David Noël-Romas: Welcome to the Manitoba Business Podcast, featuring interviews with business leaders and entrepreneurs based right here in Manitoba. I’m David Noël-Romas.
This episode is brought to you by my small business, Black Chair Consulting. We use social media to help businesses sell more. To find out about Black Chair, visit www.blackchair.net.
Today’s guest runs a donut empire with his family and friends. Well… maybe not an empire, per se, but they are definitely getting there. A few years ago they started up a small donut shop in the Exchange, and they could not keep up with the market’s insatiable demand for tasty donuts. They consistently had lines running out the door and around the block. I hope you enjoy our chat!
If you do, please tell your friends about the show. The show is available on all your favourite podcast platforms, including iTunes, and a transcript of every episode is also available on our website at www.manitobabusinesspodcast.com
Now, without further ado, here is Brett Zahari:
[to Brett] All right. Well, Brett thanks so much for taking the time.
Brett Zahari: Of course, yeah.
David: Let’s get started. Just in your own words kind of who you are and what you do?
Brett: Cool. So, my name’s Brett Zahari. I’m one of the owners of Bronuts, Donuts, and Coffee. I kind of look after, with my manager, Isaiah, we look after kind of the spearheading the front side of things. So, the cafe the customer experience and a lot of the operations as well. It’s kinda the more nitty gritty business side of things. So, my brother and Chloe, our head baker, looked after the production of the donuts and kind of our new donut types, recipes, yeah, how things run in the kitchen. And, my wife, Megan, who’s one of the owners as well, she looks after like kind of our marketing, our administration, our communication, going in and out, and then social media.
David: Super cool.
Brett: Yeah. So, it’s a really good team that we’ve built around what we do. Because I mean, yeah anybody running a small business or looking at running a small business, it’s like the amount of work it takes to…you know, you have an idea, you have a concept that you’d like to put forward. The amount of work required is crazy. So, if you have…
David: Totally, and getting that team is tough. Like…
Brett: It is, yeah.
David: Getting that core group, you know. I want to get into that because I’m curious sort of what you know a lot of people would say that having that many partners in a business is kind of scary. But before we get there, what’s your personal background? How did you get to where you are?
Brett: Kind of funny. So, I graduated from Red River, their Business Admin program, with a major in Marketing. Did their entrepreneurship program which is great. Actually, judged a lot of the projects and stuff afterwards, which is hilarious. Yeah. So, I went from Red River, I went into kind of an internal marketing job at an IT consulting firm which was great. I don’t know why they hired me. Like I had like generally no hirable skills. But just you know, took a chance but it’s great to get in the learning environment. Business works at a fast pace, like way faster, way different than school.
There’s no like…whenever students like come and talk to me or come into the shop and tell me they’re stressing about projects, or tests or studies, or whatever, it’s like I always call it simulated stress. It’s like this is what your teacher does for their work. They know what they’re doing. They know that they’re planning all their assignments at the same time. And as much as your learning experience is unique, it’s not that unique. They know that they’re at a teacher’s say. And, it’s kind of a cheesy analogy but, a tree won’t grow very strong if there’s no wind. So, you have to simulate some wind. Even if it’s a protected learning environment, you have to like add a bit of stress. So, when you’re in a school or a learning environment having that added onto you is great. Because then you know, going into the workplace, like you know, your boss could come to you at the end of the day Thursday and be like, “Hey, I need this and this and this by tomorrow at 10.” And, you’re like… the deadlines in the actual workplace are faster than what you would experience in school.
So, that kind of focal learning was great for me. That two years spent there was good. Because it also allowed me to you know, have more nine to five and realize that…you know, get a good sense of this is kind of what the corporate world is like and if this is something that I’m interested in continuing, then great. But for me, I don’t know, I’ve slowly felt like this doesn’t jive with me. You know, it’s a great job, great work environment, great co-workers. I still talk with them. They come to the shop all the time and I loved my time there, but some piece of you is like, “I gotta try something else.”
David: Fair enough. And so, that was two years that you spent in the IT consulting company?
David: Very cool. What were some of the big takeaways, besides just like the sort of being introduced to corporate culture. But in terms of…your position was in marketing, right?
David: So, what kind of takeaways did you get from that and also, which of that do you think is super applicable to Bronuts now? Because, obviously, business to business is a different world.
