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Tonyia Smith, Owner of Silver Slice Bakery
Silver Slice Bakery

Silver Slice Bakery, Tonyia Smith

Title / Role: Owner
Location: ​Seattle, Washington
What do you do?

My business is emerging. During the pandemic I created a gluten-free wood-fire pizza crust that is par-baked, frozen and is sold to hotels and restaurants. I’m currently working on pizza packaging and have a co-branding opportunity with Hormel Foods to expand into the frozen pizza industry.  Like other businesses, post COVID, I made it thru the storm and the future looks very bright with having a new product that tastes great, has a high demand and produces a new stream of revenue.

Baker in her kitchen
What inspired you to start your business?

My company, Silver Slice Bakery wholesales and retails look-a-like baked goods that “Compete With Wheat”. In 2009, I discovered my life’s purpose in culinary school when we had to complete a gluten-free nutritional project before graduating.  I would purchase gluten-free products from grocery stores, strike up conversations with folks grabbing items for purchase and check out gluten-free cookbooks from the library. I had relatively the same experiences when I would patronize local gluten-free bakeries for fresh baked goods.  I couldn’t believe folks were eating something that tasted this terrible. It was all the same consistency mainly dry and overly sweet to mask the taste of the use of alternative flours. We all have to eat, but this was ridiculous. I would discuss baking techniques with  local bakers and I contacted food manufacturers and ask questions such as,” What are you doing to the bread to where you have to toast it to death and why is it so dry?” After contacting several other manufacturers, I kept getting the same response to my questions, “that is just the way it is” and it was at that moment that it dawned on me that I was living in a bubble.  I quickly realized that if something does not affect you personally, you don’t think much about it. I felt that the food manufacturers where like Hey, it bakes!

Silver Slice Bakery owner in the kitchen baking

So I continued to research and develop recipes for breads, cakes and pastries at home.  I’d give my finished baked goods to my mother’s co-workers that have celiac disease or a gluten-intolerance.  The feedback, responses, referrals and requests for more was overwhelming. I remember a lady contacting me everyday for goodies and I told her, “I- can’t- keep-baking-this-stuff-out-of-my-house” and she retorted,” Do you realize what you have done? You need to open a bakery to retail to folks like me.” And so I listened and my journey to starting a bakery began.

What influenced you to seek help from SCORE?

In 2009, I graduated culinary school and I formed the corporation after reading Small Business for Dummies. I participated in an entrepreneurial clinic at a local university and the students insisted that I change the formation to an LLC. We would tug back and forth and the students would continue to tell me I need to make this change because I am “small”.  I stood my position and told the students that even though I am starting as a small business, I am not a “small-minded business”. I vented my frustration to my mother and she suggested that I reached out to SCORE because they have retired executives that could best advise me on my business startup and help me strategize my “Big Ideas”. Please note that I have always had a champagne mind with a beer pocketbook.

How SCORE helped.

I recommend SCORE to anyone who wants to start a business or is already in business.  Success is always under construction. The resources from SCORE such as having access to the business library, workshops, online business templates available for download to help with writing a business plan, creating cash flow analysis, financial projections and having mentors available to discuss your new concept, ideas, help with your business plan and business goals is the ABSOLUTE BEST resource for small businesses! The experience and knowledge that the mentors have is not found in any books I read thus far. It feels good to know that you are not alone and you’ll get the tools, insight, inspiration, knowledge, motivation and understanding to continue on your entrepreneurial journey.

What's great about my mentor?

I’ve worked with  Suvendoo Ray for over one year.  I’ve also worked with Bernard Bossom whose expertise is commercial real estate who helped me with my Pike Place Market lease in 2012 and current lease for The Commons Mall in Federal Way, Washington.

SCORE Mentor and mentee

Suvendoo is AWESOME!!! He is a great motivator as well as and advisor and I have lots of respect for him. There were times he’d contact me for updates about my production and sales and I think he could hear the discernment in my voice when I’d discuss my pizza production issues since I am using a local pizzeria’s facility. My demand has increased and is interfering with the pizzeria’s operations.  He would always tell me not to quit, to hang in there and pointed out all of my accomplishments and consistently reiterated that I am on my “way to there”. He has done a site visit, analyzed my production workflow, sampled my new gluten-free plant based pizza with plant-based toppings and would give positive feedback and insight about the pizza industry. We’d discuss customers who I would target, branding and marketing. He has suggested that in order to meet demand, that I locate a facility to increase pizza production that will  increase revenue, since I’ve been accepted to retail on thru the Black Business Accelerator Program.  I have to admit before meeting Suvendoo, I did forget where “there” is because of all of the challenges the business and I faced pre-covid. Over the course of 13 years, I’ve worked with other agencies around Seattle by participating in their business consulting challenges, webinars and workshops that focus on just the fundamentals of being a small business to keep you on track.  Suvendoo is the first mentor to explain to me ‘the course of business’ and how to get a grip on the money constantly flow in and out of the business. He has pointed out that my business differentiates itself by not being a “me too” bakery an unlike other bakeries that bake to freeze to sell, Silver Slice Bakery bakes fresh and delivers several times a week.  He has  explained that by manufacturing one-of-a-kind and unique gluten-free products has a competitive edge to graduate out of the small business status once I can increase production. He has congratulated me on my steadfastness and has coached me on steering the business to the BIG success that I once knew in my heart that it was attainable but I  just didn’t know how to get “there”. He is very knowledgeable about manufacturing, how to increase sales and he knows where “there” is. We are currently using SCORE excel spreadsheets to create cash flow analysis and future sales projections.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a small business?

I encourage business start-ups and seasoned business owners to utilize SCORE services to grow their business. It WORKS especially if you do the work.  The training is impeccable and the mentors are the best part of working with SCORE. The mentors are not only knowledgeable about business and share their personal business experiences, but they also help you find out what your transitional skills are from leaving a job to starting a business, plus they are very kind and listen to you. I suggest you come with an open mind, be open to constructive criticism and embrace SCORE, they have the tools for your business’ success!! For me personally, I would hear from other organization advisors’ that “this is a great problem to have”, but working with Suvendoo and SCORE, I feel that I have been giving the expertise to solve IT.

What would you tell a fellow business owner about SCORE?

My relationship with Suvendoo and SCORE has helped me overcome the fear of success and helped me define the goals of my business, which is to make money even though I’m a really great pastry chef and love to bake. Following the advice of  Suvendoo and utilizing the SCORE tools  has helped me develop into a successful CEO. Getting down the learning curve is scary and unnerving. Suvendoo has helped me relaxed my train of thought by controlling my “big ideas” and to  focus on the now, what’s happening now and has showed me how to “get to the money” by reviewing and discussing my past, present financials and future projections. The company needs to have healthy margins to be sustainable and Suvendoo has coached me on how to increase the company’s revenue. He has suggested that I build a stronger relationship with my current customer, Hyatt Seattle Regency, which gave me the courage to introduce more products to the hotel and expand into additional hotel locations. I am happy to say that Silver Slice Bakery is now a gluten-free partner instead of a supplier!

Additional media
Tonyia Smith meeting with SCORE Mentors
Tonyia Smith working with staff in her bakery
My mentors
Headshot of Suvendoo Ray
Suvendoo Ray

Develop market research concepts, target customers, and product development Work on various...

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2401 4th Avenue.
STE 450 Seattle, WA 98121
(206) 553-7320

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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

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