Small Business of the Month: Indi Chocolate

Owner Erin Andrews and her daughter Siena.

The newly-expanded Pike Place MarketFront has a new tenant: indi chocolate, purveyors of everything from chocolate bars to orange-chocolate scented lotion to spice rubs to chocolate liquor infusion kits to chocolate mixology classes, and much more.

Indi is a family business: both of founder Erin Andrews’ daughters work at the store, facilitating classes and helping customers. Her husband helps make chocolate in the adjacent small factory, visible to customers through a glass wall. The business itself is named after Andrews’ eldest daughter.

Inspired by a family trip, Andrews first began dabbling in the chocolate business by working directly with farmers in Belize. After traveling back and forth to Belize for two years, she started indi chocolate as a way of bringing her business closer to home. “indi chocolate was started in my kitchen where I made cocoa butter-based lotions and lip balms. I started selling at fairs and festivals to be able to afford the equipment to make chocolate,” she explains.

Office of Economic Development staff smelling cacoa butter soap.

Indi was able to expand to a small retail space at Pike Place Market, where the business was housed for five years. The family produced their chocolate and other products to sell at home, in a commercial kitchen space attached to their house. Siena, Andrews’ youngest daughter who gave us a tour around the shop, seemed relieved at no longer having to do business in such a small shop with her mother and older sister.

The process of expanding into the new, significantly larger factory and retail space was “difficult and stressful,” but worth it, Andrews says. Along the way, she worked with one of the Office of Economic Development’s consultants, who provide free consulting for local small businesses. “One of the great surprises of working with the Office of Economic Development has been how fantastic the free one-on-one marketing consulting has been,” Andrews says. “Working with Lisa Gardner has really helped us up our marketing game and been a valuable resource for growing indi chocolate.”

Now that the business is settled into their new factory, Andrews is looking to expand even further, drawing on the fresh produce and products available daily from fellow Pike Place vendors. “Increasing the amount of local agriculture and dairy has been a long-term goal for indi chocolate, and this will allow us to make fresh and zero shelf-life creations that need to be eaten immediately to be enjoyed at their best,” she says. Indi is also looking to host more classes, events and tours as they head into the summer tourism season, and they hope to focus on wholesaling their products as well.

While Pike Place is known to host crowds of tourists in the summer, it’s home to a strong community of farmers, artists, chefs and other vendors throughout the year. “From the outside, many people don’t realize the importance and strength of the Market community,” Andrews says. “I love personally knowing our regulars. I’m often at the same table doing work alongside them or popping up to help when we have a line of customers.”

Siena Andrews rings up an order.

Next time you’re at the Market, drop by indi for the chance of a free sample of molten, cacao-of-the-day chocolate from one of their machines. Siena tells us that they make the world’s best hot chocolate, and her mother particularly recommends their take on s’mores: “We’ve worked hard to make a s’more I adore with an oat cake instead of graham crackers, our chocolate and our mole spice rub marshmallow freshly roasted for each guest. We’ve been hearing from our customers that it is the best s’more they’ve ever had too.” You can also order online, if you can’t wait to visit in person. (No fresh s’mores online though.)

Thinking of opening or expanding your own business? Get your questions answered on our Restaurant Success site, and get in touch to learn more about our one-on-one consulting.

Innovation and inclusion: Our first 100 day campaign

Here in the Office of Economic Development, we envision Seattle as the most innovative and inclusive city to start and grow your business and your career. I wanted to take a look back on our first quarter, and invite you to engage with us as we strive to support you in your business and career goals. We have too many highlights to mention to date, but here are a few of my favorites!

Small Business Advisory Council: We were delighted to help stand up the Mayor’s Small Business Advisory Council, a group of 27 committed small business owners from across the city representing the diversity and richness this community, ranging from solar panels to hula skirts, and various stages and sizes of business. Knowing that small businesses are collectively the City’s biggest employer (over 200,000 are employed in establishments with 50 or fewer employees), we are exploring how the City can better support them through programs, policies, processes and resources. Check out the inaugural group here, and if you have ideas you’d like this group to review, please email us at

Mayor Durkan joined by members of the small business community at Elliot Bay Book Company.