Brett: It is. So, I guess some of the bigger takeaways. They really valued the interactions with people and they knew that their number one business asset was their people. They were a consulting business which makes sense, right? But, making sure your work environment is conducive for people to try things, people to feel like they’re able to explore themselves, able to like work in a good environment and have good teamwork. The business was weird, in the way that there was an internal staff but then they also had like their product list people in a way. Because they’re a consulting company, but then also maintaining that. You’re not necessarily working with all of these people day to day so you have to keep that connection somehow. So, that was one of my main tasks. Was like, how do we engage with these people? How do we help them in the workplace as like the inner company contributing to the people that are working and building? So, that was a great thing to learn is like how to balance and prioritize your co-workers and people and making them feel like they’re part of a team. And have a good working atmosphere.
Another big takeaway actually was one of the bigger projects I was working on was looking to refresh their brand in a way. And so, it took me understanding what their brand is now. And, this was not just me. It was like a lot of other pieces to it, a lot of consulting, a lot of like external sources, and it was a big project. And we were just kind of like just look, talking about it at the time. And I had come into the conversation late too as well so there’s been lots…not by no means was I driving this conversation. But, it was good to watch the process, like seeing this company that maybe had more generic brand perception at the time but hanging onto that very tightly and not being able to like okay, like take a good look at what your people say your brand is. You know this is for any business. But look at what people are saying about your company and be okay with that.
David: That is actually one of the toughest things for a business, especially in a consulting type business. Because, and I’m speaking a little bit from experience here, but you don’t want to turn away business but you need to. You need to specialize. You need to accept what your niche is. You need to accept who your customers are, and who they think you are and cater to that.
Brett: Totally, and being also able to like capitalize on those great partnerships. Like if you are wanting to develop in ag and allow for you know, doing some great app or a great technology advancement in the agriculture. There’s a lot of smart farmers out there, a lot of like people looking to have advancements in what they’re doing. If you’re specializing in that you need to captivate on those you know, customers that you’re working with already. And, try to tell those stories. So, there was a lot of that. It was a lot of like, “Okay, well what are we?” What do we focus on, “What are we?” And, then trying to narrow it down and whenever you do that and you have lots of people at the table the process is…
David: It’s tough.
Brett: It is. Yeah. Long story short, it was basically, it was really good to see and like be a part of that process and then from the start with Bronuts, like because we got to start it from scratch, and really get to position what we wanted to feel. So, I knew that down the line that’s a challenge. So, I needed to establish it very firmly right off the hop so that people, whenever they talked about us, this is you know, like one of the…I’m sure we’ll talk about this soon as well but like, we sold out all the time at the beginning. And, one of the jobs that Megan had as our social media coordinator and communications person was to communicate that our donuts are made fresh every day. So, like a batch of donuts takes four hours to make. So, if we make 200 donuts and they sell out in half an hour, regardless of how many people are in line, it still takes the same amount of time.
So, there’s two sides to that, right? You have you know, people acknowledging that it’s a fresh-made product. It’s different than Tim Horton’s. It’s different than Starbucks. It’s different than this. We’re a new company, it’s you know, lots of growing pains and then also on you know, on my side of things, I just took out a big loan and I’m trying to generate revenue. And, you’re turning away customers. So, that’s like awful for me, great for your brand appeal. Like people are excited about your product. And you know, it’s kind of like Jets tickets when they first come out. People couldn’t get their hands on them.
David: There’s a couple things I want to circle back to but I’m curious. Was that like an intentional branding decision or was that purely like just an operational kind of…
David: It was very difficult to judge demand correctly?
Brett: Yeah, honestly like so when we started, it basically was gonna be me and my brother Dylan. And so, at the same time as all of this was starting, my wife was nine months pregnant. Our daughter was born the week after our shop opened. So, we were like, trying to balance like, “Okay, baby’s coming, I’m gonna be working.” We thought it would be pretty casual. Like me and Dylan would make maybe 100 donuts and then serve, like we would…him and I would bake early in the morning. We would make coffee and serve the donuts and then that’d be it. And then maybe have two other staff like on the weekends maybe like Chloe and Isaiah, you know, on the weekends. And so, that was our initial thought going into it.
Yeah, and then within the first day we had…I think we did a family day like on the Sunday before we opened and we made 200 donuts for our family and we had never made that many donuts. It was like we were opening the shop and we have no idea how many donuts to make so. And, then the first days we opened it was just like within 45 minutes they were all gone. And, then like we were up to our ears in like not knowing…it wasn’t…like I know I’ve heard that too where people are like, “Oh, it’s just marketing. Like they’re just like simulating demand.” It’s like no, I promise. I would have sold to every single person in line. But, in retrospect too, like you know, I still get up at 6:30 sorry, I get to work at 6:30, and I still get up at 5:30 and you know, I’m there at 7:00. And in retrospect thinking like, “How many people lined up Monday morning at 7:00 a.m. to get donuts. It’s like, that’s crazy.
