven't got a dime of cash from anybody's bank yet to happen, and it's okay. Because I've been able to continue to grow and expand without it. But one day, I'm going to need it. And so as we talk about debt to income ratios, get an understanding of that. What does it really mean to be profitable? How do you remain profitable, and continue to support the community in a way that is meaningful to them? And so these are things that we talk about all the time, we try to figure out are we going to continue to do this? Or should we stop doing this? So it's all of these kinds of conversations that are happening all the time, but I'm able to see at a glance what's working and not working? And when you find out that it's not working you stop doing it.

Nicaila Matthews Okome 45:47

I think this will be so helpful for so many people because I don't want anyone out there beating themselves up if you know you have good months you have bad right? You don't beat yourself up if you're like I think I should be here by now because it is nuanced, and you know, years like 2020 to 2022. Right? So I wish we could talk even more but I know we both have to run so before you go, I know you ship nationwide is a nationwide nationwide we should so tell people where they could connect with you after this episode and where they can get love by the wonderful you

Cassandra Williams 46:18

can find us on the worldwide web at WWE. Love by the slice.com You can call us at 25358822253 and if you are in the area, please stop by and visit us at 1112 and South 11th Street. Tacoma Washington 98405 We ship poundcake we ship cookies we ship bars. So there's a lot of things that you can have shipped to your family members during the holiday or two that needs to be

Nicaila Matthews Okome 46:56

That's exactly it was an absolute delight having you here you guys hear the phone's ringing off

all right.

Hey guys, thanks for listening to side hustle Pro. If you like the show, be sure to subscribe rate and review on Apple podcasts. It helps other side hustlers just like you to find the show. And if you want to hear more from me, you can follow me on Instagram at side hustle Pro. Plus sign up for my six bullet Saturday newsletter at side hustle Pro, that CO slash newsletter. When you sign up, you will receive weekly nuggets from me, including what I'm up to personal lessons and my business tip of the week. Again, that side hustle pro.co/newsletter to sign up. Talk to you soon

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Meet the host:

Nicaila Matthews-Okome

Hi! I’m Nicaila, the Creator and Host of the Side Hustle Pro Podcast. I started Side Hustle Pro when I was a side hustler myself. I was a digital marketer at NPR by day, side hustler by night. Through the powerful stories shared on this show and the courage to launch my own initiatives, I was able to quit my own job and go full time with Side Hustle Pro.

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