Making the leap from employee to entrepreneur: Tips from a pastry chef

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Did you ever dream of quitting your day job to follow your passion? For French native Anthony Rosemond and his wife Yami, it was as simple as saying “Yes” to being happy.

“Everyone thought I was crazy to leave,” he said. “I was not living the life I wanted. Now, I am happy with what I’m doing.”

Anthony, who has an engineering degree in material science, had a successful career as an IT manager but baking has been his passion since his mother taught him to cook at a young age. After meeting his wife, he decided to abandon the “boring life,” and together they followed a dream. They attended Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Paris where they formalized their pastry-making techniques and earned their Pâtisserie Certificate. Next stop: Southern California where they had spent their honeymoon and fell in love with the sun, surf, and local jams.

Of course, leaving your job and your home country to start a new business requires much more than saying “Yes.” Anthony shared some valuable tips that any entrepreneur can appreciate.

Choose a path, then make corrections.

“Take decisions. Don’t think too much. It’s just a loss of time,” he said. Whether your decision is good or bad, you can go back and correct if you need to, which is exactly what Anthony needed to do once he was settled in California.

Anthony’s original business model was to provide a different pastry every month to subscribers, hence the name Pastreez. He wanted to use only local ingredients to create freshly made delicacies. Two things forced him to modify his business model:

First, he could not find the ingredients locally to make authentic French pastries. The flour in the United States, for example, produces a different taste when making certain confections. While the quality is there, the authenticity is gone.

Second, in researching his market, he learned that people, especially women, love macarons.

Macarons proved to be an excellent candidate not only because they contain four basic ingredients, but one of those ingredients, almond flour, is native to California. The top macaron producer in France imports their almonds from California because they are world’s finest.

Another key ingredient is the jam filling for the macarons from local growers, which Anthony considers to be “the best in the world.” This allows Pastreez to support other small businesses and provide a gluten- and dairy-free alternative to the traditional, ganache-filled macaron.

“They have fewer calories so you can eat more!” he said.

Listen to your customer.

Market research is valuable at any stage, but it can also be costly. Anthony found an inexpensive and innovate way to find his target market.

“We used an app called ‘MeetUp,’ to find meetings. We brought samples and asked for feedback,” he said.

When he started attending MeetUps in their target area, he had no focus. One of the early MeetUps was with a group of mothers expecting twins. Anthony did not at first realize the true nature of this meeting, but he arrived with a variety of pastries, including macarons, and was very welcome for the two-hour session.

“You bring what you think is your product and feedback from people will tell you if it’s right or wrong,” he said.

He learned that people love macarons and that women eat more pastry. This helped him focus on his market or “best customer,” which influenced his brand color and packaging. The bright pink color and jewelry-style box were not selected by chance.

Listening to customers also helped Anthony redefine his product offering. Of course, he also looked at competitors and the quality in relation to price and found the highest price was not always the best quality. But it was his customers’ behaviors that made him reconsider.

In addition to selling macarons by the box through an online subscription, Anthony sells up to 200 macarons in a few hours at local venues. Originally, he priced them individually but noticed that sales weakened. In response, he placed several in a decorative bag, keeping the original per-cookie price. Customers were more willing to buy a bag of macarons rather than singles, and sales picked back up.

“You always need to pay attention and listen to people,” he said. “The only way to evolve is to listen to your client.”

Be 100 percent.

For Anthony, the only way to succeed was to quit and put 100 percent into his dream. He believes that working in parallel with a full-time job prevents you from giving your project all the energy it needs.

“If you don’t depend on your project, you don’t make it. There is no failing. Just learning,” he said. “If you lose, you have experience for the next.”

To keep the focus on his business, Anthony rents an office in a location dedicated to start-ups. Although he has a beautiful view from his sixth-floor window, the real advantage is the professional location to meet with potential customers or investors. Other entrepreneurs occupy offices on the same floor, which include a shared receptionist, kitchen area, and high-tech meeting room. This model creates a natural support system where entrepreneurs can gather in common areas to share advice and lessons learned.

When it comes to making the macarons, Anthony rents time in a commercial kitchen that operates under the same model as the office. Caterers and other chefs rent space if they don’t have their own restaurant or professional kitchen. Doing this from home would be impossible because of California law. The kitchen space is a perfect alternative that is legal and comes fully stocked with commercial-grade equipment. Anthony’s expertise in creating macarons requires the best ingredients and the best tools, as any craftsman would agree.

The team is success or failure.

Anthony stressed the need for the team to be in balance and to communicate. In Anthony’s case, it’s a team of two and such a small team makes team work more important. Fortunately for Anthony, he and his wife are the perfect team.

“When it’s just two people, you have to do what you don’t like. You have to do everything,” he said. “The good part, when you have a good team, you have different likes.”

Anthony enjoys making macarons, marketing, networking, and working on their website while his wife, Yami, prefers the kitchen. Their likes and dislikes create a natural division of responsibilities, though they do share tasks when required. In fact, it was Yami’s allergies to dairy that inspired Anthony’s creativity to use jams instead of ganache.

They work so well together that they can make 600 macarons in a day, not including the filling, which requires another day of work. These are made in the commercial kitchen space. The innovation and creativity happen at home, where, again team work pays off. So far, they have not created a macaron they don’t like.

Taking the leap to be happy is not easy and success is not guaranteed. But for Anthony and Yami it was certainly worth the risk and they have no regrets.

“In my opinion, I don’t do the regret. If we are here today, it is because of what we did.”

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