In this episode of the Candid Conversations small business podcast, your co-hosts Dan and Sagan interview Amanda Kinden of Oh Doughnuts. Amanda shares what it’s like to start and manage a doughnut shop, her tips on branding and marketing in business, how to have sustainable practices in your own business, challenges unique to the food and doughnut industry, and how she balances her love of making doughnuts with the needs of running her business.

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Show Notes

00:00 Introduction to the podcast

00:40 Welcome to Season 2!

01:30 Why we decided to change the format of the Candid Conversations small business podcast a little bit

02:15 What happened with our business in between Season 1 and Season 2

03:10 We have a BOOK upcoming about Season 1 of the podcast!

04:20 Housekeeping: our small business podcast website is now on our Juxta site

05:00 Free business bootcamp information:

06:20 Introduction to Amanda from Oh Doughnuts and what to expect in this episode

07:10 Why Amanda decided to start Oh Doughnuts

08:05 What Amanda was doing before she became the owner and baker at a doughnut shop

08:50 What the hours are like working at a doughnut shop

09:10 Why Amanda wasn’t too concerned about opening a shop in such a niche industry

“I did it by myself with a lean startup model; I was working my 9 to 5 job when I got started. I started by selling doughnuts to one coffee shop and then another and another; it sort of took off on its own. Probably to open a doughnut shop right from the start would have been a lot more daunting. Renting a kitchen and not making that huge investment of building a commercial kitchen was easier.” - Amanda

10:55 The value of relationships when starting a business

“Relationships in Winnipeg matter a bunch!” - Amanda

12:10 How Amanda went about finding her own space for the doughnut shop

“I knew I wanted to be downtown because offices have meetings and they want some sort of dessert, but every other space I saw was on the periphery. It was just a little too far. People needed to be able to walk to my shop. The thought about all the work that would need to go into making this particular space a doughnut shop was daunting, but it was the space! Location is important.” - Amanda

14:50 What it was like to work in a shared kitchen

“Working in the shared kitchen, I learned a lot about sharing space! It was very stressful. I didn’t know who was going to be there and what the situation was going to be like.” - Amanda

17:00 What it’s like to make doughnuts (and what Amanda’s experience was like when she just started out)

“I don’t know if people know how hard doughnuts are to make! It’s tricky with doughnuts; they take a lot of time.” - Amanda

18:20 What happened during the first few days when Amanda opened her doughnut shop

“I had this notion that if I could do everything at the shop, then if I had a few more people who could also do everything, then we could do more of everything. This was not right at all! I needed more people for individual tasks... I didn’t realize how slow everyone would be, and how inefficient. There was a lot of dough being thrown out that wasn’t worked because the person was taking more time than was needed.” - Amanda

“I’d suggest to other people starting out that they do more testing before opening the doors… You’re wrapped up in so many other things that it’s easy for the little details to get overlooked.” - Amanda

21:45 How Amanda goes about choosing her doughnut flavours

“I can’t imagine sales would be great if we were selling the same doughnuts every single day. Variety is the spice of life! And there’s so many kinds of doughnuts you can make. The staff are also like, ‘it would be so boring to make the same doughnuts every day.’ So every day it changes. It’s great. It’s a new day, every day! Mostly it’s about keeping things fresh for us and for the customers.” - Amanda

“There’s an incredible amount of thought that goes into the menu. I make the menu on Sunday for the week. When I started, it was like, ‘what do we have? Let’s make this!’... The staff come up with some of the doughnut ideas; some of the ideas are just, ‘what’s a popular dessert? Let’s make that!’” - Amanda

25:20 Make progress with your business in just 15 minutes/day:

26:50 Difficulties around hiring staff

“The people, I would say, is kind of the worst part of it. And it can be the best! But people are an interesting creature in that they have opinions and needs! People in general are difficult. It’s this internal struggle of realizing that no one else is as passionate about my business as I am, and letting that go. But also, it’s my baby! It’s my name. I’m associated with the whole thing. My whole thing is, making mouths happy. I just want to make mouths happy.” - Amanda

“To have someone on your team who is not as passionate about your business as you are, that can create conflict.” - Dan

30:00 What happens when dough difficulties arise

“It’s hard to instil a feeling. Dough is a feeling. There’s conditions, and they change, and you just sort of have to feel it. There’s intuition and you have to learn that; it’s hard to learn that. You have to be willing to absorb it. A lot of people are logical; they want to know specifics. And doughnuts aren’t like that! It’s like, ‘okay, poke it!' How does it feel? If it’s too soft, turn it down, you know?” - Amanda

31:00 The risk of being in the food industry

“Because we have so many flavours, it’s impossible for me to cost out each doughnut. I kind of guess, mostly. This is probably against every food-based business rule; I don’t have a cost for each doughnut! For sure, I have a general idea of the time and the ingredients cost. Basically what people are paying for is the staff time. Because I don’t pay the staff minimum wage; I pay them, I think, a lovely wage. We have fair trade chocolate, organic flour; all of those things cost money. That being said, restaurants are more elaborate. We’re making one thing. One of the hardest parts is figuring out how many doughnuts will sell that day.” - Amanda

32:50 Marketing strategies of Oh Doughnuts

“Buy one get one is a very good tool to get people in and for selling more doughnuts. Obviously we don’t want to throw out doughnuts!’ - Amanda

35:10 What happens when there are excess doughnuts

36:30 Amanda’s favorite part of making doughnuts and having her own business

“There’s a little boy who has autism, and his mother says it just brings him so much joy, just to see the doughnut -- it’s the vanilla sprinkles that he likes. Little stories like that; that ties into making mouths happy! Just the simplicity of taking a bunch of raw ingredients, putting them together, and making something that brings people pleasure, that’s the best part. And the other best part is being at the front and talking to the customers. We’re all just people!” - Amanda

