North Canton baker transforms her passion into a business that supports her and her community
North Canton entrepreneur Christy Williams uses her kitchen like a home office for her business, Little Chunk of Goodness. She calls herself a home-baker and a micro-operation within a small business.
She boosts visibility for other small businesses through creative marketing partnerships, such as with Shale Craft Coffee.
“I started selling my stuff, and I started with cinnamon rolls, and then added cookies. Then we added energy bites and now I do cheesecakes,” she said. “And, essentially, it’s kinda cool because we work on menus and stuff together. It’s really this perfect fit where now these two small businesses are helping each other.”
And Williams helps a lot. Jeff Joliat, the owner of Shale Craft Coffee, said her marketing plan stands out in the community. And he likes her cinnamon rolls.
“We were trying to collaborate with some local bakeries and had a couple different bakers, home bakers, providing their baked goods, and Christy was by far the most popular,” Joliat said.
Before going full time with her business in 2019, the 39-year-old college graduate worked two minimum-wage jobs and couldn’t afford groceries.
“I was trying to figure out a side hustle,” Williams said. “I’ve always had side hustles. They always failed. I have multiple failed business attempts, and I was working at this little bakery, but I wasn't allowed to bake so I did the dishes, and I ran the register.”
She said customers asked about royal icing cookies, which are cut-out cookies with hard icing and personalized designs, multiple times a day. Where the bakery lacked resources to fill those requests, Williams created her own recipe and took orders every weekend. Eventually, she quit both of her jobs and took on baking full-time.
The COVID-19 pandemic began a few months later. Her orders were canceled. She said she had an epiphany about how to help small businesses that had storefronts with greater expenses than her.
“I was like ‘What if I did logo cookies of businesses and I start selling my chocolate chip,’ because those aren’t for events, those are just for anytime, “ she said. “And I just asked people to take a picture of the logo cookie and support that small business, so it brings attention.”
Customers tagged the businesses featured on Williams' cookies on social media. Joliat met Williams in 2020 after she created a cookie with what was formerly the Shale Brewing Company logo.
William’s logo is a drawing of her face — a Black face.
She said she never saw branding that looked like her. North Canton’s population is 2% Black, and she grew up as one of the only Black children in her school. She’s now one of the only minority- owned businesses among hundreds of storefronts on North Main Street.
North Canton has 895 businesses, Mayor Stephan Wilder said. There isn’t data that shows how many are Black-owned, but Williams said when Little Chunk of Goodness started, hers was the only one. More than 100 are woman-owned. There’s a diverse range of business types, such as coffee shops, sporting goods stores and bakeries.
“We’ve always catered to small businesses,” Wilder said. “That was the hallmark, that was the foundation of this North Canton community, and we still embrace that, and I still support them 100%.”
Throughout Stark County, there are more than 3,000 minority-owned businesses, which includes women, Asian Americans and Hispanics. Black-owned businesses are tracked separately, and there are 500 to 600, according to Leonard Stevens, the CEO of the Stark County Minority Business Association. He said his team advocates for minority-owned and Black-owned businesses so they can bid on contracts, such as jobs at the Hall of Fame Village in Canton.
“Quite a few of our members have been able to get contracts. And so, as they’re able to gain those contracts, that increases their revenue, which helps their business and, also, they’re able to hire additional people, which is a win-win for everybody,” he said.
Katelyn McAllister is an active participant in the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce, where the Stark County Minority Business Association is housed. She also sits on the board of the North Canton Area Chamber of Commerce. She said when someone starts a small business, it not only takes money, it takes an idea and some grit.
In North Canton, three new businesses opened last month — Hot Wasabi Hibachi Express, Park Street Pizza and Stuffed Pastry.
“So, how do we get those people involved in the community and really make that connection between community and networking?” McAllister said.
McAllister said the chamber hired two full-time staff members in February to strengthen its connection to business owners. Four networking events are planned this year. Williams is one of the 485 members of the North Canton Area Chamber of Commerce, and she sat on the board in 2021 as the first Black member.
“When I was a kid I used to get stared at because I was Black and so I’d walk around and want to hide and couldn’t,” she said. “Now, when people are staring at me and whispering, they’re like, 'That’s little chunk, that’s little chunk of goodness.' So, the evolution of my life in this city has been kind of incredible actually.”