David: Yeah, that’s pretty cool.
Brett: It was exciting.
David: I wanna circle back to that but I wanna make sure that I don’t skip some of the other stuff. So, let’s talk a little bit about the transition from you know, having a job in an IT consulting to deciding to go and do this business with some friends, or with a friend to start with? Like, what was sort of what was the thought process there and how did the whole thing evolve?
Brett: Yeah, so, my brother and I wanted to have a business together.
David: Yeah. Why?
Brett: I don’t know, we just had this feeling. Like okay so, Dylan was at school. I was in a kind of a corporate environment and we both were like, “You know, let’s start something. Let’s try to contribute to our community.” We both lived and worked in the Exchange. I really wanted to do something there. We understood…
David: Was it actually driven by like, “You know this cool stuff happening in this community. We want to be a part of it?” Was that really one of the driving factors?
Brett: Yeah. Like I had so many people telling me like not to go into the Exchange. Like, “Go somewhere else. Go elsewhere. And go do whatever, do something more traditional.” And I was like, “No, no, no. I just want to live and work down here. And we understood like there’s lots of great coffee shops down there, down in the Exchange. Parlour Coffee, Thom Bargen, like Fools and Horses, well Fools and Horses opened at the same time that we did, and Cafe Postal. Like we were really wanting to involve ourselves in that community but also do something very different. So, my wife and I had traveled to Portland, Oregon and we had seen a couple of donut shops there that worked really well. And we were like, “You know, what if they could use like a cool donut shop?” And when we came back actually Oh Doughnuts had started like selling donuts at Parlour Coffee and there had been like, for sure, a demand for that. Like she was experiencing the same kind of growing pains we were just in a cafe environment which is crazy. So, we were like, “Oh, sweet like this is a great idea.” And, so we just kind of started moving down the path. And like went to a futurpreneur and got some, you know, starting loans.
They wanted a business plan. They wanted all this stuff. Because it was super new. It was a new idea so they were like, “I don’t know if this is gonna work.” My banker a number of times was like, “I don’t think it’s gonna work.” “No, it’s gonna be great. It’s gonna be great,” all the way along. Actually, thinking back to this was so funny. But when I was working at the IT consulting firm, the amount of times I took an extended lunch break doing phone meetings trying to organize things and working late, would take up the time I was working on Bronuts while at work was like…I was also managing my apartment building at the same time. I was a bad employee I’m pretty sure. In retrospect…
David: That’s a common thread with all of these interviews. Pretty much every guest has either said in the interview or afterward that you know, the reason they went out on their own was because they were a terrible employee.
Brett: Yeah, no I was pretty bad. I mean, I’m sure I was fun to work with. Thinking about how productive I am now, back then I was awful. It was just funny. But, I mean that’s working for yourself, right? That’s like being able to…the drive to wake up at 5:30 every day and then work late every day. I love it. You know, getting paid regularly, working 35, 40 hours, getting a one-hour lunch break, nine to five, that is unreal. And then, switching to being on a sprinter, working 80, 90 hours a week, sometimes eating dinner, you know, and working every weekend and every evening. But, you know, the fact that you still feel like you’re missing something. And, the fact that you know, what I’m doing now, I’ve never been happier in my workplace. It’s counterintuitive for sure but at the same time, it’s hard to explain.
David: I think it’s just a different mindset. Right? Some people are just wired for it. So, you decided you wanted to start this thing in the exchange. And, it was you and your brother and then what happened?
Brett: Yeah, like honestly, it just kinda started snowballing. There comes a point where the loans get distributed to you and you kind of are like, “Hey, I guess we’re doing this.” And, you keep going. My wife wanted to get involved because she’s like, “Well, I’m gonna be involved anyway so I’ll jump in and help you guys and this is gonna be fun.” And, we started doing the construction. We signed the lease. It was a bit of like negotiating again that idea that you know, we can take this empty leasing space. They wanted to, I think, lease out the whole space to like a doctor’s office or something like that, something more traditional. But, taking a risk on a couple of restaurants has proved, in retrospect, to be great. But, it took a lot of convincing.
David: Did you guys lease the whole thing and sublease it or?
