Member stories / Lake Trust News

The Sweet Journey to Entrepreneurship

Words by Abbie Dyer on Feb 12, 2024 9:36:27 AM

It’s almost impossible to be sad while eating dessert. And Marcus Leslie knows this best. As the owner and head baker of Mr. Leslie’s Cheesecakes, Marcus helps spread happiness throughout the Lansing community with his decadent desserts that are as beautiful as they are delicious.

Marcus’ passion for baking nourished his soul long before he started a business. As a young child, he loved to bake new creations for his family to try. Into adulthood, Marcus continued sharing his love of dessert with family and friends during birthdays, holidays, and special occasions. But as much as he loved baking, the most fulfilling part of this process was seeing the look of joy on a person's face as they took the first bite of his delicious creation.

“Honestly, the answer is simple, it’s my favorite dessert. Every time I eat a slice of cheesecake, it makes me happy,” says Marcus of the decision to focus his business on cheesecake.

Now he’s sharing his happiness with the world, one slice at a time.


Pivoting To A New Career

For years, Marcus continued his work in the automotive industry and then in sales. But outside of work, Marcus experimented with different cheesecake recipes at home. As word of his cheesecakes spread outside of his friends and family, he finally decided to turn his hobby into a full-time business.

Being flexible enough to pivot when opportunities arise is a mantra that Marcus lives by. And this mindset has contributed to his success as an entrepreneur. As Mr. Leslie’s Cheesecakes1 took off, it soon became evident that Marcus would need a bigger space for his growing business. Fast.


Joining Allen Neighborhood Center

Instead of jumping to a brick-and-mortar storefront, Marcus rented space in The Maker Kitchen powered by Lake Trust in Allen Neighborhood Center1. This collaborative space allows chefs to access commercial materials and equipment to prepare meals or products for sale.  

Marcus explains the crucial role of this space in his business success: “There would be no Mr. Leslie’s without Allen Neighborhood Center! Having a space like this is essential for food businesses to help them learn what it takes to start and grow a successful business. They provide a needed space that allows you to fail forward.”

As part of the supportive environment in the incubator kitchen, the entrepreneurs in the space have access to free workshops on business development, food safety, and financial management. And they also get a booth at the weekly Allen Neighborhood Center farmers market to sell their goods. With reduced financial pressure to purchase equipment and a storefront, the chefs can focus on building their clientele and savings before deciding whether to venture out on their own.


Community Support Leads To Growth

Shortly after establishing his business at Allen Neighborhood Center, Marcus entered “The Hatching”, a business pitch competition open to entrepreneurs in Clinton, Eaton, Ingham, and Shiawassee counties through the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP). After hearing the idea for Mr. Leslie’s Cheesecakes, Marcus won first place in the competition. With the additional funding from his first-place prize, his business continued to grow.

Marcus also credits the business, financing, and member support he received from the team at his local Lake Trust branch as essential to his rapid growth.

Fans of Mr. Leslie’s Cheesecakes can now find his decadent desserts in Meijer stores around the Capitol City, at Woodward Corner Market in Royal Oak, and at Tom’s Food Center in Okemos. And with flavors like strawberry swirl, turtle, peach cobbler, pink lemonade, and more available, choosing just one cheesecake isn’t easy.


Looking Ahead, Uplifting Other Entrepreneurs

As he looks to the future, Marcus is working to widen his distribution so more people can experience the joy of eating Mr. Leslie’s Cheesecakes. Because bringing happiness to someone’s day is the reason why he bakes.

“It may sound cheesy, but when a customer tells me how happy my cheesecake made them, or how the celebration they had would not be a celebration without our product, that’s the reward that excites me most,” Marcus says when asked about the most fulfilling part of his work.

To expand his operation, Marcus plans to open his first stand-alone location in the new Macotta Club in Downtown Lansing1. This food incubator space will bring together 15 culinary entrepreneurs and include 6 restaurants in the Knapp’s Centre at 300 S. Washington Square.

 To support other small business owners at the Macotta Club, Marcus will also act as the resident coach and consultant. He recently launched an entrepreneurial coaching business to uplift and inspire other business owners in the community.

Because Marcus Leslie understands the power of living your passion.

SEE ALSO: Anew Life Prosthetics and Orthotics: Taking A New Path Forward  A Passion For Fashion At Bleu Bowtique


Visit mrlesliescheesecakes.com1 to learn more and to find a store near you that carries Mr. Leslie’s Cheesecakes.


1Third party website. Lake Trust Credit Union is not responsible for the content, availability, security or compliance of any linked third party websites. In addition, the site's privacy policies may differ from those of Lake Trust.


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