When you discover one of your university friends has started her own business, and that business is selling macarons in a wonderful assortment of flavours and colours, it is very important to visit her and find out more. (And perhaps eat a macaron or two, or three… 😍).
And so off I went to visit Rachel Hanretty who started her business Mademoiselle Macaron four years ago. In 2013, Rachel started making macarons in her kitchen, and three and a half years later she has seven employees and counting. Her macarons are being sold in some of the top department stores in Scotland; Gleneagles and Harvey Nichols included, and her macaron cafe, nestled on a picturesque cobbled street in Edinburgh has just entered it’s third year of business. Her macarons are also much in demand for weddings, and you can buy them online, and even have a macaron ‘subscription’, a box of macarons delivered to you, or someone else each month. I urge you to have a go at selecting macarons for purchase on her website, it’s a highly satisfying process, made even more so in the knowledge of the deliciousness that is soon to arrive in the post.
To top it all, this summer Mademoiselle Macaron is on tour with the Foodies Festival. So no fear, if Edinburgh is a bit far out of your way, you will be able to sample these amazing macarons at a festival near you.
It was super to catch up with Rachel, and also to talk to her about how she has got to where she is now. We spoke about being ‘under-employed’, graduating with an excellent degree from St Andrews University (Rachel studied French and English), she found herself in a job that just wasn’t doing this justice, and so she decided to take a leap and start her own business.
Her love for Paris and all things Parisienne took her to the Alain Ducasse cookery school. And with the art of macaron making perfected (orange was the very first flavour she ever made), she brought this intricate craft back to Scotland, and set up shop. Four years into the business, and with ever increasing orders, she now has a couple of trained chefs making the macarons.
Rachel very much sits at the helm and is constantly overseeing every aspect of her business. Every single day, she says, she learns something new and it has been far from easy. Although she has a number of very supportive mentors, when it comes down to it, the decisions are hers and hers alone. However much planning you do there are always hidden costs, and little things that take up valuable time. And taking on employees has been another whole chapter of business learning.
The results, however, really have been absolutely amazing, and I am so impressed at where her business is after four years of dedicated work. As we sat and spoke in her cafe on Grindlay Street, customers were constantly popping in to have a cup of tea and a couple of macarons. And they are really delicious macarons. I resisted munching my way through too many, but they are exactly as they should be, that tiny crunch and soft almost chewy texture, in super flavours (I really liked the chocolate and raspberry one). She has thought of every small detail, all her packaging is made in the UK, and the cafe has it’s own ‘Mademoiselle Macaron’ coffee, a special blend roasted for the shop. She also runs macaron making classes, and takes all of these herself.
Rachel’s next steps, after the Foodies Festival tour this Summer, is to wholesale Mademoiselle Macaron in Ireland. Bigger ideas and plans for the future include a recipe book, a shop in London, and a flagship store in Edinburgh (which will be in one of Edinburgh’s fine townhouses), and she would love to open a shop in Paris.
Her 2017 aim is to ‘work smarter’, but I have to say, I think she is doing an absolutely amazing job. I think when running your own business it is important to constantly self evaluate. But it is even more important to take a step back once in a while and really appreciate everything you have achieved.
I am really looking forward to a visit to Mademoiselle Macaron at the Foodies Festival, and do pop into Mademoiselle Macaron on 22, Grindlay Street to experience this pocket of Parisienne charm in Edinburgh.
Scroll down for a mini interview with Rachel.
Below are some questions I asked Rachel 😃
Who is your favourite chef ?
I do love a bit of a bad ass girl chef who represents what I think is at the core of our Mademoiselle Macaron. So I have to say Cherish Finden is my favourite chef. I love how precise and cut throat she is on Bake Off Creme de la Creme. I think we are still waiting for an equal gender split in the chef world and for her to have gone in and won so many accolades for The Langham straight from her arrival takes not only talent but guts.
Favourite macaron flavour?
One half of me says Salted Caramel. It won our Great Taste Award and it’s also the flavour that gets the most ‘ohhhhs’ when customers taste it. But our Scottish Whammy macaron which is essentially Irn Bru also makes me proud!
When I lived in Paris it was an absolute must to visit all the museums on my doorstep. Nothing can beat Monet’s Waterlilies at Musée de l’Orangerie. It’s simply stunning.
When I was younger I would have said Chanel but now I’ve relaxed more into my offbeat preferences, I’d say Kate Spade. I love the quirkiness and bright exuberance of her designs, as well as the powerful affirmations on her stationery collections. I nearly bought a framed print of the quote:
‘She keeps caramels in her bag as an expression of goodwill. (Sometimes she eats them all herself.)’
It seemed pretty accurate for me!
What are you reading?
Right now I am going through a lot of positive thinking/self help books to make sure I am on track to reach my dreams and don’t get side tracked when things get tough.
So beside my bed there is The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte, You Are A Badass: How to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life by Jen Sincero and She Means Business by Carrie Green.
Cliched but awesome.
What are you listening too?
M.I.A. I love walking to work with some strong female pop. Bad Girls is my favourite track.
What are you drinking?
I love craft beer and my all time favourite is Gamma Ray by Beavertown.
Favourite place to eat out / have a drink?
Checkpoint in Edinburgh is great as it can be anything you want it to be. It’s open for brunch, coffee, amazing dinner menu using different ingredients and ever changing cocktail menu. It has a very cool vibe with a shipping container in the middle of it!
Favourite weekend place?
I have no favourite weekend place apart from my flat which I moved into recently so I’m still very much in the excited DIY phase. My boyfriend and I are working on making a whole wall out of cork so we can design and look at our Vision Board every time we pass it in the hall. I’m all about reinforcing the good and keeping the eye on the prize.
It’s a very old tenement flat so it has beautiful cornicing, gorgeous big windows and then we’ve come along and been a bit quirky with plonking a freestanding bath in the middle of the bedroom. (it wasn’t my idea!)
Favourite place in Edinburgh & Scotland?
I find any street in Edinburgh gives me happy feels. The architecture, independent shops and cobbled streets is amazing and spying the castle from a new angle is somehow, always magical.
Ultimately, my favourite places are those that inspire me and bring out the energy for innovative and bold thinking. They are Brew Lab in Edinburgh and the lobby/social space at the Citizen M Hotel in Glasgow. Admittedly, both places are painfully hipster but it’s worth it to be surrounded by other people thinking outside their own boxes.
Most inspiring country you have been too?
Oh wow, that’s a tricky one as I have been really fortunate to visit many countries.
I’d have to say though that it’s Melbourne in Australia. I have never seen such a range of cultures on show (from food alone). It’s a country that is a blend of many things and these guys know how to work hard and chill. I think they’ve got life balanced the right way round unlike the oppressed workaholics you find in Britain.
What career would you be doing if weren’t running Mademoiselle Macaron?
I’d be hopefully working in a creative agency running marketing and ad campaigns for cool brands or being a journalist, though I see the industry changing so much I’m not sure I’d really want to be in it anymore.
What advice would you give to your 18 year old self?
My 18 year old self was pretty rocking and confident, my 27 year self is what needs work. So I’d probably tell the 18 year old not to ever, ever lose the unashamed honesty and self belief that will guide her through to success. Never forget to look at and celebrate accomplishments for the energy they bring to climb even higher. Also go to Paris as a singleton, long distance was not fun.