Brett: No, we just took the space that we needed…
David: Gotcha. You found someone who owned the whole space and was willing to sublease?
Brett: Yeah. Exactly, which was great. So, we negotiated the space. We signed the lease. I think we got it December 1, 2014, started construction like me, my brother, and my dad.
David: You guys did it yourselves?
Brett: Yeah, most of it ourselves. I mean, because it was a new building, you need engineers, HVAC, plumbing guys to do all that kind of the nitty, gritty stuff but all the walls, we sealed the floors ourselves, we built the counters, the tile wall that you see on the back, where our menu is, that was Dylan’s first tiling job. You know, it’s pretty bare bones but yeah, we did it ourselves and we were working with what we had. And so, it was great. It was really cool.
David: How long did that take?
Brett: Too long.
David: I was just gonna say I know that I have some other friends with similar experiences they wanted to do it themselves and in retrospect, a lot of them have said that they would have probably been better off paying because they lost money by not having the shop open. Did you find that or would you still do it the same way again?
Brett: It’s tough to say, you know? It’s like a good workout. There’s the blood, sweat, and tears going into the business and I’ll never forget that. It’s like yeah, when you build something yourself when you see something yourself all the way through it, of course, you can throw money at something and then get it built and it’d be better, but I mean we’ve won awards for our space. Like we didn’t do a bad job. I mean don’t look too closely. You know, that experience of seeing it through, carrying those huge countertops and you know, dealing with the toxic fumes of you know, sealing the floor. And yeah, I mean that’s an experience that helps you grow. So I mean yeah, you lose maybe potential revenue but also we didn’t know what we were doing anyway so it was probably fine.
David: You might have lost the revenue anyway.
Brett: I mean if it’s your second, third, fourth location. If I was to do it now, I would for sure have a GC. I would totally do a contractor because my time is worth something different than what it was then. And my time was best served doing it at that time. Whereas, now I have ten employees to keep working. I have other responsibilities. Yeah, it’s just different. So, I mean if this is your first thing, I would say do it. Do as much as you can because this is your only shot. This is the time where you can feel it. Any entrepreneurship book you read, any you know, starter book that you read. I’m reading, I forget what it’s called right now, but the founder of Nike, he did like a…
David: Oh, yeah yeah, “Shoe Dog.”
Brett: Yeah, “Shoe Dog.” It’s great. It’s awesome. Just listening to him hustle like crazy and flying to Japan. Just going around hustling but it’s Nike. You know, like it’s a household…I’m wearing Nikes right now.
David: That’s a good book to recommend to anyone because it’s remarkable to read it. Like, the guy really was pushing uphill for years and years and years.
Brett: Totally. It feels like a…yeah, like a guy like him, who to us seems like such a success story and it’s Nike and it’s an industry staple now wasn’t. You know, he was fighting Adidas. He was fighting all these huge companies at the time. And, same with Apple, right? Now Apple is like you know, one of the highest valued companies of all time but at a time it was just like in somebody’s garage. We’ve all seen the Steve Jobs’ story. I honestly feel like it’s such a character building…and maybe I’m wrong in saying this but I feel like it’s such a character building experience to like have nothing, to have nobody’s help except for your own and to be the only person believing in your dream, for the most part. And you know, I don’t say that I was alone in believing in it but I had so much support around me. But at the end of the day, it’s like it’s resting on me, on me…
David: Yeah, it still comes down to…
Brett: …and my brother and my wife, right? And, it still does, in a way. You know, like you are always the driver of your business. So, you know, anybody who’s thinking about doing something and they’re like, “Well, I need money to hire a general contractor.” Do what you can. Do whatever you can. Like, even if you don’t necessarily…I don’t know how to install a toilet. I did. You know, like do it and then have somebody come look at it.
David: Sure. So, you guys set up the space and at this point, your wife was already helping out, right? It was you and your brother and your wife even though your wife was nine months pregnant, okay. And I think you said you have some other partners in the business now too, right?
Brett: Well, and so Chloe and Isaiah, they were our managers that Megan hired up front. So, they were both working their other jobs at the time and helping us in the evening and kind of getting things organized. I don’t think any of us knew what we were signing onto, to be honest. They’re not business partners. They’re like employees, not to diminish the effort that they put in but that means they get paid more regularly.
David: Exactly, that means they get a paycheck every month. Yeah, I hear you. Okay. Which of you guys, if any, had actual experience making donuts?
Brett: Oh okay, so while I was doing the construction and kind of spearheading the business moving forward, Dylan was learning how to make donuts, basically.
