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Sugar Trails...

Happy Thursday Everyone!

As you can see, I haven't been very active on my blog posts AT ALL.  And it wasn't until recently when I realized WHY.  I created a 'sweetsukaina' blog and an Instagram after a lot of people were asking what I, personally was up to.  The reality is though, that SO much of my life, almost ALL of it, revolves around MACARON.  So when I'd want to post something BTS, or things I was working on, I felt quite conflicted on where to post.  Though, its me in the kitchen, I still felt like our MACARON followers would want to see it too.  So in an effort not to be redundant and have the same post on both pages, I just stopped posting :/

Last week, I had the opportunity to sit with Meredith Staggers, of Cake & Confetti (@cakeandconfetti) while on a fun photoshoot for @ponytalecaps (I'll be writing a post on this soon!).  If y'all don't know Meredith, you definitely need to check out her page.  With almost 45k followers, she is a creative genius! Her content is phenomenal and having her sit next to me, I was able to get some free 'consulting' (Thank you, Meredith!).  I was explaining to her the issue I had with my lack of content and how MACARON currently IS Sukaina, and she quite simply told me to stop dividing my following, and its okay for MACARON to be about me, my family, and the business.  You have no idea, how that simple shift in mindset, took a HUGE burden off my shoulders.  I suddenly felt like I wasn't bound by dividing up my life into MACARON, business, personal, etc.  So, for those of you who follow us on Insta, you've probably noticed more stories about my day to day activity, as much as MACARON.

So, I've officially consolidated 'MACARON' and 'sweetsukaina' into a new blog series called 'SUGAR TRAILS' (Thank you @ankitamin81 for your help brainstorming a name).  This blog series will include all things sweet (like me;)).  It'll have MACARON content, but also content that appeals to me.  I want to use this as a forum to exchange ideas, recipes, business development, and highlight other amazing businesses and people.

I don't have this all completely branded yet, but was excited to get started, so I can start posting more regularly!  

Remember to also follow @macaronbypatisse for our instastories and also, a peek into my daily happenings!

Much love and happiness your way!

 

 

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Scaling your Business & Growing your Team

I was honored and humbled to be asked to speak at this year's 'Thrive Creative Conference' (www.thrivecreativeevents.com).  It was a jam- packed weekend with so many talented and successful creatives and I left energized and motivated to implement all the amazing things I was able to learn from all the speakers and even the attendees that I was fortunate enough to chat with.  I encourage you to look this organization up on social media or online and plan to attend the next one.

The topic that I was asked to speak about was 'Scaling your Business & Growing your team'.  I was on a panel discussion with a remarkable woman named Mica May of May Designs (www.maydesigns.com).  You have to check her out! Her story is amazing! She started out making customizable notebooks from home, attended an event in which she met the host of Good Morning America, who gave her, literally, a 40 second pitch that resulted in 33,000 orders overnight! Yes, 33,000!!!!! It was inspiring to hear her story and learn how she made that jump and achieved enormous continued success.  At this point, I was wondering why I was even on stage!

 
We all received personalized notebooks from Maydesigns.

We all received personalized notebooks from Maydesigns.

 

Either way, I'm going to go ahead and answer the questions they posed for me in a Q&A format to get right down to it.  And feel free to ask any other questions you may have about the topic or related to it.

1) What specific thing happened when you knew it would be best for your business to hire someone? What point did you reach where you knew you needed to start growing a team?

We operated our business as lean as we could and did as much as we could do ourselves for as long as we could.  My brother and I worked our River Oaks storefront for the first TWO years! That meant, that I was in the kitchen with batter all over me (it helped that the kitchen was located right there) and would also work the customer service retail side. I think this was one of the best decisions we ever made.  

Sure, my time was worth more than hiring someone to work the storefront, but what we gained was the amazing relationships we were able to form and nurture.  Getting to know our clients, and even business vendors was a great way to learn what we were doing right, and what they wanted.  It wasn't until both my brother and I started to feel burnt out and lost the enthusiasm for describing what salted caramel was, that we decided to start looking to hire.  And let me tell you how very hard it is to give your baby into the hands of someone else and hope that they are just as passionate as you are!

 

2) How do you translate your passion about your business to an employee? How do you show them what your why is so that they get excited about your why? 

I think for our staff, seeing how hard we work, shows them how important this is for us.  Because we are not a large corporation, the small business feel is translated by our actions.  My family is very involved in the business and to this day my staff calls my Mom, 'Mom' and my Dad, 'Dad; which makes us all feel like a big family.  Our staff will see us washing the bathrooms, mopping floors, delivering inventory, and even scrubbing dishes.  Nothing is beneath us and we do it all.  We have been fortunate to find staff that share that vision and contribute to our success.