Only in Seattle Grant Awards: Our small businesses are not just an essential driver of our economy, but part of the cultural fabric that makes our unique and sometimes quirky neighborhood business districts, and Seattle itself, so special. This year OED was able to award $1.2 million in grants across 23 neighborhood districts, as “seed funding” towards community visions of vibrant and thriving districts. Special thanks to Theresa Barreras for her leadership in supporting our local stakeholders, as they create a sense of place and promote ownership in their communities.  Thanks too to Estela Ortega and El Centro de la Raza for hosting a fantastic celebration!

Life Sciences, Biotech and Global Health Roundtable: Seattle has some amazing assets in life sciences: Reuters rated the University of Washington the most innovative public institution, we have a center of excellence in immunotherapy, and with 14 times the national average of research and development talent concentrated in South Lake Union, we could very well be the city that cures cancer! For the Mayor’s first industry roundtable, Karl Stickel, our Director of Entrepreneurship and Industry, convened a group of executives across life sciences, biotech, and global health at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (thanks for hosting!). We heard not just about the challenges facing the sector, but a wide range of innovative ideas to support its growth. We explored the intersection of tech and biotech, and the opportunity to highlight the women in this field, who were, in fact, the majority of the executives at the roundtable—let’s keep the momentum going! Please reach out if this is a group you might want to join, or have any other great ideas about supporting the sector.

Mayor Durkan speaks at her first industry roundtable. Photo courtesy of Fred Hutch.

Startup Roundtable: Startup Advocate David Harris pulled together an incredibly diverse and wide-ranging group of startups, investors, accelerators and incubators for the Mayor’s March roundtable discussion. With thanks to Amy Nelson and our friends at the Riveter for hosting, forward-thinking solutions included the concept of “returnships:” re-engaging working parents as they rejoin startups after family leave. One of the most surprising take-aways from the group was what they saw as an under-utilized asset: the Mayor’s megaphone in promoting our City’s startups. Have a great story to tell? Let’s make sure Pitchbook doesn’t miss Seattle on this list next year. Get in touch here.

Small Business of the Month: This year, small business advocate and life-long entrepreneur Pedro Gomez has taken on the role of leading our Small Business team, and along with our empathetic and experienced advocates, has increased their presence across the City, launching office hours in every district, and amplifying the stories of the small businesses we serve. OED launched our “small business of the month” profile, and our first featured entrepreneur was Kevin Moulder of Cubes Baking Company, who hopes he can inspire “other creative thinking Mexican-Americans” and the Latinx LGBTQ community with the story of Cubes. Not only can you read more about it on our blog, but the piece got picked up by Seattle Eater!

Kevin Moulder at the front counter of his bakery in Wallingford.

Thanks for spending a few minutes reflecting with us, and while you can always get in touch with me here, you’ll hear from me again next quarter!


Small Business of the Month: Fitsum-ISM

Photo courtesy Fitsum Misgano.

Fitsum Misgano is described by a client on her website as a “superwoman in disguise,” and it’s easy to see why. In 2016, Misgano started Fitsum-ISM, her own day-of wedding coordination business through which she single-handedly ensures that the most important day of couples’ lives goes off without a hitch. Her passion and distinctive business plans won the InnoVentures competition at Optimism Brewing in 2017, and she is now a member of the Ventures Nonprofit board of directors.

Fitsum-ISM sets itself apart by aiming to serve the modern couple. Misgano explains, “Couples in this age are empowered to do their own planning through the technology and resources available to them. But after they complete months of planning, my services allow them to enjoy every bit of their day.”

Misgano moved to Seattle from Ethiopia with her family in 2002, and she wore a few different professional hats after graduating from the University of Washington in 2012. “I have always played with the idea of starting my own business, but the idea always felt so out of reach,” she says. “It was almost like learning a different language and I wasn’t sure where I could go to test the waters.”

She soon connected her love of event planning with her desire to be an entrepreneur. “I have always jumped at the opportunity to host parties for friends and families…I had the opportunity to coordinate a few weddings of friends and completely fell in love with it,” she explains.

Fitsum Misgano speaks at the 2018 Innoventures event.

