Anthony and Yami run Pastreez, an online macaron store, selling handmade French macarons in California and all over the US. Growing from strength to strength, they are shortly launching a second product, crepes. They’ve also recently expanded into online learning by offering macaron making classes as well as recipe ebooks on their website.
It all began when the French couple visited California on their honeymoon, discovering a gap in the US market for authentic French pastries.
After falling in love with the weather and Californian lifestyle, they decided to follow their dreams to start a business together. Anthony had trained as an engineer and Yami was a human resource director, but they wanted to build a new life for themselves. “[Yami] has 15 years experience home baking, so we always knew we could build something. We are a good team together because she does all of the production and the baking and I do the business side, such as the online marketing.”
Before leaving France to start the business, Yami enrolled in the baking school Le Cordon Bleu, graduating as a pastry chef in 2016. Ready to invest in their future together, they quit their day jobs and moved to California. They began selling many French products under the brand Pastreez at markets.
Initially, they never thought of macarons as their core offering; but customer feedback helped them to conclude that macarons were the way to go.
Anthony thinks listening to customers from the beginning has been the key to the success of the business. This gave the couple the opportunity to see the interest in macarons over the other pastries they initially sold, and learn what flavours would be popular within the American market.
He also points out how important it is to continue listening to your customers once you launch, so you can continuously improve.
Anthony is an advocate for starting small while you’re still ironing out the kinks of your new business.
“With our first customers, we didn’t know how to ship. We didn’t know that the butter would melt. It was a little bit hard in the beginning when we didn’t have that much experience. So that’s why it’s good not to scale too fast, because you don’t want 10,000 people having problems with their order!”
Anthony decided to lower his price points in the beginning during the testing phase. He felt that it was only fair to the customers to provide them an excellent deal in exchange for being patient with them as they learned and adapted as a new business. “Don’t start looking for solutions to get more orders if you are not sure yet about the whole process. Because you really want all your customers to be your ambassadors – you have to make sure they are happy, even if things go wrong.”
After months of trial and error, they created the perfect macaron recipe: especially adapted in order for them to be shipped across the country. The packaging also had to be carefully considered to avoid movement in transit.
“The blisters that contain the macarons are custom made as well. They all travel in an insulated pouch with bubble wrap around. Throughout the years, we have perfected the shipping process, and now they arrive in perfect condition.”
With the launch of their new crepes they have developed special vacuum sealed packaging that will keep them fresh and in good shape through transit.
Selling macarons solely online was an unconventional route for a baking company, but allows a much broader audience.
Anthony explains that they moved from farmers markets to online, rather than starting a brick and mortar store, because he has a background in digital and believes in it’s benefit as a sales channel.
“I like doing online because I think the business model itself is way more convenient to test and grow very fast. For me, the problem with a retail store compared to online is that first, you are selling only locally, you don’t have a broad US market. The second thing is that you have to heavily invest into this physical location.”
Anthony explains how he didn’t want to have to wait the typical five or so years it takes for a physical store to become profitable. “If you know what you are doing a little bit with SEO and other technical stuff, you can easily start anything up to test your idea.”
Thanks to their offering being so niche and their thorough market research, generating revenue was never a challenge. With such a small initial outlay, they became profitable in the first six months. Now, Pastreez now enjoys a constant 30% year on year growth.
Taking the alternative route paid off. And after much success online, Pastreez have just opened a store in California.
Some of their success can be attributed to Anthony’s hard work on the brand’s digital marketing strategy.
Anthony began by focusing his attention on SEO. “When you have a niche like the macaron and sell only online you need to find your angle to successfully reach customers.”
The brand is unique in that they are the only French-owned company in the US selling macarons online. “So that was our angle: Authentic French macarons. Within a few weeks, a few months, you already have visitors by finding your niche. First, you need to attract visitors, before they’ll become customers and start buying.”
He recommends learning SEO for any small business owner to get more traffic to their website.
Alongside SEO, he also finds email marketing lucrative. He uses emails as an opportunity to address customer pain points, by answering FAQs and sharing the preferred way to store products. “Email marketing is very important to get your customers to trust you.” He also has built their reputation as a reputable resource by engaging comprehensively with their audience on topics like pastry techniques.
He highlights the importance of growing your online presence organically, rather than being reliant on Facebook Ads, noting that updates to the platform are making it increasingly difficult to effectively target customers with paid advertising.
Anthony has proven that you don’t need a huge social media budget to grow. He has grown the Pastreez Instagram community to 110,000 organically. Their Instagram content is all about building their credibility in the industry, by sharing content all about making macarons and other pastry recipe tips. “It builds trust and potentially a long-term relationship with the customer.”
He favours evergreen content like blogs that remain online and help build your brand’s credibility. “Doing something like giving away free ebooks on what your business is about is helpful.”
Anthony often gets asked by people how to start a business with no money.
He notes that if you haven’t got money to invest, you can still do it, but you will need to invest time.
“At the markets rent a booth to start. It costs maybe $300-400 and you’ll just start by testing your idea. See how it goes. Then the next step, once you make a bit of money at the markets, is that you’ll rent a commercial kitchen by the hour. That means that if you don’t have orders, you don’t pay rent because you are not baking. So little by little, you grow like that. People think you really need a lot of money to invest and to build your own bakery, but it’s not like that. It’s really doing it step by step.”
Customer feedback still influences Pastreez’s business decisions to this day.
During the pandemic, Anothony noticed an increased number of people asking how to make the macarons on Instagram.
“We said, okay, everybody’s home, maybe people are bored. So let’s try this. We did at least eight classes with 200-300 people in total. People were very happy because we really shared all our experiences and all the secret tips.”
Moving forward, Anthony is continuing to heavily focus on digital marketing to help promote their existing macaron, and new crepe business. The couple are happy with their flexible and scalable business, and are looking forward to what the future holds.