3) Where did you look for someone to hire, and how did you know they were the right one to hire?

When we first started hiring, we would employ new graduates from the culinary/pastry schools around the city.  It was a great way for us to find passionate and eager staff, whilst they received a lot of hands on baking experience with one of the most finicky pastries that exists.  As time progressed though, we realized that even pastry students had their variances.  After spending months and months training, spending lots of time and money to no avail, I realized that some just had the hand for it, while others were better suited to baking other delights and macarons were just not their thing.  From then on, I could observe them for a couple of hours and know whether this was going to work or not and despite wanting to employ and keep everyone, I knew I had to follow my gut and instinct.

4) How did you know it was the right time to expand and spend money on the expansion?

In all honesty, most of our expansion and growth has happened organically.  We've responded to demand and opportunities that were presented to us.  However, there was a point in which we had an opportunity with a large grocer and based on that opportunity, we went ahead and built out a large commissary space in which to produce from.  But, if anyone knows the construction process - by the time we found the right space and finished building it out, we lost the contract.  And here we were with this giant space, and extra overhead.  We were fortunate however, that other opportunities did present themselves and we expanded and gained other wholesale accounts that allow us to use every inch of that space now, but trust me when I say, we were petrified when the deal fell through.  And that's just the nature of business.  You can do all the planning you want, but at the end of the day, you have to be prepared and ready to accept the unplanned events.

So, there you have it.  I hope I was able to add some value and give some insight into business growth and development.  If you have any other questions related to this or anything at all, feel free to comment and I'd be happy to respond to the best of my ability.

Thank you to Breanna Pair and her team for putting together such a wonderful event.  I'm looking forward to next year's already!

 

Photos courtesy of Kati Hewitt Photography (Insta: @katihewittphoto).

 

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Sweet Beginnings...

It's January 29th! Why does today's date require an exclamation mark? Well, it's the same day, four years ago, that my brother Mohammed and I opened up our pastry shop, MACARON by Patisse.  

I suppose it would only be fitting then, to talk about these beginnings...

My life has always been blessed with much sweetness.  I have an amazing family to start.  I've had the opportunity to experience the sights, sounds, and tastes of places all over the world.  I have obtained higher education and have worked with the most talented and intelligent researchers and professors .  But such is life, that along with this sweetness, sometimes, we experience some pain and challenges.  And for me, the most challenging of obstacles began in 2008.  I lost myself in this whirlwind and transformed into a person I no longer recognized.   It was the love and support of my family, and friends, that helped me find myself again.  But while that journey was taking place, I found solitude, and calm, in my kitchen, during those sleepless nights.  I found myself meticulously weighing out eggs to the milligram, sifting ground nuts over and over again, and manipulating a variable at a time, to simply distract my racing mind.  In the end, however, this distraction, resulted in our very own pastry shop filled with gorgeous and delicious MACARONs.

This post would be boring though, if I showed you the end result.  I think you'll find amusement, as I do today, in the progression.  So here they are...my first batch of MACARONs (by the way, these are still one of our most popular flavors in our shop; Hazelnut Nutella - they just look a whole lot better).

I know.  They really don't look like MACARONs.  But, I promise they were! And for those of you who have tried to make them, you know these little buggers are not easy to make.  Regardless, they tasted yum - probably because of the Nutella filling straight out of the jar.  Don't judge - the shells were hard and tedious to make alone.  I wasn't about to try creating a filling at 4am.

So, that's how it began.   Finding some sweetness in my troubles...which led to the beautiful things that continue to unfold in my life.  I'd love to hear about how struggles in your life may have resulted into the most beautiful of paths.  Feel free to share below.

And to end this post in a "pretty way" - our MACARONs today:)

plateofmacarons

 

 

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How do you achieve Work-life Balance?

I'm sitting up in my bed, all congested, with no voice, and a throat that is just killing me, sipping on some hot tea - and I think to myself, when was the last time I was in bed at this time, let alone sipping on some hot tea? The answer: not since the last time I got sick.  And, I'd like to say that that too, was a long time ago.  But to be honest, I have been more sick in the last few years, than ever before.  To the point, that I went to see an immunologist to make sure there wasn't something inherently wrong with me that was making me susceptible to all sorts of things.  And they haven't just been minor colds or flus.  I'm talking a staph infection that turned into two golf size abscesses on my neck, to getting Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease during my birthday trip to Jamaica! 

Well, the results came in, and everything was right in normal range...except for, my cortisol levels.  They were so high in fact, that my doctor didn't think the numbers were accurate and sent me back for three more consecutive blood tests.  

