When Houston junior Hanna Austin decided to turn baking cookies into a small business, she never imagined that her Bittersweet brand would attract consistent, loyal customers and become a passion she hopes to pursue beyond college.
Austin began selling her cookies at popular local ice cream shop Heritage Creamery after being hired as their head baker in mid-August. She makes two dozen of both cookie flavors she offers during the day. Austin makes it a priority to constantly be thinking of and trying out new and unique flavors almost every morning.
“I have my schedule set up where I only have class Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” Austin said. “On those days, I get up at five in the morning to make sure everything will be out by noon for customers. On days I don’t have classes, I do prep for days when I do have class.”
Austin recognizes her partnership with Heritage Creamery as an important platform for making her cookies known and as a helpful resource for her baking.
“It’s given me the resources that I didn’t have before to produce the amount of cookies that I can now,” Austin said. “The kitchen that they let me use has great appliances, and it has given me the opportunity to create and take the reins for what I want to do.”
Austin’s Bittersweet cookie flavors at Heritage change daily and typically include unique toppings and fillings. Examples include Nutella stuffed brownie batter, a white chocolate Lucky Charms milk cookie and cinnamon roll stuffed snickerdoodle.
“I have a cosmic cookie that’s a chocolate chip cookie baked around a brownie with double stuffed Oreos on top stuffed with caramel,” Austin said. “There’s also a glazed donut cookie which is a chocolate chip-less cookie with vanilla baked around a donut hole. On top is a donut glaze with sprinkles.”
One of Austin’s favorite parts about baking every day is coming up with the new flavors and trying out new creations that take a unique twist on a basic recipe.
“I feel like I have at least ten other ideas when I come out with a new cookie,” Austin said. “That’s just how my brain is wired — creative stuff like that comes easily to me. Right now I’m in a breakfast cereal phase with my flavors, but I would definitely like to experiment with Pop-Tarts, banana foster and crème brulee.”
Although Bittersweet produces high-quality cookies and flavors, Austin said that she only began to bake seriously fairly recently and decided to give what was once a casual hobby her full-time commitment.
“I used to bake with my friends, but it was never something like this,” Austin said. “I think the reason this has become what it has is that with every hobby I’ve ever had, I’ve always been zero to a hundred with it — if I’m not going to give it my all, I’m not going to do it. Once I began creating flavors, the whole thing just kind of kicked off and it’s been really fun. I love how artistic baking is.”
Austin’s Instagram account for Bittersweet has attracted success as well with over 2,000 followers. She posts daily videos and images of her cookies and offers the first ten commenters an order of cookies every Sunday.
“Instagram is huge right now, and I try to post frequently and interact with customers,” Austin said. “I just shipped cookies to a guy in Michigan and had people comment from California. Things like that give me the determination that I could end up having a franchise expanding to different states.”
Along with serving cookies at Heritage Creamery and taking some orders each week, Austin has also been able to serve her cookies at sorority and fraternity events, Roots Boutique and a Buttoned Bears event at Pinewood Roasters.
Dallas junior Winona Bacud has been a long-time supporter of Austin and her cookies and is proud of the success Bittersweet has reached in such a short amount of time.
“I’ve being eating her cookies since my sophomore year — even before she started selling them at Heritage,” Bacud said. “Hanna has worked so hard on her business and continues to be so good about being inventive — it’s always amazing to see what flavor she comes up with next. I’ve loved seeing how her cookies have evolved from being a close friends’ favorite snack to becoming one of Waco’s most loved cookies.”
Some of Bacud’s favorite Bittersweet cookies in the past have been apple pie, cinnamon roll stuffed snickerdoodle and salted caramel, and she hopes that Austin experiments with flavors like dark chocolate or coffee in the future.
“Hanna’s flavors are definitely unique. They’re not your ordinary cookies,” Bacud said. “They’re delicious and you can tell how passionate she is about Bittersweet and how much she loves doing what she does by how intricate each flavor is.”
Austin hopes to continue creating new flavors and reaching out to customers with Bittersweet next semester. She also plans to expand her baking after college.
“A goal is to have my own store one day, but I hope that it also goes much farther than that. Right now though I’m focusing on graduating and trying not to get too ahead of myself,” Austin said.
Although balancing school work and owning a small business can have its challenges, Austin views the work she does as worth the effort and is glad that she’s connected with something she is passionate about.
“It’s so fun getting to work every morning, and I’m still shocked that this is my job,” Austin said. “Baking really isn’t work to me — I’m having the time of my life doing this.”