Brett: Yeah. And so, the recipe, him and Chloe had made from scratch. But like donuts are weird in the way that it’s kind of like bread. It’s all the same ingredients. It’s just more the process. So, like time, temperature, how you knead it, how long you let it proof for. You know, if you do a cold proofing process, if you do it hot like a warm proofing process.
David: I still think it’s interesting though you set out to start a donut shop and had neither of you ever made a donut before?
Brett: No. But I mean like you…
David: I mean I recognize it’s not rocket science but still. It’s funny.
Brett: Yeah. That was my thought too. It’s like well, you know, anybody can learn it, you know? You just gotta try. It’s tough. It’s not easy but, I mean, we hire people. We hire bakers and we train them how to do it. And, that’s with anything, you know, building computers. I have no idea where to start building a computer. But somebody somewhere started with no experience and learned how to build a computer. So, same with donuts, right? So, same with coffee, same with running a business. I had no idea how to start this business.
David: What were some of the challenges, startup-wise, in terms of, I’m thinking like licensing and stuff like that. I’ve never you know, tried to start up a place that has a kitchen where they serve food to people. But, what kind of hurdles did you run into there?
Brett: So, there’s two kind of sides to it. Whenever you do a commercial kitchen so there’s different hurdles to jump over. It’s hard either way but if you’re doing a new build, which is what we did, you need an architect, you need an engineer, you need trade guys who are doing electrical, HVAC, plumbing, blah, blah, blah. But then your health permit’s like yeah, it’s a new build, all new equipment, easy. You know, here’s your standing bin, how to store flour, how to you know, a proper rolling table, how to clean your surfaces. It’s pretty straightforward in that sense.
But if you’re taking on a new space and it’s more aesthetic changing, this is if you’re doing a commercial kitchen. But, then the health code is probably…they’ll probably do a little bit more digging, right? They’ll be like, “Okay, well how long has this fryer been here? How long has this ventilation been here? When’s the last time it’s cleaned?” You know, so you have different challenges. Yeah, so I guess the process…and maybe I’m gonna screw this up but you need your occupancy permit and then to get your occupancy permit you need a letter of approval from your engineer, your electrical engineer, your HVAC and plumbing engineer, your you know, your GC engineer, like your architectural engineer. And, then you know, all that goes into your occupancy. So, once you get your occupancy then you can apply for your health permit. And then once you get your health permit then you’re kind of good to go. That’s based on memory.
But, then if you’re taking on a space that currently has occupancy for what you’re looking to do, you know, then maybe it’s easy and you can change some stuff and you can get away with having a smaller bathroom or you can get away with a certain doorway. Excuse me. Yeah, you can get away with a certain sized doorway, but then yeah again, maybe your health inspector will look a little closer at what’s available.
And, everybody, technically they all go from the same source and they all go from the same list of rules but they all interpret it differently. So, you may have an easy health inspector, “Easy” health inspector but you know, it’s also good to understand there’s certain standards you need to have as a kitchen that, for cleanliness. You know, a safe and clean workspace is a way better working environment. Nobody likes to work in a place that’s disorganized, dirty. You know, it’s just like that dedication to your product.
David: Yeah. So, how did you go about learning that piece? What kind of resources did you have?
Brett: Just experience. You know, I’m totally green calling up these guys that are doing this every day all day, annoyed by people like me asking questions. Trying to like…
David: Calling up the inspectors.
Brett: Yeah, just badgering them just nonstop. Saying like, “I need to get open. Come here.” And, in my mind, it’s ready to go. “Come on down.” And he’s like, “What is this? Where are all these things? I need this paper. I need this paper. I need this paper.” And then you walk away and you feel like an idiot but with a checklist.
David: So, it’s about not being afraid to look like an idiot a little bit and just keep hounding them until they come and see it.
Brett: Yeah, I think if you ask people and be like, “Hey, this is where I’m coming from.” Kind of one of my, maybe unintentional ways of operating is I’d rather ask and kind of say, “Hey, help me,” and “I don’t know how to do this. I need a hand.” Rather than just feel prideful and be like, “You know, I got this. I can figure it out.”
David: You must have had some sense of what the process would be though, in order to even set a budget and get your you know, business plan in the first place, right?
Brett: Yeah, honestly my banker and just different business ventures told me to budget 30% overrun. And I’m like, “Oh, no it’s fine. We’ll find it used. But like no, for sure, like budget 30% over. Like, if this is your first business, there’s no way you’re right, even close.
