When Kelli Watts was baking macarons in the kitchen of her Dallas apartment, she never imagined that she would one day be selling them to be people all over the nation.
But that is exactly what has happened to the 2006 Wylie grad.
“I never thought I would be doing any sort of cooking and baking professionally,” she said. “My dad’s mom got me into it. She was one of those women who made three meals a day plus dessert. She was a traditional Southern woman from Anson.”
Watts’ dream was actually to go to New York City and break into fashion design. She graduated from the University of North Texas in 2011 and headed to New York City to live out that dream.
“I packed up and moved to New York City by myself,” she said. “This was something I wanted to do, and I was going to go do it. I didn’t find a fashion design job that was a good fit for me. I ended up getting a job designing perfume and cosmetics.”
Then one day a French macaron shop from Paris opened nearby.
“People just went nuts, and there was a buzz about it in the city,” Watts said. “I had never even heard of macarons.”
She tried one and was amazed.
“I was like these little treats are delicious and it’s French which is cool,” she said. “My mom is actually from France. She was born there and moved to the states when she was young.”
Although Watts loved New York City, she eventually decided to return to Texas.
“I had always been fascinated with the idea of the city,” she said. “It was such an adventure. I saw something new or experienced something new every day. It was so fun and exciting. But coming from Texas, we know that a better life exists. I was like OK. I can check this off my list. I was glad to come back to Texas.”
She realized the macaron fad had not yet made it to Texas and decided to learn to make macarons.
“I taught myself how to bake them,” she said. “It was quite a process. It was a lot of trial and error. I decided to make my own recipe. It’s a recipe that I created on my own just in my little apartment in Dallas.”
Watts had a lot of extra macarons from all the testing she was doing, and she started handing them out to her friends and co-workers.
“I was just giving them to everyone,” she said. “People were like these are good. You should sell them.”
Soon people were asking her to make them for weddings and baby showers and all kinds of events. She also started selling them at Neiman Marcus and at Tea2Go. Finally the macaron business ballooned to the point that she quit her full-time job.
“It was a huge step,” she said. “I decided to go for it. I quit my job. It was extremely hard. I felt comfortable that I was making an informed decision, but there was definitely some hesitation from the outside – so you are quitting your job to sell cookies for $2.50 a piece?”
“I felt strongly this trend was coming. I wanted to be a part of it. If I was ever going to do it, now was the time. It was a little scary but also very exciting.”
She made the right decision. Now she has four stores – two in Dallas, one in Fort Worth and one in McKinney, and she is considering opening another in either Austin or Nashville. Plus she has a booming online business that she plans to increase even more in the coming year.
“I had to very quickly transition out of my apartment,” she said. “You can only bake so many macarons in your kitchen.”
She rented the kitchen at a Church of Christ until opening a production facility in Hurst. Now she spends most of her time doing marketing and online sales.
“I don’t do much of the baking anymore,” she said. “I now have a head baker and a staff of bakers. Now I’m doing all the boring stuff.”
She also teaches classes on how to make macarons.
“It’s so trendy,” she said. “There has been so much interest. People are so curious how to make them properly.”
She said she never would have dreamed that her business, called Savor Patisserie, would have ballooned the way it has.
“It’s been absolutely incredible,” she said. “It’s funny that I just knew I wanted to be a fashion designer. This business is so much better than anything I could have dreamed up or imagined as an 18-year-old. I feel very luck that I get to do this every day.”