Butter Mafia: "We've been able to streamline a bunch of processes"
"Do I want to chase invoices or do I want to get paid? I'm in the business of getting amazing sweets out to awesome people, not debt collection."
Kenn Chia, Owner, Butter Mafia
A passionate dessert maker, Kenn Chia began selling his delicious creations to a local restaurant, fitting his baking schedule around his day job as a lawyer.
His desserts became so popular that he knew it was time to make it his main focus. “I realised I might be onto something when people making their bookings at the restaurant started placing reservations just for dessert!”
Kenn had never worked in hospitality before, apart from a few shifts helping at events whilst at university. “It's been a massive learning curve.” Now, Butter Mafia - named in part for his past role as a criminal lawyer in the supreme court, and part because “they are really naughty treats” is a thriving business, supplying desserts to over 50 different venues around Melbourne and selling out of the ‘Naughty Room’ in Northcote. As the business has grown, Kenn has mastered the art of finding and niche, specialising and crafting a strong brand around his products.
The first step was coming up with a memorable brand. “We had a whole list of names and I was talking to friends and family about it. I said Butter Mafia to my sister-in-law and she went ‘Oh no you can't have that because there still is mafia and that could be quite offensive.’ And I just knew right then that it was where we had to go because it's fun, it's tongue in cheek and they're really naughty treats.”
As well as marketing the business, Butter Mafia have found success by focusing on a specific niche and a specific audience. “When I started the business I was using domestic baking techniques to supply desserts commercially and I had to learn really quickly. But we also very quickly switched from making desserts to specialising in gluten free desserts.”
With food allergies himself, Kenn knew how hard it was to find great gluten free products, but more than that, he also knew how serious it can be for someone with allergies. His nephew had severe allergies to number of different foods, which had a huge impact on his family. “If someone ate an egg and they kissed him on his cheek you could see burn marks on his face.” Keen went to stay with his nephew so that his cousin could finally enjoy a holiday. “When they went on a trip away for a week they had to sign over power of attorney and legal guardianship to me so that if anything happened I'd be able to take care of things. That’s when I realised how serious it is. It has quite an impact.”
That experience has ensured Butter Mafia has very rigid standards and have developed a unique approach to food production. Their production processes have to include regular lab tests, frequent food safety inspections, degreasing and sanitising between every batch, being very careful not to cross contaminate and not buying any wheat products at all into the kitchen. The cooking methods of gluten free products have also been a learning curve. “I had to figure out very quickly how to get good at making gluten free. There’s no TAFE course. No one actually teaches it. So it was trial and error and let's work this out. Let's make the best desserts that we can. So it's been a really interesting journey.”
In a sign Butter Mafia really have mastered dessert creation, despite specialising in gluten free products, Kenn still finds customers who are totally surprised and delighted that they are able to eat their products. “We get coeliacs that are coming to us and saying “I can't have any of your stuff.” And I go “Hang on, take a look at it. Everything that we make is gluten free.” And you should see the look on their faces, they go “Oh my gosh! Stuff that I've had normally tastes like cardboard but I can have all of this. You'd never know!’ So it's been hugely gratifying to have gone this way. We've just specialised and we found this little niche and we want to grow it even more. ”
Among their top products are ‘The Don’ - a super luxurious take on a caramel slice, complete with roasted hazelnuts, and the ‘Henchmen Cookies’ - deluxe peanut butter cookies, absolutely loaded with chocolate chunks.
With a great product, a great brand and a foothold in a strong niche, the next step for Butter Mafia was growing the business. “That's where Ordermentum has been able to come in. It’s been really, really helpful. I was quite new to business when I first started I had absolutely no idea. I would actually rock up to all my customer’s shops ask them what they would like for the following week. I would take orders in person!”
Ordermentum has helped Butter Mafia grow by automating orders, freeing up hours of Kenn’s time. “When we started it was a whiteboard and then after the whiteboard we went to a Google Sheet. It was me checking in with all the customers one by one and then putting orders into the sheet and then invoicing then payments. It took a really really long time. You can't get the time back when it’s gone”
Kenn knew it wasn’t sustainable to keep running his orders that way, and went looking for a solution. “I was going to set up a CRM platform and have text messages automated and have it all integrated. It was going to cost an arm and a leg and it still wouldn't do everything. Then we found Ordermentum and Joe came in and he was such a great support. It's been awesome since then. We’ve been able to streamline a whole bunch of processes and it's been amazing.”
Kenn estimates at least six hours a week have been saved by automating ordering. On top of that, taking payment through Ordermentum has transformed the business. “It's been great because if we charge the invoices we charge the customers. When products are going out we know when we are paid, we know when we're not paid. It just makes life a lot simpler.” Kenn has been firm about making sure all customers pay through Ordermentum. “We don't do it otherwise, just because it creates too much of a headache. It's making it a business decision. Do I want to chase invoices or do I want to get paid? I'm in the business of getting amazing sweets out to awesome people, not debt collection.”
Kenn is acutely aware of how busy his customers are, so offering online ordering has been really well received. “Customers love the convenience. As much as some of the customers love connecting with us, it can be quite an interruption into their day. So this gives them the time and the space to put in the order when they need to instead of us interrupting their day.”
The biggest benefit for Butter Mafia is clear when Kenn talks about his products. He’s able to stay focussed on what he truly loves doing, and it’s clear that his passion is why his products are so popular.
“I love seeing the customers. I love seeing the impact that we have with the products that we make. It's never been about the money - it's been about getting these amazing sweets out there. If you’re having a bad day and you have one of our sweets and all of that goes away. That's what makes a difference for us. Just knowing that our products can bring joy and pleasure into someone's life. We just love that.”
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At a glance
- VENUEButter Mafia
- LOCATIONMelbourne, VIC
- INDUSTRYHealthy Treats