‘People have said to me I am brave to start a business during a pandemic‘
She’s only 23 and has just started her first food business during a global pandemic!!
It was inspiring talking with Saskia West, founder of Many Macarons. In this week’s interview she discusses how starting her own food business has helped her to fall in love with food again, and about the courage and determination it has taken her to start a business during a pandemic.
What is your background?
I am 23 and my background is mostly in academia. I studied Theology at Cambridge for which I actually get my results today. I always had a creative side but advised to go down the academic route to have a more sensible and solid base. I previously fell out of love with food, however during the process of starting this business idea I have rediscovered my love for food. I come from a foodie family. My mum is an amazing cook and my brother is also in event/catering and food has always played a big part in our lives. I also act and model which I still hope to pursue one day. However, with the situation of the economy now, I want to have a solid foundation and something to fall back on.
What is Many Macarons and how did you come up with the idea?
The idea for Many Macarons came about quite organically during lockdown. I had not baked in a long time and have only started to recently rediscover this creative outlet which I love. I was eating toast one day and started to think whether toast would go with a macaron and whether this had been invented. I started to research into macarons and then the idea has just flowed from there. I have always known that I wanted to do something creative and this business idea has definitely given me the opportunity.
Many Macarons is an online business which sells a variety of different Macarons full of flavour. At the moment, I am a team of one which has been a great challenge and learning process. The macarons are available in boxes of 6 and 12 and will be delivered to mainland UK. Many Macarons officially launches from the 16th July 2020.
What makes you different to other patisseries?
I strongly believe what makes Many Macarons stand out is the flavour. I have tried and tested a lot of different Macarons to see where I stand in comparison. A lot of Macarons I tried did not taste as described or were overly sweet or bland. I believe my macrons will stand out because of the flavour and will taste as they are supposed to. Some of flavours are quite bold and unique. You will find a range of different flavours including an on-toast range, chilli, salted caramel, and passionfruit.
Where do you find creative inspiration?
This again can be quite an organic process and this whole journey has been such a creative outlet for me. Sometimes I would try food and then think, would this work and go into a Macaron? Then an idea would take off from there. Also, I like to visit markets to taste and find fresh ingredients to go into some of the macarons.
What has been the most challenging thing about the process of starting Many Macarons?
Doing this by myself has been the most challenging thing and has been quite a learning process for me. There is so much I did not know and have had to learn along the way. It is scary at times, and I am constantly having to think of whether I have thought of everything and whether I am missing something that could be important. It can feel very daunting responsibility wise, as I have to deal with things such as legal matters, insurance and taxes. I have never had to deal with these issues before and I keep thinking; why aren’t they teaching these kinds of topics in schools?
People have said to me I am brave to start a business during a pandemic, which believe it or not is something I had not thought about until it was mentioned to me. I struggle with confidence at times and so it has been hard and often I doubt myself. However, I really believe in what I am doing and believe I have a great idea and product which will work. Despite the challenges I am enjoying the process overall and really excited to launch.
Where would you like to see your business in the next 5 years?
Expanding! I would like to expand from being online to opening a shop in London and maybe in New York. I love New York and London and could see myself living in both cities one day. I may move to London in the future when the pandemic is over. I have a lot of ideas to expand on and I am excited for the future.
Do you have a favourite hospitality outlet that you would recommend visiting now that hospitality has reopened?
I am a massive coffee fan and there are two beautiful shops based in Cambridge called Bould Brothers Coffee. The shops are run by two brothers Max and Alex. They have set up the most incredible coffee shop and their coffee is insane! They are lovely and the place has a wonderful atmosphere. I have not found a coffee that matches theirs, even in London. I am going to miss walking out of college each morning to get my coffee from there.
What is the most interesting thing that you would like people to know about you?
I really struggled with this question. It is not a short answer, but I think that talking openly and vulnerably about my past with eating disorders will be helpful for other people. I want to show people that you can return to have a normal life with food. I am an example and living proof of this. I am now in the process of setting up my food business and therefore you can recover and live a great life.
I think there is a stigma about eating disorders, that once you have one you are vulnerable, weak, damaged and will never recover. It is quite scary for me to talk about it, as people may see me in a different light, especially now I am setting up my own business. However, I think this is where we are going wrong by seeing people as victims. Yes, it is a tough topic but let’s start talking about it and show people that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
I have got so much strength from this business idea and I have not even officially started yet. But by getting back in the kitchen and making all these Macarons, I have had a great time so far and I am so much better for it. I really want to be able to use this platform to help others. It is something I have wanted to do but never felt strong enough. Now I feel I am in a position where I can.
If you were a food or drink, which one would best describe your personality?
I was talking to my Dad about this question and he mentioned that I would be a Negroni. Not that I want to come across as bitter and twisted, but I do see some of the elements of a Negroni in myself, and it would have been cliché if I went for a Macaron. The strong aspect of a Negroni I can absolutely identify with. They are powerful drinks.
Complete the sentence. I am happiest when?
I am happiest when I am busy doing something I love. This is something that I realised during my degree, as I was busy, but I was not doing something I loved. Now running this business will keep me busy, it is wonderful, and I am loving it. I am so excited to launch.
Many Macarons has now officially launched online