Michael Savino started his business Michael’s Cookie Jar about ten years ago in Tomball. Sharing a kitchen with his friend, he catered to specialty orders and depended on word of mouth recommendations. Now with two Houston locations, he is not just selling gourmet cookies but a nostalgic feeling of youth. Not only are the cookies delicious (trust me, I spent $30 there this morning… for myself) but inside the store, friendless wafts through the air like the smell of fresh baked dough.
Michael is one of the first members of the recently launched Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce. His stores are just an example of the strong businesses run by LGBT individuals in the Houston community.
What lead you to create this business?
I went to school at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park New York so it is my career of choice. I worked at the Four Seasons for 13 years and then I started my business in 2006.
We live in a world where this is so much divisiveness and polarization that people ya know are so stressed out and I would like to think that cookies are one thing no one can fight about.
I think there is something special about cookies because it reminds people of their childhood. Not everyone grew up eating cupcakes or cro-nuts or whatever, but everyone had cookies.
Right! Every culture in the world has their version of a cookie. It’s universal.
Is there a memory from your childhood that sparked your passion for this line of work?
My grandmother was a wonderful baker. She made fancy cookies and that was always a treat to look forward to and that definitely left an impression on me. The thing I remember most though is that, OK, when you are little you always want to lick the bowl, right? Well, my grandmother grew up in war-torn Italy and would not waste anything. So when it came time for us to lick the bowl, there was nothing. She wasted nothing. That was not the case with my mother though.
What is it like to run your own business?
It’s a big job. There is a lot of logistics and coordination. So much is making people happy. And I think working in hospitality, that is always a huge part and you have to focus on that. Any type of problem, like a bad batch or an unhappy customer, is devastating to me.
So would you say that is what drives you as an entrepreneur?
Absolutely. I want to make people happy. We get so many kids in here and I know one day I am going to come into work and see this 18-year-old kid who has been coming here for the past 15 years and see them go off to college because we have such loyal customers. We strive to be a part of people’s lives. It’s an honor but also a big responsibility. I don’t want to let anyone down.
Like the times I am able to do cooking classes here in the shop, people are always surprised I give them my actual recipes. But hey, the recipe is only ten percent of the process.
What would you say is the other 90 percent?
Well good systems like choosing good ingredients, foolproof recipes and the biggest is good people. We are all about kindness because customer service is such a huge part of our business. We want to create a happy experience.
I dislike places that ignore the customers or don’t take time to be nice to the customers. I don’t care how good their product is, every place needs good customer service.
Right. I lived in New York for the past three years and I experienced that kind of place, where it is just in-and-out service.
I pride myself on that our advantages is that we are friendly and competent. We will never waiver from that.
What kind of advice would you give the young entrepreneurs since it does take a lot of courage and you have clearly succeeded? What would you pass along?
You have to believe that you have something to offer, whether a product or service, that is better than anything out there right now. Without any shadow of a doubt and do not waiver from that. You can have 500 failures but learn something each time. It doesn’t mean you have to change your vision, just your course of how to get there. Always keep the big picture in mind. That’s the key.