The University of Texas at Austin is known for several things: Matthew McConaughey, Bevo, and (obviously) being better than OU. There's one more thing that our campus can't live without, and that is Tiff's Treats. Tiff's Treats is a cookie delivery business that brings fresh, warm cookies and brownies to your apartment, library, or workplace. Parents send cookies to their homesick students, boyfriends (and girlfriends) send them as a token of affection, and workers can even send Tiff's to their bosses for extra brownie points (pun intended).Founded in 1999 in Tiffany Chen's then-boyfriend's apartment, the business has boomed and now has several storefronts in Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Atlanta. Along with a variety of delivery options, Tiff's Treats offers warm brownies, Tiffblitz frozen desserts (cookies and ice cream blended together, what more could you want), and Tiffwich ice cream sandwiches. We got to have a chat with Tiffany Chen herself, and here is what she had to say:
The CookiesWhat is the history behind your cookie recipe?
"It was a recipe that my mom taught me how to make as a child. I would make these cookies for fun and for my friends all through my childhood and teen years."Has this recipe for cookies stayed the same throughout the years or have you changed it?
"Our niche is that we offer baked-to-order cookies that are warm when they arrive. We don't bake anything until the order is placed, so the cookies you are receiving have just come out of the oven and were baked just for you.
The BusinessWhat are some of the biggest challenges you faced starting Tiff’s Treats and throughout the life of the company?
"Our biggest threat was back in 2003 when we received 90 days notice to leave our kitchen space on The Drag, and we had to quickly find a new store, sign a lease, and renovate the space. That was a huge challenge but we made it through based on luck and a very kind landlord. But ongoing, I would say the hardest part is hiring and managing people. Staff at every level is the most critical part of any business and it takes a lot of work and effort to make sure you are making the right moves and helping your team achieve their goals."Besides the current store in Atlanta, do you have further plans to expand past Texas?
"Yes, we have two stores in Atlanta now and are opening a third there in December. Beyond that we do plan to open in more states and markets starting as early as next year but we have not finalized a selection on which state is next."Do you plan to expand beyond the cookie and brownie business and deliver different treats?
"We have created a few offshoots, like our Tiffblitz frozen dessert and our Tiffwich ice cream sandwiches. But for the most part we focus on cookies and brownies. We like to keep our focus on a smaller menu so that we can keep our products fresh and always in stock."What resources did you utilize on campus when starting Tiff’s Treats?
"I'm not sure we used any resources on campus when we started, other than sneaking into dorms and putting flyers down. We signed up for Bevo Bucks early on and that was a nice boost for us. The internet and cell phones were just becoming widespread when we started in 1999, so there are probably tons of cool resources now that we missed out on." (Actually, there are; check out the Longhorn Entreprenueurship Agency here).
How have you been able to apply what you learned in school to your business?
"I think the best thing you can learn in school is how to juggle multiple things at once and how to succeed when nobody is holding your hand or giving you deadlines. It's up to you to make things happen on your own timeline and college is a great place to learn that."Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to start their own business? "Just make sure it's something you are passionate about and then get ready to put 100% focus and energy into it. It's hard to have a successful business if your attention is divided. Nothing compares to hard work."
Fun FactsWhat is your favorite food?
"I have pretty basic tastes and I'd say my favorite food is pizza! Or maybe a tie with chips and queso.What is your favorite restaurant in Austin?
"This is not a restaurant, but I love the pizza at Trifecta. For a special night out I tend to pick steak and really like Sullivans and Perrys.Do you cook as well as you bake?
"I actually do not cook at all, I'm more of a restaurant person. We have two-year-old twins and we go out for dinner most nights and have since they were 10 days old. I hate cleaning up a kitchen mess!"What is your favorite thing to bake?
"I like baking dessert bars, cakes, or pies. Especially if chocolate is involved. But I don't bake as much as I used to.What is your favorite baking technique/secret?
"Don't overbake desserts! There are some things I like crispy, like bacon or pepperoni. But I tend to prefer baked goods that are softer than that. It's easy to accidentally burn the bottoms of cookies. Avoid placing the tray too close to the heating source on the bottom.What is your favorite cookie flavor? Regular menu: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip
Flavor of the Week: Milk Chocolate Chip Toffee
Thank you, Tiffany, for spreading the love of sweets, and best of luck with the business.