AUSTIN — Twenty dollars, a cell phone and a dream – that's how one of the most popular Austin-based companies got its start.
But the real story behind Tiff’s Treats’ success is actually the sweetest love story in Austin.
“I stood Leon up on a date and so as an apology I baked him some cookies,” said Tiffany Chen. “My mom taught me how to bake and it was the thing I would do for fun all the time.”
And so began Tiff's Treats. Well, sort of.
PHOTOS: A look at Austin sweet spot Tiff’s Treats over the years
“I tried to convince her if she would do this as a business with me and she said, ‘No, absolutely not,’” said Leon Chen.
Leon Chen’s persuasive skills worked. Within weeks he and Tiffany Chen were baking cookies in their apartment and delivering them across the University of Texas campus.
Tiff’s Treats goes from door-to-door sales to booming Austin business
The new businesses’ name was soon everywhere.
“We put flyers under all the dorm rooms, all the apartments we could get to, and then we just waited for orders,” said Tiffany Chen.
The duo was dedicated.
“We ended up skipping school a lot to fulfill orders,” said Leon.
Then UT asked them to cater their student orientation one summer, and the popularity of the cookies took off.
“Word started getting around about our service so we started getting busier and busier,” said Tiffany Chen.
They hired their friends’ brothers to help them deliver.
“They would work 10 to 20 hours. And what's really cool is all four of them work with the company today,” said Leon Chen.
Simplicity is a recipe for success at Austin’s Tiff’s Treats
The business has remained simple yet purposeful: Ten flavors of cookies with a new flavor of the week every six to eight weeks.
“We bake all of our orders to order, which means when your order comes in, that's when we put it in the oven,” Tiffany Chen said.
The company which started with two has now grown to 800 employees with big name investors including Andy Roddick and Brooklyn Decker helping them expand across the country. You’ll now find Tiff’s Treats in Atlanta, Georgia and Nashville, Tennessee.
Family changes everything at Austin’s Tiff’s Treats
And this story only gets sweeter with time. The Chens welcomed their twins three years ago.
“I feel like it's kind of saved us,” said Leon Chen. “It makes you see the world in a different light, to have a purpose outside of just focusing on the company. I think it's helped the company, too.”
It appears the love for Tiff’s Treats runs in the family, as well.
“The first dessert they had maybe on their first birthday we gave them a Tiff’s Treats cookie and they liked it. Their favorite M&M, you know, kids favorite,” said Tiffany Chen.
The company is now making deliveries more personal. You can now send video messages instead of just handwritten notes.
“Whether I'm sending it to say, ‘thank you,’ ‘I love you’ or ‘congratulations’ -- I'm able to connect with you even if I'm not there. I think that really resonates with people,” said Leon Chen.
A love connection that was made in Austin, made for Austin.
“There's no way we would have been able to grow this business or make it in any other city. The people in Austin, the attitude and the culture, not just try it, but get behind it,” said Leon Chen.
Have a person, place or business you think makes Austin awesome? Send your story ideas to reporter Terri Gruca at firstname.lastname@example.org.