During winter break of his sophomore year, UT alumus Leon Chen asked his crush on a date, and she stood him up. Nearly 15 years later, he owns a successful business with his wife — the same girl who didn’t show up.
“Tiff stood me up to hang out with her friends,” Leon said. “Afterwards, she felt bad and baked me a batch of cookies from her family’s recipe. I’m not into sweets that much, but I thought, ‘Wow, I love those cookies.’”
At the time, Leon was a sophomore marketing student looking to get a job in business. When he and Tiff, who studied advertising, started dating, he asked her if she would be interested in starting a cookie delivery company with him. Together, they created Tiff’s Treats.
“Two weeks after we got back from winter break, we started working,” Tiff said. “We sent out flyers to dorms and promoted it, but in the first two days we got no calls. We thought it might be a failure, but we got an order the next day.”
Leon said that at the time, getting five to 10 orders in one night was both exciting and overwhelming.
“We were doing the business out of my Hyde Park apartment,” Leon said. “We were open from 8 p.m. to midnight, Sunday through Thursday. We were still college kids and wanted to go out on the weekends.”
For the first three years, they made enough to run the business with little remaining for themselves, according to Leon. Soon, however, 10 orders a night turned into 20, and 20 turned into 40.
Since the focus of their business was delivery, they needed to hire delivery drivers, most of whom were UT freshmen and sophomores. Today, the first three drivers they hired 15 years ago work in management at Tiff’s Treats.
“That’s probably my favorite part of it all,” Leon said. “Watching them grow up and go from delivery drivers to really good department leaders is cool.”
Jeff Sartor, the company’s executive vice president of marketing, is one of those original drivers.
“My favorite part about working at Tiff’s is making people happy,” Sartor said. “Whether it is our customers or our employees, I love that we can create smiles and special moments for anyone.”
Since starting Tiff’s Treats in 1999, Tiff and Leon have expanded to 16 stores in four different cities.
“We look back on how we used to do things, and we always have a good laugh about how inefficient we were,” Tiff said. “[In college], we were just making it all up on the fly. We have grown so much since we started.”