Have you heard of ButterBox? It’s an innovative kitchen tool that allows you to store your butter in an airtight, upright butter dish and it also doubles as a knife-free spreader.
Recently I received my own ButterBox from Au Cao. As I looked at the box and instruction guide, I wondered, how does this spread butter?
Turns out, the ButterBox spreads it easily! Watch the video below for a demonstration.
After washing the ButterBox (all parts are dishwasher safe) and reading the instructions, I assembled the box. The instructions call for one stick of East Coast butter. I didn’t realize that in addition to different rap styles, East Coast and West Coast also have different types of butter packaging. You see, the ButterBox holds a slender 4 oz. East Coast butter stick. But don’t worry, because along with the stubby ones called West Coast butter, East Coast is also available in California. Who knew?
Since I wasn’t able to buy an East Coast butter stick, I decided to cut my butter stick with a knife to fit the ButterBox. Once I got the stick of butter inside the ButterBox, it was easy to maneuver. I used this to make a quesadilla!
It’s important to note that the ButterBox contains a portion control slider that enables you to control how much butter is used. It’s 100% food safe and the company, Au Cao, uses high-quality silicone and BPA-free plastic. It is a really neat kitchen gadget!
Now I’m sure you’re wondering, who is the person behind Au Cao? Trang Cao is the founder of the company that created ButterBox. Recently, I interviewed Trang about her business. Check out her interview below!
How/why did you begin your business?
My path to starting Au Cao (the ButterBox parent company) took a few turns. In college, I studied architecture and design, and after graduating I spent most of my career doing creative work for film and television. I loved working within that medium, but always wondered what it would be like to take the kind of creative energy and intensity of my day job and focus it exclusively on ideas, designs, and tenets I defined and developed. I was particularly interested in home goods because there is such a large market, and from my perspective, there are only a few companies who make consistently excellent products. I started Au Cao because I am always thinking about better ways to accomplish everyday tasks and wanted to see what it is like to take an idea from concept to market. It turns out it takes an incredible amount of energy and persistence, but it’s worth it!
The idea for the ButterBox started while making crepes for my family during the pandemic. We were joking about the best way to butter a hot crepe pan, and one of my kids thought we should make a prototype, so I started working on a design for a butter holder to make it safe and easy to butter a hot pan. We started with a list of challenges like – How could a small child use it and not have to use a knife? How do you keep from getting burned or from melting the holder? What kind of materials are food-safe and can stand up to high temperatures? How can it save space and time? What kind of design will look great in any kitchen?
When I decided to start Au Cao, I wasn’t 100% sure which idea would be our first product but was leaning towards the ButterBox. My brother helped refine the design and created 3D-printed prototypes that I left in the fridge for my family to try. When they abandoned the butter knife, I knew I had an idea worth developing!
When it comes to home goods, I’m always on the lookout for “keepers” — things that don’t compromise beauty, quality or utility and improve everyday routines in measurable ways. With Au Cao, I hope people think of our products as keepers. The ButterBox definitely seems like it’s on that path.
As a working mother, what is one tip or piece of advice that you would give to other female entrepreneurs?
Believe in yourself, and don’t shy away from help from your community, friends and family. Every business must navigate unforeseen challenges. Know who your support network is and remember that they are all rooting for you. Everything we do is an opportunity to learn and grow together, and when you are navigating something as challenging as launching and running a business, it’s important to remind yourself that a little bit of support can have a lot of impact.
Support can mean a lot of things, and for me, the family has been that support system even though it hasn’t always been easy to balance running a business and prioritizing time with them. One of the things that’s helped me prioritize time with my family is to involve them in what I’m doing especially with things that can be fun and team-focused. For example, we’ve worked closely on the creative aspects of designing and marketing products and things like A/B testing. Having family engaged has made it a lot more enjoyable, and in my case, they’ve been an incredible inspiration. Kids have amazing insights and it’s been great to bring them close to the work. It’s important to let your kids see your hard work and to share some of the challenges and rewards that come with it. It’s also important that they believe in themselves and feel like they are taken seriously, and if you have a family business and kids, your business is a powerful tool to expose them to things they might not learn anyplace else.
What do you like best about having a business in the food/kitchen gadget accessory space?
I love the idea that a simple object can have a positive impact on everyday life. My initial focus is on the kitchen work that people do as part of their daily routines as opposed to gadgets designed for occasional use. If an object like the ButterBox can save minutes per day by speeding up a simple process, eliminating the ubiquitous butter knife, and reducing the amount of time and effort needed for cleanup, it feels like a win.
One of the things I learned in corporate roles is that people are happiest and most productive when they are focused on meaningful aspects of their jobs and a lot of that has to do with how much effort is put into process analysis and simplification. I think that also applies to work in the home. How many people would rather be doing dishes than plating food on them? That’s why modern kitchens have dishwashers! I know it sounds a little crazy but one of the goals for Au Cao is to make housework a happier experience by elevating or eliminating mundane work. We are doing this by focusing on products that give people back time and by making beautiful gadgets that people will be happy to use every day. Being in this industry keeps me on my toes as I constantly learn, experiment and explore new possibilities.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you began your business, what would that be?
There have been a lot of ‘learn as you go’ moments and for the first several months I could have added a new item to the list of ‘wish I knew that’ almost every day!
Before starting my business, I either worked with large teams or as a consultant focused on really niche business sectors. I had never worked in a situation where I was responsible for so many aspects of a business. As a small business entrepreneur, you wind up having to do just about everything yourself. In my case, I wanted to develop ideas into products and there is a ton of work related to product development and supply chain management that I literally never did before doing it for myself.
The blind spots that come with not being an expert in a particular area are a little scary, but I’ve learned to ask lots of questions and to lean on my network when I need extra insights or expertise. There are definitely downsides to not knowing something, but when you are doing it for yourself and it is either sink or swim, you find a way. There’s that saying about the journey being more important than the destination, and I think for me having to navigate a long list of unknowns makes work exciting, challenging and rewarding.
Disclosure: No monetary compensation was received for this post. I received a complimentary product which helped facilitate this review. All images are my own unless otherwise noted. As always, my opinions are 100% my own.