Waking up in a mental facility wasn’t even the worst part. The worst part for 41 year old Ché Houston was realizing that she was repeating the worst of her twenties again in her forties, this time doubling down on her demons and beginning to do the things she’d heard addicts do when they hit rock bottom. Houston had gotten clean years earlier but this time her spiral back into addiction and mental health struggles had robbed her of control over not just her life but her mind and ultimately her identity.
Indeed, for years her relapse into alcohol and drugs had robbed her of the stability and security of reliable housing, authentic relationships and financial solvency, but this time was different. This time she’d literally lost herself. When the clinician asked simple questions like “What do you like to do?” she responded with what she enjoyed previously as if it was someone else. She didn’t know what she enjoyed now because she literally didn’t know who she was anymore. That realization scared her, but it also motivated her to ask the question central to her long-term healing, “Why do I keep doing this to myself?”
Her care team identified two root causes: failing to consistently take her medication and difficulty dealing with her emotions. In that moment she committed to addressing both—never again skipping a medication and working on recognizing and better managing her emotions through therapy, 12-step meetings, meditation and prayer.
Four years later she didn’t just build a stable life. She built a business as well.
A professional baker and cake designer by training, in August 2020 Houston launched Ché’ René’ Macarons and More, LLC, an Atlanta-based online and mobile macaron boutique offering more than 40 decadent flavors sold direct from her website or through retail partners. Marketed as French macarons with southern finesse, they are packaged to sell as personal or business gifts or an indulgence for the individual macaron lover. “We have had the honor of providing elaborate dessert displays for the South East Emmy’s Awards After Party, One Buckhead Plaza, and The Grand Hyatt Buckhead,” Houston explains. “We have doubled our revenue from last year, and we are proud to announce our that our macarons are now available at Honey Bubble Tea in Midtown Atlanta.”
Getting to this point with her business wasn’t easy, but she was determined. “I dreamed of being in business for myself since I was a little girl,” she explains. “Through the years I have always been creative, and this was expressed through art, poetry and baking. For over 20 years, I side hustled cakes, cupcakes, and cake slices.” It was in 2015 that she was first introduced to the macaron and instantly, she fell in love with them. When she found herself unemployed in 2018, she began to lay the groundwork for Ché’René’ Macarons. “One day, I thought about all the southern desserts I love and how I can get the flavor in a gluten-free macaron,” she says. “Our customers are always surprised at how they can get the same flavor from a plate sized dessert in a small macaron.”
A lifelong creative she quickly realized the importance of getting formal coaching and support to help operationalize her goals. “By the end of 2020, Ché’René’ Macarons was picking up momentum; the next level was approaching quickly, and strategic planning was key,” she explains. “As a new business owner, I could not achieve this alone so I obtained a leadership coach and a business coach.” She credits her work with business coach Carnellia Ajasin of Urban League of Atlanta and leadership coach Karen Hilton of Rock Your Vision with helping her navigate challenges, bringing business ideas into perspective and enabling her to plan strategically. “I no longer jump into new deals or directions without guidance,” insists Houston. “This past year I have been able to delegate areas in my business that are not my expertise.”
Her biggest challenge thus far has been running her macaron business while maintaining her full-time job as a housing coordinator for veterans with substance and home insecurity challenges. As she works during the day to help veterans conquer some of the same demons and difficulties she faced in her own life, she’s similarly dedicated to finding opportunities to give back through her business as well. “The ultimate vision for Ché René’ Macarons is to give someone the same opportunity of a second chance that was given to me when I thought all my dreams were destroyed after a life of addiction,” she insists. “Lost dreams can be awakened if just one person believes in you. I always say, this business is so much bigger than the macaron. God has allowed me to see through His plan of greatness and hope for my future. Today, not only do I get to live my second chance out loud, but I get to create that opportunity for others.”
Houston’s success story is indeed inspiring. It’s a timely reminder that people do overcome seemingly insurmountable odds and virtually everyone has a superpower waiting to be unleashed. Having worked in cosmetology, make-up artistry, set production, cake design and other areas leveraging her unique creative gifts, Ché Houston knew she was destined to innovate. Today, grounded in her southern roots and strong sense of spirituality, she finds comfort in the art of translating stories into delicious bite-sized southern flavor delights, hoping each box brings a moment of peace, joy and a touch of luxury to someone’s day.