In the eyes of a stressed out, extracurricularly-involved, socially-active college student, the task of creating and running a successful business may seem daunting, if not impossible. Maddi Bistrong ’17, a government major at Colby, silences this assumption. Having started her own cookie business, which she cleverly named Maddi’s Macarons, over Jan Plan, Bistrong argues that Colby equips all its students with the tools to accomplish such a feat. “This sounds cheesy, but if you believe in yourself, you can really achieve anything. All students at Colby are extremely capable, and can really do anything they want if they believe they can,” Bistrong said.
The Manchester, Ma. native realized her passion for macarons at a young age. “I’ve been obsessed with French macarons since seventh grade,” said Bistrong. She went to Paris with her family and their friends that year. They visited Ladureé, a famous French bakery, which Bistrong says was a life-changing experience. “I tried a macaron and it legitimately changed my world; it was just so good. I ate as many as I could while I was there and tried to take back two dozen to have at home, but I ate all of them on the plane.” Since this encounter with famous macarons, Bistrong says she seeks out macarons to try every time she travels to a major city.
It was not until recently, however, that Bistrong discovered her knack for baking the French cookies. “I baked macarons about a year ago for the first time, and they turned out alright, so I just kept doing it,” she said.
Bistrong did not consider the possibility of starting a business predicated on her baking skills and affinity for macarons until she was encouraged by a restaurateur and friend. “This past fall, I was baking them and my mom’s boyfriend, who is a professional chef, tried one and told me I should sell them. Since he’s a professional, I took his word for it because he would definitely be the one to know about this type of stuff,” Bistrong said, “I asked if he would help me and he said ‘Yeah. You can do this, let’s just do it,’” she continued.
Initially, Bistrong believed she would start the business after graduation and maybe sell them at her mentor’s new restaurant, Press, in Manchester. Soon, however, she decided that she wanted to do an independent study at home for Jan Plan, and as a minor in managerial economics, she felt she understood the basics of running a business. “It kind of just struck me: I know a bit about business, and I also just really love macarons and I’m pretty good at baking them, maybe I could make something of this. I kind of just randomly decided to do it because I thought, you know what, if I don’t do this now, when will I? Once I start a career, I won’t be able to do something as unusual and unique as this, so why not start it now?” Bistrong said.
It was then that Bistrong decided to go all in and start Maddi’s Macarons. “I decided to spend my Jan Plan perfecting my recipes, baking a lot of different flavors, getting the cost of ingredients as low as possible, finding the flavors that tasted best with everyone, developing marketing and a brand, making a logo and a website, developing the packaging, and a lot more. So there was a lot that went into it, and I was actually able to do a lot more than I expected,” Bistrong said.
She managed to accomplish more over the course of a single month than many professionals do over years. “I worked both from home and in the commercial kitchen at Press, where I baked most of the macarons. This was great because it gave me really low startup costs, since I didn’t have to pay for a kitchen,” Bistrong said, “It just went so much farther than I thought it would. I thought it would just be me keeping a journal, writing about baking, but it ended up becoming a real, legitimate business.”
Although her success has been great, Bistrong is still a bit uncertain about the future of her business. “The struggle for me right now is balancing how much to focus on the business while still being a student” Bistrong said, who is not only a diligent academic, but also an active member of multiple including Guitar Ensemble, Colby Cares About Kids, and the Colby Outing Club, among others.
“Already, I’m kind of being drawn in different directions. My plan originally was to go home every other week to bake the macarons at Press (where they are being successfully sold currently) and then bring some back up here to sell, but I also do want to have fun my senior spring and I have the rest of my life to do this if I want to. It is just a little difficult to balance,” Bistrong said, “And I am also not sure where it is going to go— originally, I had assumed that they would be sold in store fronts, but now I’m considering catering, e-commerce and a bunch of other different channels of distribution,” Bistrong says.
In terms of on-campus sales, Bistrong has not officially begun selling her macarons, but was recently funded by SGA to table in the Spa, giving away free samples. “I am in the process of obtaining a student entrepreneurship permit, but recently tabled in the spa which was an awesome experience,” Bistrong said, “I got a ton of great feedback from students and professors alike, and it was amazing.” Without the guidance of a Colby education, Bistrong is well aware that this business would probably not have been possible. “This is where a liberal arts education comes into play,” Bistrong said, “I can honestly say that I would never be able to do this if I were just studying one specific thing; I really feel like I have learned enough to make managerial decisions for myself while also being able to write up the ‘About Me’ page on my website and pitch myself to different potential investors. It’s so great that Colby has given me all these skills, and I honestly believe that any student here could achieve the same if they put their mind to it, and stick with it.”
For more information on Maddi’s Macarons, please visit www.maddismacarons.com or email Maddi directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.