Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Christopher Buono, Founder and CEO of Bijoux Crème, located in Overland Park, KS, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
The overriding goal of Bijoux Crème is to elevate the home culinary experience by providing only the best in compound, flavored butters. Despite $5.5B in butter being sold in the U.S. each year, it’s almost entirely plain (salted or unsalted). While we demand more from our ice cream and yogurt, butter remains largely a one-trick pony. Bijoux Crème’s line of delectable compound butters promises to elevate any meal or gathering with innovative flavors, both sweet and savory.
All start with organic, pasture-grazed, European-style butter and finish as all-natural, GMO- and gluten-free. The base ingredient for Bijoux Crème's line of flavored butters is, well, butter, but not just any butter. We source our butter from the Amish and Mennonites, so it's certified organic, grass-fed, and pasture-grazed (as well as being sustainably and regeneratively farmed). Bijoux Crème butters pair with any meat, vegetable, and of course, bread.
We innovate by being attentive to customers’ needs while being creative with unique flavors, combinations, and trends. With flavors like Raspberry Passion, Maple Pecan Nirvana, Roasted Garlic and Herb Soulmates, Farm Bleu Charm, and Mango Habanero Obsession while using only 100% all-natural ingredients packaged in highly-recyclable glass jars, Bijoux Crème is upending the butter market from the mundane to the exciting. With its focus on innovative flavors using only the finest ingredients, Bijoux Crème’s customers tend to be health-conscious, environmentally-aware buyers who aren’t willing to sacrifice on great taste.
Tell us about yourself
I grew up an aspiring chef. While my career took a very different turn when I was nearing twenty years old, my passion for making and eating only the very best foods was instilled in me from a young age. And, I’m an entrepreneur—always have been. My first experience working for myself was when I was around ten, going door-to-door selling customizable greeting cards. While that may not seem like much in our Internet age, pre-Internet customizable greeting cards were a luxury item reserved for people living within proximity to an industrious child like me who responded to an advertisement from the back of a Boys’ Life magazine.
As a lifetime foodie, amateur chef, and closet entrepreneur in need of a career change mid-pandemic, I stumbled on the idea of flavored butter thanks to my young daughter and her desire for “butter that wasn’t so boring.” After some research and a handful of proof-of-concepts recipes, I quickly realized that flavored butter’s time had come, and with that decided to put my tech executive job behind me. As for what motivates me: providing for my family and making them proud is my biggest motivator, disrupting a segment of the market while making my mark on the world, and of course, hearing, “Wow! That’s really good!” when people try Bijoux Crème for the first time.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
In a very big-picture sense, my biggest accomplishment as a business owner is having built something from nothing. Sometimes that first step is the hardest because the future is so unknown. It takes a lot of courage and focused intent to take a vague concept and make it into something tangible and then take that to market for the world to judge. From a more micro perspective, my most significant accomplishment is the daily task of rallying others around my vision: customers, wholesale buyers, investors, and even friends and family. Without the ongoing support of all of them, especially my family, success would be nearly impossible.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
For me, there are three things that count as the most difficult aspect of being a business owner. First, maintaining the grit necessary to persevere past the challenges and failures that present themselves takes daily reminders as to ‘why’ this is important. For too long, I relied on my intelligence and leadership skills to succeed. It's certainly true that I had a strong career drive and was self-motivated, but because things came relatively easy for me, my perseverance was never really put to the test. I now recognize grit to be more important than just being smart. Life will present adversity, challenges, and roadblocks, and there's no way to avoid being challenged and made uncomfortable. It's how we confront challenges that allow the successful to rise above mediocrity.
Second, I’ve learned that people tend not to want to see behind the curtain. For example, in writing, there are a lot of rough drafts on the path to a published book. The same is true of products and services, and all that goes with those: research and development, packaging samples, marketing designs, and countless other trial-and-error facets. But, when people see a rough draft without having my clarity of vision, they can lose faith in the product, the process, and in me. As a business owner, that’s a lonely place to be. But, trial and error is part of the creative process. It’s necessary and unavoidable and should be celebrated.
Third, the old adage that ‘it takes money to make money’ is still true today. Whether it’s a couple of hundred dollars for initial supplies or many millions for cutting-edge technology, without enough cash or credit to get a product to market, a business will remain in the pre-revenue stage indefinitely. With that, I will extend a special heartfelt thanks to my wife for supplying the initial seed money for Bijoux Crème as well as for keeping our family afloat during the startup process.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Start with a product or service you are genuinely proud of—that you want to show off to people. You don’t have to be head-over-heels in love with it—though it helps (i.e., septic cleaning). You don’t have to be passionate about every aspect of the business (e.g., bookkeeping is just not my thing). But you do have to sell it, so if you’re not truly proud of what you’ve created, your effort will seem ingenuine, and very few people will spend their hard-earned money on it.
- Figure out what business, creative, and production roles you perform best, then outsource the rest. Even as a solopreneur, you can’t do everything. Focus on your strengths while letting others focus on theirs. 3) Don’t underestimate the power of marketing. In an internet-connect and social media world, marketing doesn’t cost a lot, but its importance cannot be overstated. Without some form of marketing, you can’t build a brand nor foster customer awareness, and you can’t turn awareness into paying customers.
- Treat everyone the way you would like to be treated. Everyone! From the CEO to the stock crew, everyone plays an important role, and every one of them should have the opportunity to feel good about a job well done.
Where can people find you and your business?
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