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Why I Started My Business in Fort Walton Beach (and You Can, Too!)

Resident gives the inside scoop on living and working in Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa County.

By Lindsey Hyde on December 30, 2022

The Macaron Chef Bakery & Café in Fort Walton Beach, FL
Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce

Nestled in Northwest Florida, Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa County form a welcoming region where generosity and Southern hospitality abound. Here, residents and visitors are met with sparkling water, sandy beaches, gorgeous parks, delicious dining options and much more.

In addition to its superb quality-of-life amenities, the area is home to a thriving business scene, where startups have found great success.

Elisabeta Jenkins launched The Macaron Chef Bakery & Café in Fort Walton Beach, FL.

Elisabeta Jenkins
The Macaron Chef Bakery & Cafe

To learn more about what it’s like to launch a business in Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa County, Livability sat down with Elisabeta Jenkins, who moved to Destin from Eastern Europe in 2004 and to Fort Walton Beach in 2007 with her then-husband, Jason.

In 2014, she launched The Macaron Chef Bakery & Cafe out of her home, selling baked goods at farmers markets, and later opened a brick-and-mortar location with Jason in 2018. They now have three locations.

What made you want to open a bakery in Fort Walton Beach?
Having two kids – literally, I came here with nothing. Well, I did get help from my parents throughout the years, but I just wanted to grow and provide a good life for my family – nothing extravagant. I love to bake. I grew up in an environment where we did everything from scratch, so I learned from my mom, from my grandma. We also make soups here. I do a lot of the soups that my grandma or my mom used to make. And I love to bake macarons. It’s like my second nature, I guess.

What was your experience like opening a business here?
Word of mouth, that was big. We are also going to all these (local) events … either we’re sponsors, or we can be part of them as vendors and sell, and that helps us with exposure. And then, of course, the (Greater Fort Walton Beach) Chamber. They did a lot for us. They recommend us. Other people order because other people recommend us. We have a lot of regulars.

Why would you encourage other entrepreneurs to open a business here?
First of all, it’s not a big town – it’s a military town. And besides the military being here, which is a customer base that is always here, it’s the tourists. We still have an off-season, but the peak seasons are really good. You can make a lot of money.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give entrepreneurs starting a business?
Do your research, and I mean, you can even come and ask me. I’ll give you all the points that you need to go through. And do your budget well because there’s always going to be some type of expense that you don’t expect. And just go with it because it’s fun. I know it’s risky … but if you don’t try, you’re not going to know.

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