Misgano connected with the City’s Small Business Development team to get information on resources available to her as an entrepreneur. The Small Business Development team also referred her to Ventures, a local nonprofit (and Office of Economic Development partner) dedicated to supporting small business owners who have limited resources. “Since July of 2016, I have been working with Ventures closely to help me define my target market, the services I provide and marketing strategies,” she says. “The classes, training and coaching I received from them are incredibly useful and helped me bring my game to the next level.”

Her business’s name came from a term her previous manager used to describe Misgano’s “positive attitude, hard work, and willingness to learn.” Fitsum-ISM reminds Misgano of what she’s capable of: “I knew there will be ups and downs in owning a business and having the name has been and will continue to remind me to look on the positive side.”

Misgano recently expanded her business by hiring a virtual assistant, and she has detailed plans for Fitsum-ISM’s future. “My goal is to increase number of couples I help by 30 percent from last year,” Misgano says. “I want to do that by being really smart with my time and how I prioritize different parts of my business. For example, one of my biggest initiatives this year is focusing on finding systems that allow me to get through client acquisition seamlessly.”

Misgano has one big piece of advice for those who are thinking of starting their own business: start now. “Including myself, many people who want to open their own business wait to start on their dream until everything aligns,” she says. “The truth is, there may never be a perfect time to start the journey. YOU have to make now the perfect time to start.”

Those interested in opening or expanding a business can contact the Office of Economic Development at to get connected with free resources, information, and business coaching. Visit Fitsum-ISM’s website, and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

Small Business of the Month: Cubes Baking Co.

Kevin Moulder at the front counter of his bakery in Wallingford. The shop’s mural was painted by his older brother.

“If you would’ve told me five years ago that I would have a bakery in the city of Seattle, I would’ve called you crazy,” says Kevin Moulder, founder of Cubes Baking Co. in Wallingford.

Cubes is a unique bakery, and the company came about in an unusual way. “The idea came when I purchased a new car about five years ago,” explains Moulder. Purchasing a Nissan Cube and looking for ways to finance his new ride, he had the idea to bake and deliver cube-shaped cakes in his cube-shaped car. “The Cube, which are cube-shaped cakes available in six different flavors, was born,” Moulder says of his company’s signature item.

Cubes Baking Co. began as an appointment-only custom cake bakery; during his first year, Moulder filled orders by working out of a commercial kitchen space at his place of employment that his employer allowed him to use, where he was the in-house baker. During his second year, he operated out of a shared commercial kitchen. The process of expanding into a brick-and-mortar location was “overwhelming and exciting at the same time,” says Moulder.

His years of experience in the baking industry helped him find creative ways to finance his expansion. By setting up at wedding conventions and selling lots of affordably-priced, simple wedding cakes, Moulder was able to save enough to afford the up-front costs of opening a new store.

Navigating requirements and building out the new shop was a long process. “There was a lot of permitting we needed through the City, and it was difficult to find a contractor who was willing to work with us, based on the condition of our unit and the work that needed to be done,” he recalls.

Moulder explains the caterpillar cake design he’s working on to OED staff.

There were days when Moulder thought they would never open, but he persisted and sought help where he could: “I took advantage of the free coaching available and visited the downtown [Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections office] about five times.”

At last the new Cubes location opened, a little over a year after they signed the lease at the Wallingford location. “We were lucky we had the ability to continue accepting and baking custom celebration and wedding cakes from a commercial kitchen while the build-out was occurring, still allowing us to bring in income,” explains Moulder.

Today, Cubes Baking Co. continues to sell custom cakes while also acting as a unique gathering space and resource for the neighborhood. “Our bakery serves as an alternative baking company that provides an underrepresented style of food in this city,” Moulder says of his modern twist on Mexican baking.

Inspired by his grandmother and the panaderías of his childhood in San Antionio, Cubes’ conchas, scones, cupcakes, and other pastries are cube-shaped and served in traditional style: grab a pair of tongs and fill up a tray. Moulder’s favorite is the tres leches cake, which comes in six flavors.

