The French cookie company Michel et Augustin began with unconventional business strategies and tons of personality. Now, they've found that those same tactics have served them well in breaking into the U.S. market. Lily Dionne-Jermanovich, the US PR and community manager for Michel et Augustin, joins the Clever Cookstr to talk about everything from chocolate to crumbs.
Michel et Augustin was founded by two French pastry enthusiasts, Michel and Augustin, who became friends in middle school. They both worked corporate jobs after business school, Augustin at Air France and Michel in banking in New York. Staying in touch, they were both pulled towards the idea of going back to a manual trade, and soon Michel et Augustin was born. Augustin got his baking certificate while working in a boulangerie making bread, and they started experimenting with recipes in Augustin's kitchen in Paris. After 300 trials of a sable cookie (the French equivalent of shortbread), they were ready to release their first product. They pitched the cookies door-to-door, focusing on the quality of the whole ingredients and building a loyal customer base from scratch (no pun intended).
The adventure began in France twelve years ago, and two years ago Michel et Augustin began bringing products to the U.S. Some translation was required as the company learned more about the U.S. cookie market. "New Yorkers love their chocolate!" said Lily Dionne-Jermanovich, the US PR and community manager for Michel et Augustin. Cookie squares filled with raspberry and pistachio, for instance, just didn't move at the same rate as chocolate and hazelnut or chocolate and caramel.
Two important things stayed the same as the company expanded across continents, however: the quirky personality and entrepreneurial spirit of the brand, and the seriousness about quality baking. Now, they've come out with a cookbook in France, and all of the company's employees, from sales and marketing to admins, are pursuing their French state pastry certification.
Dream of starting your own small food business? Lily says it's all about the relationships, investing in employees, and getting the product out there through hand-selling and trade shows.
Check out Michel et Augustin at many local retailers, and if you speak some French, check out the Michel et Augustin podcast! It’s on iTunes and it documents the latest news from behind the scenes each week.