Portland, Maine, business owner Leigh Kellis of The Holy Donut shares her small business advice and how in only three years she went from selling one dozen donuts a day to one million donuts a year!

How did you come up with the idea for your amazing tasting, yet healthier donut?

The idea for The Holy Donut grew organically out of a craving I had for some deeply satisfying yet healthy comfort food – specifically, a donut. I wanted a donut made with fresh ingredients that I could feel good about eating. Since I couldn’t find what I was looking for, I decided to create it myself. The (not-so) secret ingredient: fresh Maine potatoes gives the donuts a delicious moist texture that makes them just melt in your mouth.

How did you break into the market and start selling your new product?

Once I realized I had a product I felt confident that other people would enjoy as well, I contacted Coffee by Design and they immediately agreed to buy a dozen each day to resell.

How did you grow the business from there?

It was all about perseverance. I continued to pound the pavement with my samples and within a year I had a wholesale donut business on my hands! I was soon producing 40 dozen donuts a week. I was so busy making donuts that my father jumped in to help. For five months he would arrive every day at 6 a.m. to pick up that day’s deliveries. I made every donut by hand, cooking them four at a time in a small fryolator. My wholesale business grew to 100 dozen donuts a week working out of a small shared commercial kitchen space.

Did you always see your business as a wholesale business or did you have the goal
of opening up your own donut shop?

I definitely wanted to move beyond wholesale and open a real donut shop– that was my dream.

We were lucky to find a great space in Portland, Maine, and The Holy Donut officially opened for business in March 2012. In the beginning it was just me, my father and one employee. Our customers loved us and our donuts and we grew so quickly that we had to learn how to upscale in a massive way while keeping the same homemade product. We opened a second location in October 2013. In just over three years we have grown to 35 employees, and now make one million donuts a year.

What would your business advice be based on what you have learned along the way?

It’s all about treating customers well, using the best quality ingredients and most importantly making a product that I love and feel good about eating and offering to our customers! Donuts and life are meant to be enjoyed!


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