Tiff's Treats: Success By the Dozen
By: Kristi Porter
Few things turn mature, reasonable adults into giddy, wide-eyed kids faster than fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies. These gooey confections elicit feelings of comfort, nostalgia, and happiness at a moment’s notice. Just ask Tiffany and Leon Chen, co-founders of Tiff’s Treats, a bakery and cookie delivery service. Their sugary labor of love couples her long-time flair for baking with his entrepreneurial spirit, which has resulted in a cookie empire that spans over 30 locations across three states.
And three words unite their rabid, growing fan base: fresh, warm, and delivered.
Like all good fairy tales, their love story has had its twists and turns. In fact, it began when Tiffany stood Leon up for a date when they were sophomores at the University of Texas in 1999. Shortly after, Tiffany’s mother said she should offer some sort of apology. Being a life-long baker, Tiffany delivered Leon a fresh batch of warm cookies. And in exchange for her apology, Leon presented an idea: this should be a business. Tiff’s Treats was born.
“I’m not a big sweets person, but when I tasted the cookies, I immediately thought they were incredible,” declares Leon. “It excited me to think this could be something people would want because it was something I didn’t even know I wanted until I tasted the cookies.”
The two then started baking cookies out of Leon’s apartment, taking orders via cellphone, all while finishing their college education. After graduation, they decided that this was a business worth pursuing.
The Perfect Recipe
It takes more than a good idea to create a profitable business; it starts with a great product. Beginning with chocolate chip cookies, the company has expanded into a signature collection which also includes chocolate chip pecan, snickerdoodle, peanut butter, peanut butter chocolate chip, white chocolate chip and almond, M&M’s, sugar, oatmeal raisin, and oatmeal chocolate chip. Warm, fudge brownies were recently added to the menu, and guests can occasionally enjoy special or seasonal additions, available as first come, first served.
All recipes were originally handed down from Tiffany’s mother, and have been tweaked over time. In fact, t has been a family affair for many years, with Tiffany and her siblings shooting their very first in-home television commercial when she was just 10-years-old. She starred as the baker, of course.
Though there have been many requests for other products and flavors over the years, Tiffany and Leon are guided by their company’s core values. Leon states, “All decisions about our brand must revolve around being the best in the world at warm cookie delivery, which we are. If a new idea doesn’t help us in that area, we don’t do it. We added Tiffwich Parties a few years back, where customers can book us for an event to serve our warm cookies with vanilla Blue Bell ice cream in the middle. We also do mini box favors of Tiff’s Treats for weddings and party favors. So, when we do something, it’s always related to, or enhances, our position of warm cookie delivery. We do sell companion items like milk, sodas, and pints of ice cream as add-ons but those aren’t our core business offerings. We aren’t the best in the world at ice cream or milk, so we let someone else do it.”
Besides the stellar recipes, the other facet that makes their company unique is that cookies are delivered fresh and warm. Meaning, cookies are not baked until the order is placed. This requires some advanced planning, but the end product is well worth it. Single cookies can, however, be picked up a la carte and on demand in stores.
After moving out of the kitchen in Leon’s apartment in 2000, Tiff’s Treats secured space in the back of an Austin restaurant. By 2003, the business had already started taking off, so they secured their own real estate in in the form of a converted 1940s bungalow in Central Austin, which is still open today.
To those who know and love Tiff’s Treats, expansion might seem like a no-brainer. However, it took some time and persistence by customers to persuade the duo to make the leap. But in 2006, the second Tiff’s Treats opened in Dallas, in an area that was highly requested and also familiar to the two owners since they grew up in nearby Richardson.
Since then, the company has exploded. In just over a decade, Tiff’s Treats has more than 30 locations in Texas, Georgia, and Tennessee, and is planning to be nationwide in the next 10 years, with potentially 1,000 stores. That’s quite a long way from an apartment kitchen, a late ‘90s cellphone, and dial-up internet!
“Starting, running, and growing this business with Tiff has been one of the most incredible experiences because I got to do this with her, and we are in it together,” reflects Leon. “We had so many lows in the beginning, just clawing for survival every single day. We would never have made it except for the fact that we weren’t just trying to survive for ourselves, but for each other as well. Now, we have this incredible bond. There is no way this business would have ever made it to this stage without Tiff. Knowing all the literal blood, sweat, and tears that she’s been through, and we’ve been through together, is very special.”
Not-So-Secret Ingredients: Fans and Philanthropy
If asked, devotees of Tiff’s Treats will happily gush about their favorite flavor—or likely flavors—as well as the memories surrounding the tasty experience, appropriately called the #WarmCookieMoment. Hundreds of them will even line up hours before a new store opening. At the 30th location opening in Arlington, people brought camping gear and began queuing 26 hours before the doors opened!
Some fans have even gone the extra mile, or literally hundreds of them, becoming unofficial roadies for the brand. At the debut of the Atlanta area store, the first outside of Texas, those at the front of the line announced that they had been at the last three store openings in San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston. They drove from the Lone Star State to the Peach State specifically for this celebration!
“One of the things that we love most about our jobs is the ability to create happy moments. At the heart of what we do, that is it. We connect people and we deliver moments,” Leon shares. “We have had people use Tiff’s Treats in their proposals, and also to comfort friends and family after a miscarriage. It is a privilege to be able to be in people’s moments, and it’s that connection with our customers that makes us want to give back.”
At every grand opening, a dozen cookies are sold for $5, rather than the usual $15. And all sales, not just profits, up to $5,000 for that day goes to a select local charity. Additionally, the staff who work the openings are often corporate employees and store managers on salary, who provide their time as volunteers for the day. Tiffany, Leon, and the staff all feel like this is the best way to become part of the community, and find that time extremely rewarding.
The Last Bite
When asked if he has been surprised about the success of Tiff’s Treats, Leon says, “We still both feel uncomfortable calling it a ‘success’ or hearing others call it that. In our minds, we aren’t close to being done so the word ‘success’ seems premature. But we are flattered by the love for the brand, and surprised when we open a new store in a new town, and people are already waiting and excited for it.”
No matter how you choose to define success, it is clear that this couple has a love for each other, their business, and their fans. And that makes any success even sweeter. For more information and to order your warm cookies, please visit www.cookiedelivery.com.