38:05 Why Amanda chooses sustainable practices

“It’s important because I care about the environment. It’s something I believe in a bunch, and it’s not that difficult to do, as a business. I could make more money by using cheaper ingredients, but the doughnuts are as good as they are because of the quality of the ingredients. Manitoba makes some delicious things -- we should use these things! Also, there’s that whole thing about where your money goes when you support local. With local ingredients, you limit your footprint. In Manitoba, it’s hard to eat locally because obviously we have winter! But you can make butter here all year, you have eggs here all year, so those things are just so easy to do.” - Amanda

39:50 Using compostable vs recyclable boxes and adding compost to the business expenses

40:40 Value of finding little ways to boost sustainable business practices

“I’m militant about water usage. We don’t fill the sinks up all the way because there’s a lot of sugar and such that muddies the water, so we need to change the water a lot. I’m very militant about reminding everybody not to fill the water up all the way. Just, all the things you can do at home to be more sustainable, you can do basically in a business.” - Amanda

41:20 The branding of Oh Doughnuts

“If someone’s paying this much for something that’s kind of superfluous, kind of unnecessary, you want the branding to be happy, you want it to be good; you want to see value. You’re making them happy, they’re deriving value from buying this product, in more than one way, in more than just eating it. Also, mostly I think I did the pink sprinkle car for myself! You’re driving around in it and people are waving and you see smiles. For me, that’s great! Obviously it brings a smile to people’s day. It was like, what’s the most ridiculous thing I can do to this car? So it’s pretty much the epitome of my branding.” - Amanda

Check out their awesome pink sprinkle car on the Oh Doughnuts Instagram account.

43:00 About the Oh Doughnuts logo

“The logo is old-timey. I want to convey that nostalgia. Doughnuts are a trend, for sure, but we also have this population and culture with nostalgia in Manitoba.” - Amanda

43:50 About the Oh Doughnuts Instagram account: marketing tips for updating your own business Instagram account

“It’s hard to post twice a day! And it’s just doughnuts. But when we posted staff, we hardly had any likes. You post a picture of a doughnut or a variety of doughnuts, with good lighting etc., and you get a lot more likes and comments. It’s really good to see people tagging other people too. People don’t want to see the staff! They want to see the doughnuts. That’s what we’re selling, so that’s what we show them, every day, twice a day. Noticing what people are liking and commenting on is important. It’s about using Instagram for good and to support local! There’s value in the Instagram account.” - Amanda

“I like that you’re doing that. You’re really paying attention to, what do people like? They like doughnuts, so that’s in your post, you share what doughnuts are available that day. And also the fact that you realize what gets more sales, and you’ve responded accordingly. That’s very good business sense that many people don’t even consider.” - Sagan

“You have to pay attention to all the things! And there’s a lot of things to pay attention to. Something like updating Instagram is something you could push aside, but you shouldn’t. It’s free! It’s free besides the time it takes to do it. For me, that’s huge. Especially since the market is on Instagram. We use Twitter and Facebook too, to a lesser extent, because there’s a different demographic on each social media platform.” - Amanda

“It’s interesting that because the menu changes every day, and you post the menu every day, it forces people to look at your Instagram account! It’s an interesting strategy for training people to check your social media accounts.” - Sagan

50:30 Algorithm issues on Instagram

“Because our posts are pretty time-specific, when Instagram is out of chronological order, it makes things tricky for us! But it’s hard to measure the effect of algorithm changes.” - Amanda

52:00 Planning the menu

52:20 On Instagram limiting the likes you can see

54:00 On getting support from organizations when you’re starting your business

“I had already started, I was already doing the doughnuts, I already had wholesale contracts; I had already proven there was demand for my business. So I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t easier for me to get support from these organizations. Today, wholesale makes like 10% of my sales probably. Retail is way better than wholesale. I didn’t get loans from anywhere except a small one from ACU to start out.” - Amanda

“So, the takeaway is: go against the grain and Winnipeg will thank you!” - Dan

“I had proven it already. It wasn’t like I just wanted to start a doughnut shop; I already had clients. A big piece of advice would be, don’t listen to the ‘experts’ all the time. Those people might be an expert in somethings, but they’re not an expert in everything.” - Amanda

56:30 Plans for Oh Doughnuts moving forward

“We’d like to have a proper full cafe and more seating. I do not want a second location! The hardest thing was converting a non-food space to a food space for our shop. I think Winnipeg can sustain two doughnut shops; but do they need more than one location of those two doughnut shops? I don’t think so.” - Amanda

59:15 On running a business vs. making doughnuts

“I spend negative two hours a week making doughnuts these days! It’s not great. Obviously my favorite part is making doughnuts. I’m the backup for everything, so if someone calls in sick, then I take on their role. But I do the basic bookkeeping, communications etc. That’s kind of soul crushing to not focus on just making doughnuts. But we hired a new baker and I spent a couple weeks training him, so that was great. So I manage to sneak some doughnut-making in! But often I have very little to do with the actual doughnuts these days.” - Amanda

“This is a big problem many people face when they open a business. You start a business because you love the service you’re doing or the product you’re creating; it’s hard to move into the actual business side of things. You have to really enjoy it or be so passionate about what you do to keep things moving forward.” - Sagan

“It’s hard, for sure! It’s not the best part of owning a business, being at a computer all the time. But I think you have to balance it, and kick somebody out to so you can get some time to do what you actually want to do. Just make sure you do some of that, for some of the time. It’s all about balance!’” - Amanda

62:30 How to find Oh Doughnuts

65:00 Thanks for listening!

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65:30 Outtake 🙂

Awesome resources + people mentioned in this episode:

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