Strolling down Austin Avenue, you can’t help but notice the neon sign that reads “cookies” and the sweet smell that quickly follows. Hanna Austin, a second semester junior at Baylor University, opened shop last summer when her original cookie recipe took Waco by storm.
Bittersweet was founded from the quest to create the perfect chocolate chip cookie – one that struck a balance between bitterness and sweetness. Since then, the menu has expanded, offering more than 12 unique cookie options to satisfy even the strongest sweet tooth.
Austin started her baking journey during her freshman year at Baylor. What started as baking Betty Crocker brownies on the weekends with her friends turned into owning her own bakery just a few years later.
“I’ve never really been a baker,” Austin said. “I made a recipe because there was this really good restaurant that had a good cookie and I’m super competitive, so I thought, ‘Oh, I can make a better one.’”
After discovering her interest in baking, Austin began working as a baker for Heritage Creamery, a local ice cream shop on 8th street. Experimenting with new recipes, Austin not only created cookies for Heritage, but soon began to develop her own as well. When Austin’s eight roommates gave her recipe a taste test, they couldn’t get enough. Soon, Austin began taking cookie orders to keep up with the demand.
And thus, Bittersweet was born.
Taking to social media, Austin announced through the Bittersweet Instagram when she would be selling cookies each week. Initially selling her cookies out of Heritage, lines formed outside the creamery well before her sell time. Typically, 4 dozen cookies – which was all she had time to bake after class – would sell out as quickly as people could buy them.
“It’s amazing that people will line up for a cookie,” Austin said. “Somehow taste transforms into happiness – immediately everything is alright for a minute.”
After opening her first independent location in downtown Waco, Austin was able to create a team of employees to help share the load. Her customer network has grown from strictly Baylor students to all residents of Waco. The pressure of being a student and a young entrepreneur can sometimes be difficult to navigate.
“The new customers don’t know I’m a student, so it’s hard, but I can’t use that as an excuse,” Austin said. “I try to do well for us while giving back at the same time – that’s why I do giveaways. I’m more than happy to give a free box of cookies to loyal customers.”
Though Austin is now a successful entrepreneur, she admits that owning her own bakery was something she never saw coming.
“I’ve always been really driven with everything, but I have seriously been all over the map with what I want to do,” Austin said. “I wanted to be a singer for a minute and before Bittersweet, my plan was to study film at Baylor.”
In both film and baking, Austin says her goal is to connect with people through emotion. When biting into a cookie, she and Bittersweet fanatics alike are reminded that the bitter times in life only make the rest even sweeter.
Like Austin’s friends being understanding of her hectic schedule. Or her parents helping paint the walls of her bakery.
Moving forward, Austin hopes to continue growing Bittersweet for as long as she can. For her, this experience turned her focus away from personal goals and more toward serving other people.
“It’s been such a crazy rush and I’m so thankful,” Austin said. “I just can’t believe all of this happened.”
Follow Bittersweet on Instagram for updates on store hours and cookie giveaways. @bittersweetwaco
Or, stop in to the store located at 608 Austin Ave. Suite B, Waco, TX 76701.