For those of you who don't know, cortisol is a stress hormone secreted by your adrenal glands.  It is usually secreted during times of stress to help your body regain homeostasis.  Prolonged and repeated exposure to increased cortisol production can lead to blood sugar imbalance, weight gain, lowered immunity, GI issues, cardiovascular disease, infertility, and more.  

So whats the cure? To eliminate, or reduce stress upon yourself.  Which means a healthy lifestyle: healthy eating, physical exercise, quality sleep, and a healthy response to stressors in your life.  I feel like I do most of the above.  I eat relatively healthy.  I exercise regularly.  I feel like I handle "stress" well.  My largest obstacle is my quality of sleep.  But really, I think, is that what is causing my high cortisol levels?

I've been reflecting on the term "stress" a lot these days.  And I think this generations' stress is so different than the generation before us; our parents generation.

And I don't think that my stress as an entrepreneur is too different from someone employed.  Its just a different type of stress.  But beyond the work, I've realized just how 'busy' our lives are.  I literally have a color coded calendar and if its not work, its a networking meeting, if its not that, its trying to get in some social time to get my mind off work, or its rushing off to a spin class, or to teach my yoga class, or attending one of the five baby showers, bridal showers, or fundraisers held this week.  When do we really get downtime? Even when we're at home getting ready for bed, we are on our phones, checking our emails one last time, keeping ourselves up to date on social media, or jotting down those last minute ideas that just came to mind.  

When do we give our brains, and bodies, some time off? Maybe life balance, really means, personal time? I don't even have children yet (although I think my adorable puppy, is my child and can count as one), but multiply all of the above with children, and now you're looking at play dates, and doctors visits, and school appointments, and homework time, and sports practices.  I cant even imagine.  Yup, cortisol levels are going up as I write this. 

And then, we look on facebook and instagram and see everyone else who seems to have their life together.  They seem to have time to socialize and take pretty pictures with their girlfriends and dates, and seem to have their work life balance in check.  And, yup, cortisol is continuing to rise! How do they find the time to dress up all cute and go out? And how are they still uber successful professionally? And composed and graceful while doing it all? And why cant I do the same?!?!?!

Cortisol is definitely going through the roof now! So much for sitting here in bed and enjoying my cup of tea ;)

I would love to hear what y'all do to achieve or come close to that work-life balance.  And I plan to implement some of your strategies and keep you posted.

For now, another sip of tea, and fingers crossed, a good nights rest.

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What do you want to be when you grow up?

I don't think there's a person out there who hasn't been asked this question during childhood.  I felt like the answer to that decision was going to dictate the journey of my life.  I'm pretty sure the first time I was asked, I replied with 'Cardiologist'? Did I even know what a cardiologist was? Yes, I believe someone in our family friend circle was a "cardiologist" and everyone seemed to think he was super intelligent.  I must have also gotten a sense that he was highly respected, and I wanted that.  So, as a first grader, I remember going to the library and picking up books that had to do with heart anatomy, physiology, and anything else related to this science of medicine.  Did I understand any of what I was reading? Absolutely not.  But I sure did feel like I had purpose and was determined in my brain to be a "cardiologist".  Which then led to my future studies.

Here I am...Grade 3 - working on a science experiment.  (I think I was trying to find out which lotion/cream was the most hydrating - and my experimental thought was the lotion that could stay in tact the longest in water, was the one that would keep me the most hydrated...clearly not right, but hey! I was only 8)

Education was incredibly important to my parents because it was mainly available to the elite.  I remember them saying, "You're stupid if you don't get an education in this country".  It was the usual line when I didn't get 100% on my exams or assignments (I'm not even kidding!).  As I reflect on their statement, I understand how they did not want us to take our ability to receive a high level of education for granted.  To be honest, it really isn't something that most of us think about.  We think of school as a normal passage to adulthood.  But that truly isn't the case in a lot of third world countries, and what these kids wouldn't do to spend time in our schools, with our resources.  

 

Well, I continued in my stream of science Education, and I did graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacology.  (Yup, there's my graduation picture to prove it).  During this time, I realized, I did not want to spend another 8 years in school and decided I'd prefer working in the health sector, but in management.  I applied to an MBA style graduate program in Vancouver, British Columbia for Health Administration.  I was positive I was going to get in (I mean, I was the most studious person I knew) and yet, I was rejected.  I was told I didn't have enough real life experience and should reapply in a few years, despite my grades, impressive resume, and ambition.

