At one point in her career, baker Sonya Washington was living out of her car while trying to make her business, Castle of Cakes, survive.
"I had a dream," Washington said. "If you give up on hope, you have nothing left. So it was do or die."
Washington not only made it through difficult times, she has also operated Castle of Cakes at a new Henderson location, 750 E. Pyle Ave., Suite 150, since 2010.
"We are now doing better than ever," Washington said.
Her passion for baking started nearly 30 years ago in California when she decided to take a class .
Once she realized she had a knack for it, she decided to take more classes on decorating or whatever skills would help her grow as a baker.
Washington moved to Las Vegas when her mother retired here and started her business by accident.
She started renting out the backs of kitchens and even rented the back of a doughnut shop at 2301 E. Sunset Road to help her establish her own line of cakes.
But the doughnut shop owner got sick in 2008 and told Washington she would have to pay full rent if she wanted to stay .
"So it went from $200 a month to $1,300 a month," Washington said. "It was a rough transition. Doughnuts are different than cakes, and I tried making both."
Plus, Washington said, the economy began to bottom out.
"I was just trying to wade through the water," Washington said.
And for nine months, Washington lived in her car with her 16-year-old daughter.
"My family thought I was crazy," Washington said. "My daughter said this would take too long. But I felt like this was my destiny and I wasn't giving up. I've read a bunch of successful business people and they all say the same thing - it doesn't get better over night."
One cold night, Washington began praying to God for a place to live.
The next day, Washington was able to find a town house and pulled together the $400 to rent it .
"You can never find a place for that cheap," Washington said. "Granted, it was a dump. But it was a roof over our heads and electricity."
To Washington's surprise, her business stayed open.
About a year and a half ago, when Washington already had plans to move the business from the doughnut shop, the shopping center she was in caught on fire.
Washington scurried to find her current place.
To promote the new location, Washington used Groupon and other marketing sites .
Washington said the new place almost went out of business, too.
"If it weren't for the restaurant Catfish Alley," Washington said.
Washington said the owner of Catfish Alley, 467 E. Silverado Ranch Blvd., came through one day and decided to purchase desserts for the restaurant on a regular basis .
"Now she has a second restaurant on the Strip," Washington said. "So I have desserts that sell on the Strip."
Washington also has contracted business from several Strip hotels.
With all the help, Washington is on her way to her true dream.
"I dream to be a destination spot," Washington said.
At her bakery, she offers baking and decorating classes. Washington thinks it would be a great attraction for people to come in while on vacation and take a class.
"We have already had it happen," Washington said. "We had a couple from New Zealand and all over come in with Groupons."
Washington said companies such as Zappos have sent employees to have appreciation events there.
Washington hopes her next big step is to cater parties.
"I've done 3-year-olds' birthday parties," Washington said. "I'm waiting for a wedding."
Castle of Cakes is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and closed Sunday.
For more information, visit castleofcakes.com or call 330-5171.
Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 387-5201.