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High 5 Pie in Seattle features Fuel coffee and more than 20 flavors of sweet and savory pies.High 5 Pie in Seattle features Fuel coffee and more than 20 flavors of sweet and savory pies.

The opening of High 5 Pie at 1400 12th Ave. in Seattle is the newest of Dani Cone's four shops.The opening of High 5 Pie at 1400 12th Ave. in Seattle is the newest of Dani Cone's four shops.

Cone works alongside her employees each morning at High 5 Pie.Cone works alongside her employees each morning at High 5 Pie.

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Willamette grad transforms her passion for coffee into a thriving career in Seattle

When Dani Cone ’98 decided to open her own Seattle coffee shop, she says she closed her eyes and jumped.

That was seven years ago. With the help of a small business administration loan, Cone now owns three Fuel Coffee stores and High 5 Pie, a vintage pie shop featuring her grandmother Molly’s recipes.

“You have to love what you do because you will work harder than you’ve ever worked,” Cone says about starting a business. “You must have a passion for what you are doing.”

Finding her calling

Cone found her calling at age 15, when she first began working as a barista. Enriched by the relationships she made with her co-workers and customers, she found similar work at The Bistro when she attended Willamette University as a business economics major.

To this day, Cone says she’s grateful for having attended Willamette, and credits her job at The Bistro for helping forge a strong connection to the campus community.

“Willamette was the right fit for me,” Cone says. “Being a smaller school, it allowed me to come into my own a little bit more.”

Cone continued working in the coffee industry well after graduating. Then one day, she wanted more. So she broke her plans to her parents, bought her first computer and wrote a business plan.

“Something changed one day,” Cone says. “I went from saying ‘I want to start a coffee shop’ to ‘I’m starting a coffee shop.’”

Cultivating relationships

Cone founded Fuel Coffee in 2005 and High 5 Pie, a wholesale bakery, in 2008. Last year, she opened her first pie shop in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

Cone works up to 16 hours a day, every day, alongside her 45 employees. She prides herself in keeping up with industry trends, and she has taken pains to make her shops inviting and personal.

High 5 Pie, for example, is reminiscent of an old-fashioned diner with a modern flair. Patrons perch on barstools as they sip their coffee and feast on such pie flavors as marionberry, lemon blueberry and caramel pecan. Savory options, including Frito chili and cheese, spinach feta and chicken pot pie are also available. 

Cone’s pies have earned her accolades in such publications as People, Sunset and Bon Appétit magazines. In October, she showcased her creations on “The Martha Stewart Show.”

“You find your fit by connecting with the barista, design and style of the place,” Cone says. “I focus on having the best coffee and having a warm and welcoming space.”

Giving back

In line with Willamette’s motto, “Not unto ourselves alone are we born,” Cone is committed to giving back to her community.

She sponsors and participates in a program called “Fuel the Cure,” a fundraiser for breast cancer research. She serves on the board of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, and she belongs to both the Greater Seattle Business Association and the Wallingford Chamber of Commerce.

Through Fuel, she also sponsors numerous community and youth sports teams.

“It’s important to me to take an active role in my neighborhood,” Cone says. “I enjoy meeting people and being involved with people. I live here. I work here.”

Cone says she feels incredibly lucky to have transformed her passion into a career, and she encourages other Willamette students to do the same. 

“Focus on what you really love to do and take steps towards it,” she says. “Even if they are little steps at first, just keep moving in that direction and find the road there. … Anything is possible.”