I still wasn't convinced that this is what I wanted to do.  So I went ahead and applied to a post graduate program in Education and graduated with another degree in Secondary Education.  (No proof picture necessary, lol).  From there, I went on to teach High School Biology, Chemistry, and Physics for a year.  This was one of the most fun years of my life.  I LOVED my students.  I LOVED teaching.  But I knew that it was not going to be long term.  My students loved my classes because they could relate to me.  I was the "cool young teacher".  At that time, I was also exposed to some young adults with speech impediments and was very much interested in therapy methods.  Having a father that worked for the Rehabilitation Hospital, I was able to connect with a few Occupational and Speech Language Therapists.  After spending some time with them, I decided to pursue my graduate education in Rehabilitation Medicine, specifically Speech Pathology.  After applying to the few schools in Canada, and receiving news of being admitted this time, I was over the moon. 

However, life had another curveball to throw at me.  For those of you who don't know, I moved to Houston for a relationship...long story there...won't go into the details.  But the short of it is, that I left Grad School to move here for a relationship that wasn't the right one for me in the end.  But here I was in Houston.   And while trying to build my life here, I was exposed to the some holistic wellness practices that resulted in me opening my own clinic called 'The Balance Clinic'.  Here I worked predominantly with children diagnosed with Autism, ADD/ADHD, and individuals with IBD (Crohns disease, ulcerative colitis, IBS, etc).  I worked on food sensitivity testing and nutrition counseling with them.  And in the midst of ALL OF THAT, I started baking macarons! Not for business reasons.  Not because I ever wanted to own a bakery.  But for two reasons: One, baking was very therapeutic for me as I was going through a break up.  But second, most of the children that came to see me were sensitive to Gluten.  And what better treat, than a macaron that is gluten-free.  Well, you've seen pics of my first few macarons...but with the science background, I quickly drafted up a chart with manipulated and responding variables and figured out a recipe that worked for me! Then my brother came into the picture and we both created what you all know as 'MACARON by Patisse'.

So, through that entire journey, not once, did I think, I want to be a baker, or a pastry chef, or a business owner...and yet here I am today.  And who knows if this is where I'll be in the future...

Now it's your turn.  What did you want to be when you 'grew up'? And are you doing what you always thought you would? I would love to hear about your journey.

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Is there such thing as the 'perfect' match?

This post is actually from quite a while back.  I had written this post when I had first started making macarons at home.  Spending endless hours trying to perfect them, your mind would often times travel to thoughts that had been buried by your subconscious, or at times, to thoughts that made you ponder.  One of these nights, I spent hours contemplating a question we have all thought about at one time or another, all while trying to match up my Hazelnut Nutella macarons..."is there such thing as the "perfect" match?"

So some baking background first: Each macaron is individually hand piped.  Once baked, we have to match them with eachother (as its rare, that all your shells will end up being exactly the same size, irrespective of how many you've piped in the past) before filling them.

Matched up macarons filled with Nutella

Matched up macarons filled with Nutella


As I was pairing them up, I made a few realizations:

1) The most obvious one, if any, was that there is definitely more than one macaron shell that matches up well to the other macaron shell. With a lot of practice, often times, many macaron shells can match the other.  Just as in life, I believe, there is more than one person that is "right" for you.  

2) Some shells are perfect in every way put together, while others when maybe rotated slightly to help become a better, more perfect fit.  Isn't that true to any relationship.  Its very rare to find that one partner that is "perfect" immediately.  For most of us however, a tweak here, and a tweak there, help us become better suited to someone else.  

3) Lastly, I found, the best fit was often times the macaron shell right next to it.  So, instead of looking across the tray to the other side of piped macarons, the one that often worked the best, was the one piped right beside it.  

How then does one decide who to "match up" with? 

Is there more than one person out there that could be the right fit for you? I mean, we all strive to find this "perfect" match, our soul-mate, our one and only, but is it possible, that there is more than one of those people around? And is it possible to make it the right fit, by simply re-aligning oneself, or re-positioning yourself (as we often do for macaron cookies, rotate them for the perfect fit)? Do we sometimes look too far for this perfect person, and often overlook the person that is right there in front of us? Are we looking too far for this "perfect" match? Is there, even such thing?

What are your thoughts on "the perfect match"?

I know this, perfect match or not, these Ferrero macarons taste yummy! ;)

-Sukaina

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Patisse Ponderings...

Bonjour! 

Welcome to our blog.  This blog started a while back when we were still private catering under the name "Patisse" (short for Patisserie).  It was a forum of my thoughts, ideas, events, and of course, lots of yummy goodies.

The next post is an old one but also my first blog post that I made - which I then paused as 'MACARON by Patisse' became a very real and large project.  

So stay tuned for all sorts of fun on our blog and feel free to comment - we love hearing from you!

 -Sukaina

a.k.a Miss Patisse ;)

 

 

Photo Credit: Christa Elyce Photography

Photo Credit: Christa Elyce Photography

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