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It feels like every other week, we catch wind of a new round of retrenchments.

For Arden Zhuo, this was something she experienced firsthand.

“Honestly, the first few days I was in shock since it was really an overnight thing, with access to emails and Slack revoked,” she shared with Vulcan Post.

When one loses their job, the instinctive reaction may be to lock down the next job ASAP. People around Arden, who meant well, also advised her to do that, securing a job in her field.

“But at that time, I didn’t feel compelled to go back to where I was at and nor did I just want to be confined to familiar fields,” Arden admitted.

Image Credit: Borderlessbutter

Of course, she was also fortunate that she did not have to rush to find another job, financially speaking.

With more time on hand, she decided to pursue something she’s always thought of doing—starting a business. Specifically, a business centred on unique flavour pairings.

“I saw that rejection as a sign of redirection that I no longer had an excuse to put my business idea off anymore,” Arden added.

On top of that, the layoff also led her to rethink how she viewed a job. “It felt like in this day and age, if overnight restructure is so common and easily justified, should I not be building something of my own instead?”

With that mindset, she got to work and founded Borderlessbutter.

Thinking outside of the borders

Growing up, Arden had always been interested in interesting flavour combinations. Using butter as a medium for that wasn’t something she had planned for, though.

“The first time I thought butter might be a viable medium was when I dined at a steakhouse and they served black pepper butter and bread,” she explained.

Thinking up business ideas, Arden landed on “Borderlessbutter”. For one, it’s a personal reminder to not be hung up on the boxes society has inadvertently created. 

Image Credit: Borderlessbutter

The name also refers to how the brand seeks to have no boundaries in their creations. Borderlessbutter is all about crafting flavours without limits, pursuing bold experimentation, and pushing boundaries.

“I see quite a few others using the established marketing term ‘Asian-Inspired’,” Arden added. “But I don’t want to rely on that and limit myself, but be truly ‘Borderless’.”

She also wants her butters to be borderless in terms of application. It can be used to fry an egg, cook pasta, make stew, or be spread on toasts, steaks, pancakes, or more.

Image Credit: Borderlessbutter

Inspirations for flavours come from all sorts of ways. It could be from the founder’s day-to-day life, the places she visits, or the food she eats.

“A while back, I visited Hanoi and tasted a really unique herb native to their cuisine that I’m super excited to R&D with,” she explained. “For such flavours, I see it more like a ‘souvenir’ I bring back to remember the memory of that trip.”

She also likes to gain inspiration from specialty grocers, as they typically carry a lot of interesting imported products.

Image Credit: Borderlessbutter

Borderlessbutter also releases seasonal specials for festivities. One interesting flavour they’ve created is the Golden Tropical Zest flavour for Chinse New Year.

Arden shared that the inspiration there was to create a mix between pineapple tarts, cumin, and it was also inspired by chuan chuan (skewers).

Spreading the beauty of butter

Borderlessbutter is made with imported butter from France, which helps ensure quality and consistency in the ingredient pairing.

The other ingredients come from a range of sources—fresh produce from local markets and grocery shops, or sometimes from specialty grocers.

Image Credit: Borderlessbutter

The end products retail from S$14.90 to S$21.90 for standard size.

The pricing might be higher compared to mass-produced options on supermarket shelves, but that’s understandable as Borderlessbutter uses premium ingredients, are handcrafted, and made-to-order, with no preservatives for natural goodness and freshness.

“I think when customers hear that they are freshly handcrafted, and taste our butter during pop-ups, they immediately understand what they are paying for,” Arden added.

She also believes that their flavour combinations are rather unique, which sets them apart from other options.

Arden also argued that the value proposition of her butters further justifies the premium pricing.

Image Credit: Borderlessbutter

“With Borderlessbutter, a time-starved working adult can quickly prepare a meal like pasta in just 15 minutes that could easily cost 3x the price outside, and at a fraction of time spent,” she reasoned. “So looking more broadly, what we offer is the ticket to eating better, yet easier at home.”

In fact, the founder said that many mothers have told her that Borderlessbutter’s sundried tomato & basil butter has been a huge time saver for meals and something their kids love.

Sliding into entrepreneurship

Transitioning from a corporate landscape to entrepreneurship, Arden said that the learning curve has been quite steep.

Since she doesn’t have the budget to hire help right now, she’s had to pick up everything by herself, from designing the website and marketing collaterals, to content creation and SEO.

“Naturally, the output might not be as good as hiring professionals in each area. But what this taught me is to have a ‘just do it’ attitude,” the young entrepreneur explained.

Image Credit: Borderlessbutter

Although she’s a self-proclaimed perfectionist, she’s learnt that there’s no such thing as being 100% ready, and that it’s okay to tweak things along the way.

“The key is to iterate quickly and learn from the process,” she advised.

She also learnt that rejection is also more commonplace than expected, especially when it comes to striking up collaborations or partnerships.

“It’s easy to feel dejected then doubt will kick in but it’s crucial at such a juncture to recalibrate and go again,” she said.

Bigger and butter

Currently, Arden is seeking other brands that align in values to collaborate with and cross-market.

Image Credit: Borderlessbutter

She also aims to establish channel partners where she can retail her butters in, such as cafes, bakeries, cheese shops, or specialty grocers.

“Having recently run a butter sculpting workshop recently, I’m particularly keen to expand in corporate gifting and events, and perhaps in B2B wholesale—supplying to cafes, restaurants, or bars,” she added.

As a self-funded project, Borderlessbutter has been quite prudent with growth plans.

Furthermore, the founder is juggling Borderlessbutter with her day job at the moment.

Opening up, Arden said she sometimes feels guilt for resting, especially when competitors are churning out content and gaining channel access.

Image Credit: Borderlessbutter

That said, the founder is learning to appreciate where Borderlessbutter is at now. “The current scale allows me to pour my heart and soul into every single aspect of things, while juggling a full-time job,” she shared.

Although tiring, the journey has also been infinitely rewarding, Arden said. Since it’s something she’s passionate in, she believes it makes it easier.

As Borderlessbutter grows, she does hope to make it her full-time when the opportunity arises, or when the time is right.

But until that day, Arden will continue balancing her roles, not one to stay put within the so-called borders that society imposes.

  • Learn more about Borderlessbutter here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Borderlessbutter

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