David: Right. And so, when you say budget 30% over, you costed out all the pieces of the kitchen you’d need and all the you know, reno stuff that you needed and…
Brett: Everything, yeah. And then it’s way, you know, I think what did we end up? Yeah, no it’s for sure, it’s like 30%, 30%, 40% over. And it was conservative and our total buildout really wasn’t that much. But it’s still, it’s like you know, if you’re looking to get $200,000 in loans and you end up needing $300,000 in loans, like that’s a big difference. You need to go back to the bank and say you know, “I screwed up. I need more.” And they’ll look at you and like, “This is all we have. What? Make it work.” Or ask family. Ask friends. Which is like honestly, maybe that’s just me personally. That’s the worst piece of it. I hate it. I talk to other friends who own businesses and they’re like, “Yeah, anytime. Ask me for anything.” And ugh I hate asking people for money.
David: Yeah, I’m not fond of that bit about asking friends and family for money largely because not everybody has friends and family that can help them that way, right? I always found that to be such a frustrating bit of advice. “Okay, raise a friends and family round.” From who?
Brett: You know it. But, I have a friend that like he was starting a business and I think he…you get microloans from people. You know, sometimes people have $3000 or $4000 kicking around that they can…
David: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And that can add up if you’ve got enough people that wanna do that.
Brett: But, it’s not easy.
David: There’s administrative overhead to that too.
Brett: Yeah, and you, but you know, consider the alternative. You’ve taken on you know, maybe $200,000, $300,000 in loans and you need to keep going, how do I…
David: Oh, exactly. If you’re at that point, you do what you have to do. Okay, so I want to move ahead a little bit. You figured out how to get the business open. You had all this demand. What next? What kind of things did you have to do to meet that demand better and sort of what were the scaling steps you’ve mentioned. You’ve got 10 employees now. So, you know, what were sort of the steps between then and now? The major milestones, I guess.
Brett: Yeah. Kind of, at the beginning, I didn’t know what to do other than throwing people at it, honestly. When you have a line to the door every day, as long as you’re open, you know. And you’ve never done anything like this before, like…
David: How did you get that line, by the way? Was there a lot of thought that went into pre-launch marketing stuff?
Brett: Basically, all we had done and this is all Megan, she took good photos. She’s a writer by trade so all of the copy we had written was well written and had a voice. You know, we established what our voice was gonna be. Like again, because that was…
David: Going back to what you were saying before.
Brett: Yeah, you want to take that brand perception and drive it home because you have one shot really at the beginning to get a brand across. So, our brand was two brothers making donuts from scratch. Donuts and coffee. That’s it. And so that we drove that home. That was our voice. That was what we communicated and every time we had sold out people were like, “We had 70 to 100 comments just like arguing why we had sold out. You know, and all the way through we had badgered, “We’re making them from scratch. We got up at 3 in the morning. You know, it takes four hours to make a batch of donuts. Just communicating that to the point now where people understand. And still, that’s a business challenge for me, is like you know, I don’t always want to sell out. You know, I don’t like when people leave angry. I’d like them to have the product available. So, it’s still a business challenge with any bakery. You are kind of rolling the dice and be like, “Okay we’ll make 300, 400 croissants today and if you only sold 100 well that sucks. Or maybe you could have sold 800.That sucks too.
David: How many donuts do you sell in a day now?
Brett: Well, it kind of depends, again going back to that, because we have a sense of how many we should make and depending on weather and depending on what month it is and depending on all these different things. But you know, between 400 to 500, 400 to 600 kind of Monday to Thursday and then you know, anywhere from like 700 to 1200 on a Friday to Saturday.
David: Twelve hundred donuts? Wow.
Brett: Yeah. I mean, we’ve sold to a business who bought donuts for their building and they ordered 1500 donuts at one time, right? You know, we do that ahead of time or if you look at a day like Nuit Blanche. I’m pretty sure we did 2400 donuts that day. Right? So yeah, you try to meet demand and it’s scalable, right? That’s like a lot of trial and error. But again, when we first started we were making 200 donuts not knowing how to…our mixer, I think because people who are listening maybe won’t know what a like 30, 40-quart mixer are but right now we have a 60-quart mixer, I think at the time, we had a 20-quart mixer. So, we were doing multiple batches with this one small mixer. Small, like it’s a pretty big mixer.
David: Yeah, 20 quarts is still, that’s 20 liters basically, right?
