We had the good fortune of connecting with Courtney Sahagun and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Courtney, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
It all started with planning my daughter’s first birthday party in 2019 with a guestlist that included very few one year olds, all of my friends, and vast amounts of family. I have never been one to shy away from any opportunity to host a party, so I wanted to go all out. Needless to say, my daughter, Savannah (Savvy), deserved a first birthday party with the most extravagant dessert bar. This dessert bar included all the color coordinated candies, cupcakes, and of course, the fanciest of all cookies, french “macaroons”, because I thought they were aesthetically pleasing, not because I’ve actually eaten one before. Once I picked up the order from a bakery, I placed the box of goodies on my passenger carseat and continued my errands to pick up flowers from a friend of the family’s local flower farm. Upon arrival, I left my car door open (big mistake) and later discovered their farm dog, Skeeter, enjoys cookies too! The gracious scavenger had jumped into my car and consumed all but a few of these precious treats…what can you do? He was fat and happy, and I was desperate to replace them for the party the next day. In hopes that I could just make my own real quick when I got home, I quickly realized that wasn’t an option after doing a little research.
Little did I know, they really are a very complicated cookie to make (hence the hefty price tag) but I am never one to shy away from a challenge. I’ve always had a passion for baking since my first job when I was 16 years old as a cake decorator. After learning that these little delicious cookies are “mac-a-rons”, not “mac-a-ROONs”, I began the experimentation process. After a few failed attempts, I was sucked down the rabbit hole of social media pictures and videos of how to make them and then quickly gathered the particular materials needed (piping bags, aged egg whites, kitchen scale, etc.). With the manipulation of a few different recipes ultimately creating one of my own, I began to succeed!
My family is not much of a sweets fan (more of a chips and salsa kind of family), therefore the perfect little cookies would sit on the counter and go uneaten, eventually to the trash. My husband quickly asked, “Why do you keep making them if we keep throwing them away?” Well, I was having too much fun expressing my creativity through the experimentation of different color, flavor, and design combinations. Eventually, my husband (a local firefighter) would take the leftovers to the fire station and share the wealth, which ultimately led to my first order from a fellow firefighter.
Soon after the word spread of these new creations amongst the community, I realized ‘Savvy Macs’ needed to become an official thing. First step was to create a social media account, build followers, and continue to document my process through fun photographs and videos. Once I started receiving custom orders from people other than friends and family, I followed through with obtaining my Cottage Food Operation Permit, business license, food handlers card, etc.
Savvy is now almost 4 years old and I never would’ve thought this hobby would be my most fun business venture.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have taken my passion for creativity and found a way to express it through the art of macarons. Not only do I enjoy creating new flavor and color combinations (which are endless), I really enjoy the design aspect. Most often, I handwrite on custom macarons, but have the ability to airbrush, paint, etc. on them as well. Custom orders that provide me a general theme, but with flexibility for creative outflow are my favorite to work with. For example, I had a customer ask for teacher appreciation macarons and I used inspiration from a couple greeting cards to create macarons that resemble rulers, lined paper, and apples. I am a bit of a perfectionist and can appreciate the attention to detail in all works of art. I believe my handcrafted abilities in the artistic nature are what set me apart from other macaron companies.
By the chance of taking photos for creative and unique social media content, my business has also dabbled into creating my own take on a dessert charcuterie board. I created what I now call a “char-MAC-erie board” for a photo opportunity in which my customers loved and began to inquire for their own gatherings. When macarons alone just aren’t enough dessert for the party, a char-mar-erie board seems to have all the sweets covered. Accompanying my festive and/or themed macarons, I carefully place high quality treats amongst a keepsake tray in a well balanced and visually stimulating fashion ready for all guests to enjoy!
Over the summer months of 2021, I experimented with hosting a weekly macaron counter in a local shop. I enjoyed this immensely as I was able to deliver macarons face to face with my customers and receive instant gratification when they displayed joy after taking their first bite. In order to maintain the variety of macarons for the counter on a weekly basis, I had to decrease my capacity for custom orders as baking to fulfill the macaron counter took priority. I quickly learned how much joy custom orders (birthday parties, weddings, baby showers, etc.) serve me. It is a learning process and reflection and reassessment is key to continued success.
One of the biggest challenges I have faced thus far, is not being entrepreneurial in nature and learning the proper protocols and procedures for having a successful home-based business. I have made extra efforts to enhance my knowledge, such as receiving mentorships from small business professionals, which I believe has paid off. I am confident in my business and continue having fun while growing.
Whether you own a business or not, finding consistent balance in life can be a challenge. Managing a home-based business and being a wife to a husband who’s gone for days at time, as well as a mother to two young children (Reed; 6 and Savvy; 4), life can get crazy. During certain times (such as holidays), I still struggle with finding the right balance keeping up with demand as I am continuously busy both with macarons and socially. However, having immediate control over my business is imperative to maintaining the right balance for me.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Fallbrook, the furthest community of North County San Diego, is a place of many hidden gems. My best friend currently lives in Nashville, TN, therefore, a small town vibe is far from her daily living. When she comes to visit (and surprise me to show support of the opening of my macaron counter!), I like to take her to places that she can’t experience at home. We enjoy eating the most authentic Mexican food at our favorite local restaurant, Estrella’s, while accompanying our meal with a very satisfying fishbowl sized margarita…the BEST in town! We find gratification in working off our margaritas and hiking our local Monserate Mountain to obtain the most beautiful views overlooking our community. My friend and I have always been a lover of wine, and I cannot wait to introduce her to the new local winery, Monserate, upon her next visit where we can relax with live music while gazing into the rolling hills of vineyards and ponds.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
You know that saying, “It Takes A Village”? Well the success behind Savvy Macs is all thanks to the efforts made by MY village. From my husband and my dad using their woodworking skills to build event carts, counters, and macaron stands, to my mom stamping bags, labeling packages, and creating flavor cards, I couldn’t have made it this far without them. My mother-in-law is queen of running a successful event, and helps me maintain my busy calendar by setting deadlines and providing all the encouragement to meet them. I owe all my organization of this company to a close family friend as she provides guidance beyond measure. My children provide the motivation as I hope to teach them the life lesson of loving your job. As I watch my children grow into tiny humans, I can only hope they love their jobs one day as much as I love my own.
Last but not least, Savvy Macs wouldn’t be a “thing” without the continued support of this small community of Fallbrook, AKA “The Friendly Village”. As each month passes, I reflect and acknowledge how grateful I am to experience the love first-hand of this community. From kind words to repeated customers, I am thankful for the “support local” mentality of Fallbrook.
Facebook: Savvy Macs
Photo Credits: Ashleigh Long Photography, Emma Lee What