“I hope that we serve as inspiration for other creative thinking Mexican-Americans, giving them an establishment to be proud of and showing that hard work really does pay off,” says Moulder. Cubes sometimes partners with fellow small food businesses, giving others a chance to sell their food in a neighborhood they may not otherwise have access to. Moulder plans to set up a small area in his bakery where local artists and crafters can sell items as well.

Cubes also partners with El Centro de la Raza by donating day-old goods, reducing food waste. “El Centro De La Raza does such great work in this city to ensure that everyone, regardless of race, have their voices heard and have opportunities to be successful. El Centro provides the resources and we wanted to help any way we could,” Moulder says. “I have the goal of continuing to make connections with other Latinx/LGBTQ businesses and non-profit organizations that serve the Hispanic community, so we can continue to lift each other up and provide representation.”

Growing from a one-man operation running out of a shared kitchen to a full store location hasn’t been easy, but Cubes continues to carve out its niche in its neighborhood and in the Seattle community.

“I would say that someone looking to open their own business should be willing to work a minimum of 16 hours a day and realize that it’s very, very hard work,” Moulder says. “The payoff is well worth it, but it can take years of working hard to see a reward.”

Those interested in opening or expanding a business don’t need to do it alone—the Office of Economic Development has free resources, information, and coaching available. Entrepreneurs can check out our Restaurant Success page, our Business Decision Engine, or reach out to us at with questions.

You can find Cubes Baking Co. (and their incredible RuPaul’s Drag Cakes) on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and on the main 45th Street drag in Wallingford.

Washington Cities, Counties and Utilities Unite to Launch “One-Stop” Green Business Program

The City of Seattle is announcing a program, EnviroStars, that will provide green business services from around the region under one tool.

The amplified EnviroStars program will be a central hub for Washington businesses to receive assistance and recognition for saving energy and water, reducing waste and pollution, choosing safer products and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

EnviroStars businesses can track environmental performance online and see how their actions save operational costs and positively impact the environment. “The EnviroStars program will help businesses use fewer resources, which means they can dedicate that saved money for other priorities,” said Mayor Tim Burgess. “It’s exciting to see a growing number of businesses adopt an environmentally aware mentality. Every city should have a no-cost, pro-business, pro-environment effort like this.” This free program helps businesses see what programs are available to help them address negative externalities, and can help busy small business owners set out a plan to achieve their environmental goals.

For 20 years, Seattle Public Utilities’ Green Business Program has helped businesses take actions to save money, conserve resources and contribute to a clean and healthy community. “By joining forces with other agencies and streamlining services offered throughout our region, we are making it even easier for businesses to achieve their green business goals,” said Mami Hara, Director of Seattle Public Utilities.

Over 17 agencies from around Western Washington have pooled resources to develop and launch the program, which includes a central web portal that allows businesses to find referrals for local sustainability services and incentives and start on a path to recognition. The program will also help small businesses connect with one another so they can learn from and support their peers.

Consumers can use the EnviroStars directory to find local businesses who share their environmental values—from restaurants and grocery stores, to hotels and auto body shops, and everything in between. They can also look for the EnviroStars mark on storefronts of recognized businesses in Seattle, Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond, Edmonds and other member cities starting this fall.

“The program allows consumers to make empowered choices about where to take their business,” said Laurel Tomchick, creator of the original EnviroStars program at the Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County. “Choosing local EnviroStars recognized businesses reinforces better business practices—which in turn creates healthier, safer communities and motivates more businesses to ‘work green.’”

“It’s a Pacific Northwest tradition—connecting green-minded consumers with green businesses. It’s an economic and environmental win. We are committed to providing the clean energy that powers this vibrant community,” said Larry Weis, General Manager and CEO of Seattle City Light.

Seattle’s first EnviroStars recognized business is Madres Kitchen, a full-service catering and events company based in Seattle, which also participated in the City’s past Green Business Program.

Businesses that engage with EnviroStars will benefit by learning to operate more efficiently, strengthening their bottom line, improving employee health and gaining recognition for environmental leadership.

“The new EnviroStars program will provide a one-stop shop for businesses to access information about building sustainability into their ongoing business plan,” said Sara Nelson, Co-owner of Fremont Brewing. “We are excited to be part of a program that will help share our environmental accomplishments with our customers and work towards addressing climate change.”

To learn more or to get started, visit