Brett: Yeah. Exactly so like a home mixer, I think it’s like six or eight liters, and then like a Kitchenaid or whatever. And, then we had a bigger one, that’s you know, a pretty good size we thought’d be fine. That was all our testing. But, then finding that larger mixer, you know, you find the bottleneck points and we’re still looking at this now. We still have a bottleneck with our fryer. At the time for the fryer wasn’t the bottleneck. It was the mixer. So, then you know, increase your mixer, change your product distribution, and then you know, you figure out where your pain points are and then try to identify those. Like, “What’s holding us back from making more.” And, for us it was the mixer and then not having a rolling table and not having enough prep space, not having proper dishes, not having enough storage for dry racks. You know, like just like go through the line. What’s missing?
David: You mentioned Oh Doughnuts earlier. What do you think about having you know, other sort of I guess competitors in the space, other people doing similar stuff?
Brett: I mean, Winnipeg is an amazing place where I think that competitors don’t need to be competitive in a way. You’re adding to the community as a whole. You’re adding to the industry. You know, both of us are you know, fighting is the wrong word, but fighting against market share that you know, that’s held by Tim Horton’s or by Starbucks or pastry places, you know. And you know, you’re trying to get a piece of the pie in a way.
Winnipeg is so supportive and the community is amazing in the way that they contribute and they support small business. And, I have great friends that own, like Jenna Rae cakes, Stella’s Bakery, Tall Grass. The list is endless. There are so many great bakeries in the city and us and Oh Doughnuts adding to that pile is awesome. And I think that there’s lots to be said to you know, the amazing product that she has and the great toppings and the way that she makes vegan and gluten free donuts for that community of people is awesome. And, that’s something that we haven’t done yet. And you know, maybe people prefer her product or our product over the other, which is totally fine. But I would never bash, or I’ve never talked ill of somebody who’s invested their entire life into something. What she’s doing and what we’re doing are our livelihood. Fully support Oh Doughnuts or fully support us or vice versa or whatever.
Just like there’s no reason to be hostile in that kind of environment because we’re growing something together and we’re adding…there’s the community as a whole. I have a friend who’s the owner of a pretty large restaurant and he’s like, “There’s no competition. As long as people are spending money on restaurants, then that’s great.” The competition is Superstore. The competition is Safeway. You know, as long as the pie is still growing or still there, then we’re all happy and we can all have a slice of it. So, there’s no reason to have animosity, or whatever. But like on the other side of it there’s a lot of challenges too.
So, you know, you take this community of people who are purchasing homemade donuts and then you say you know, take the pie and you split it in half and say, okay, great. It’s still growing but you know, it hurts your pocket a bit and vice versa. But, it grows and you have growing pains and you challenge each other. And then you know, she posts a flavor and you say, “Oh, that’s a great idea.” And then we do something different and you know, “Oh, that’s great.” There’s no sense to, again, have animosity but to push each other forward and challenge each other and help each other grow. The same with Jenna Rae Cakes. They’re great friends of ours and we swap ideas and contacts and supplies. It’s the same thing. This is their livelihood.
David: Totally, cool. We’re getting close to time. I have a few more quick questions.
Brett: Sure, yeah. I ramble, so.
David: I love it. What are the biggest challenges and opportunities that you see in the next 12 months for Bronuts?
Brett: I don’t know. I’d like to open a second shop, to be honest. And, finding the right spot for that is challenging. Then, you’re kind of doing it all kind of again and be like, “Okay, well is what we’re doing today worth duplicating?” You know, what are your processes now? Are they still set and good to go that they’re ready to be duplicated? You know, because if we had 10 staff right now, you know, you’ll need to have at least 8 or 9 more. So, you know, training, onboarding, trying to expand, and it’s more at a rapid pace. So, if you have this small piece of you know, what you’re doing right now and being able to duplicate that and grow that and keep the same feel and brand perception, like we had talked about before. Like being able to still hit that message home, between the two stores and have proper consistency. The product is the same. I mean as little as maybe people like certain chains, you can go to a McDonalds on Osborne, is there a McDonalds on Osborne? Yeah, there is. A McDonalds on Osborne, and then go to a McDonalds in somewhere in Texas and get the same product. It’s so consistent. But, that’s process, right? That’s their supply chain. That’s what they do. Whether or not you agree to their business you know, ethics or whatever but they’re amazing at that.
As a small business, how do you maintain the integrity and uniqueness of your product but also being able to scale? So, that’s the challenge in my mind right now. Is so if we have the great product and great customer experience and the great story right here in the Exchange, how do we move that to say somewhere on Kempston? Or whatever, right? How do you maintain that story, that product and quality, because at no point do I want that to diminish? So, you know, is what I’m doing today able to duplicate that. So, that’s a challenge.
But in the meantime, we’re doing a donut cart and probably when this launches we’ll be doing a lot of festivals and stuff kind of in the interim. So, I’m really excited about that. Again, it’ll be a whole new ball game. Accounting for that much volume is crazy. We’re doing Folk Fest which will be nuts. So, I’m excited but so scared.
David: Yeah, yeah, that’ll be interesting for sure. Who are your mentors and influences? Either people that you know or people that you’ve looked up to from afar.
Brett: Yeah well, I mean there’s so many great business owners in the city you know, close to us. King + Bannatyne, Wasabi, Cho from you know, Wasabi and Chosabi, Mike at King + Bann, you know, Mandel, Deer + Almond, the guys at Peasant, oh man, like Mills, Parlour Coffee. You know, I have a friend who manages a lot of restaurants named…yeah so and they’re immensely helpful. Some of the people at Stella’s are just incredible to help us there.
One of the things I said earlier is like, I ask lots of questions. I just you know say, “Help. I don’t know how to do this. I need some help.” And, Winnipeg’s an amazing place where people step up to help you and vice versa. So, if anybody ever comes into the shop and says, “Hey, I need help” or “Do you have a contact for this?” And I’m like “Yes, let me help you.” Because you know, guys like Grant at Stella’s who have been just key for us contributing back to the community. And guys like you know, Mandel or Mills or whatever, anybody that you meet in the industry are just you know, incredible people. And yeah, I’d rather contribute to the community as a whole than to stifle it I think is the main vibe.
David: Totally. I agree with you. We have a pretty cool community. That’s been one of the fun things about the podcast for sure is getting to meet all those people. Final question, real quick. You mentioned “Shoe Dog” earlier. Any other book recommendations?
Brett: Oh man, I’m awful at reading. I love podcasts. This is probably cheesy, well not cheesy. I like GaryVee like on webcam. I love GaryVee he’s so good. Like, he just kicks my ass. And, it’s just the right kind of motivation, right? It’s just so direct I guess. I find it super inspiring. It may not be for everybody like my brother hates it.
David: He’s not the type of entrepreneur that I would normally gravitate toward but I have some really good friends who like him a lot. Because of that, I gave him a chance and he is an inspiring character, for sure, and an interesting guy, just in general.
Brett: Totally. So, I would say GaryVee if you’re like on the edge…he’s just like all of his stuff. And it’s like micro advice. He posts on Instagram and it’s very consumable. It’s not like a big giant book that you need to read. Another person I find inspiring is Elon Musk. I love Elon Musk. He looks at an industry and is like, “Why are we doing it this way?” And just like you know obviously, he has a ton of money behind him but, at the same time, all of his businesses are losing money I mean year over year. But he still is growing in one of the most influential entrepreneurs in our life and you know, somebody to watch.
I can’t remember off hand but Bill Gates has a website where he lists kind of some top books that he really likes. That’s where I found “Shoe Dog.” So, if people are looking for resources, a guy like Bill Gates, right is like somebody to watch. But yeah, honestly, I love asking questions of people in the industry because it’s more pointed to you and it’s more like you can give ’em context. And you know, just don’t be afraid to reach out and ask and e-mail people and say, “Hey, this is where I’m coming from and…”
David: The worst that’ll happen is they don’t answer you.
Brett: Exactly, and then you know, if you e-mail me and say, “Hey Brett, I have this question.” And I don’t answer you come into my shop. Because I get lots of e-mails. As do any entrepreneur. They get…
David: I hope everyone listening to this hounds Brett.
Brett: Come down, please.
David: Go to Bronuts. Get a donut. Bring some money. And, then bother Brett.
Brett: Bother me. Seriously, I love it. Isaiah will kill me but you know, I love spending a couple minutes and just talking and asking questions and yeah, please come by if you are on the verge of you know, not being sure what to do. Not that I have all the answers but just getting to talk to somebody like you is…
David: Yeah. Getting another perspective of someone who understands, who’s been there.
Brett: That’s the biggest thing, talking to other entrepreneurs when we get together all of us just like breathe this big sigh. It’s like, “Uh, you get me.” You know? It’s finding people like you that’s incredible. So, come down if you need that.
David: Awesome, very cool. Well, Brett time’s up but thank you very much. It’s been fun.
Brett: Awesome. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you.