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The inspirational tale of an exploding mini-donut empire

After finding inspiration in a book, Nancy Miller quickly went from stay at home mom to the donut queen of Dallas.

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Get your salivary glands ready

As you read this, imagine the taste of mini donuts. Not the kind you get in a bag at the gas station after a long night of drinking, but of hand made, fresh mini donuts that are still warm and explode in your mouth with a sweetness that tastes like what can only be described as happiness.

Nancy Miller in Dallas, Texas is quickly becoming known as the donut queen of her city, and with each “Lil’ Bits Mini Donuts” popped into a mouth, another connection is made. Her product stands on its own and is quickly expanding her empire of mini donuts made in person at events across the city.

But donuts are bad for you, right?

[ba-pullquote align=”right”]A trans fat free, cholesterol free, low calorie surprise.[/ba-pullquote]As AG is headquartered in Austin, our first questions were, of course, about health to which Miller enthusiastically noted that her product only has 28 calories per donut, no trans fat, no cholestorol, and is hand made from all natural ingredients, carrying about a tenth of the calories of a candy bar. She adds that they are completely Kosher, and in the future, she is looking at adding a gluten free version to her lineup.

How Lil’ Bits Mini Donuts came to be

Miller didn’t inherit a family business, and she didn’t grow up dreaming of being a donut entrepreneur, nor was she famous for her donut making skills. She didn’t dream of tiny clouds made of donuts, and didn’t have a divine vision of her future with donuts, no, her path began more organically.

As a stay at home adoptive mother known in her personal circles for her homemade jellies, she needed to get her brain to work, so she bought and quickly consumed a book on entrepreneurialism. One of the ideas involved a donut machine which required a very small investment, and allowed her to bake around her childrens’ schedules as she was already accustomed to with her jellies.

[ba-pullquote align=”right”]”She became overwhelmed. It was too much for her to handle, especially given the weight of the machine and the hectic schedule. She quit.”[/ba-pullquote]Miller had lofty goals of being one of the thousands of bakers featured at the famous State Fair of Texas, but in order to earn her way up the figurative food chain, she carted her machine around from little fair to little fair, and as one person in her fifties, she became overwhelmed. It was too much for her to handle, especially given the weight of the machine and the hectic schedule. She quit.

A brief hiccup, then an explosive expansion

Five months later, Miller picked herself back up and became renewed when at her first event back in the saddle, she met an event organizer in charge of Nolan Ryan’s opening party for the Rangers, and was immediately booked. There, she was booked to be featured in the Dallas Cowboy’s stadium by Mike Rawlings who is a former Pizza Hut CEO, who has since become the Mayor of Dallas.

[ba-pullquote align=”right”]”Refocused and reinvigorated, Miller felt the city’s excitement about her donuts growing.”[/ba-pullquote]Refocused and reinvigorated, Miller felt the city’s excitement about her donuts growing. Miller visited SCORE, “America’s premier source of free and confidential small business advice,” and says “it was the best thing ever,” advising that everyone should go do it. She acknowledges that at first she was fearful and thought she should protect her idea, but she quickly got over it and encourages everyone to “just go do it.”

After getting her business in order, the referrals kept coming, but mostly, she impressed people in person with the fun setup and tasty product. She was then featured in a reception for wedding planners, and was then covered by D Magazine, both of which have generated a great deal of business for her.

Just last month, famed chef Dean Fearing said of Miller’s donut machine, “I want one of those for my house!” as he went wild eating several Lil’ Bits Mini Donuts at an event. Miller says people are mostly intrigued by the presentation as the machine makes 1,200 tiny donuts per hour, and she calls it the “miracle perfection machine” that staff constantly adds eight to at a time, with 16 cooking at all times.

Hiring additional staff, adding new products

Now, Miller is so busy that she has had to hire staff to run the operations, and has alleviated stress by removing the transactions at the point of sale, rather charges per person for events, which allows all staff to focus on the product and presentation.

[ba-pullquote align=”right”]”Miller says she is just getting started.”[/ba-pullquote]Miller has been so inspired by the explosive growth of her mini donuts brand that she has just launched a cotton candy line, and will soon be selling cotton candy syrups to events for bartenders to make specialty drinks, like Ginger Cotton Candy for a Ginger Martini. She wants to add organic sugars and flavors to her product line and later lollipops, sugar scrubs, candy apples and more – she says she is just getting started.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and sister news outlet, The Real Daily, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Roland Estrada

    June 4, 2012 at 1:32 am

    God bless America. 

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Business Entrepreneur

How to avoid the sting of loneliness while solopreneuring

(ENTREPRENEUR) If you haven’t yet given up on humanity, check out these tips for avoiding loneliness while freelancing / solopreneuring.

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pc devices pushbullet loneliness

For all the aspects of freelancing that people romanticize, there’s one that they always leave out: the crushing existential loneliness of working by oneself.

If you’re tired of staring into the abyss (alone) every night as you wait for the 30 coffee cups’ worth of caffeine to exit your system, we’ve got your covered—here are a few ways to alleviate your loneliness (and couple of those voices in your head) throughout the day.

1. Stay in contact throughout the day

Simple, yet powerful. Plenty of freelancers I know put a block on their own Facebook and Twitter pages and turn off their phones for hours at a time. Not only does doing this shut out potential clients throughout the day, it also cuts you off from the one medium of conversation you can (kind of) passively pursue: instant messaging.

Keeping up an IM or text (hell, even Snapchat) conversation with friends and family throughout the day is an easy, perfectly acceptable way to ensure that your cats and your keyboard aren’t the only recipients of your one-liners.

The downside here is that you run the risk of killing your own productivity in favor of socializing. While this method may take some finessing, you’ll feel loads better after a day of semi-constant low-level communication than you do after none at all.

If this is absolutely out of the question for you, try listening to a podcast. Throw yourself a bone, here.

2. Arrange meetings over Skype instead of emailing

The convenience of email is pretty damn unbeatable, but staring at black words on a white background isn’t the most comforting of gestures.

Instead of communicating with your clients through a written medium, set up a video call—or, at the very least, a voice call.

In addition to helping you combat your building cabin fever, Skyping or calling your clients will help strengthen your relationship with them as well as make you stand out from the hundreds of emails they send and receive every day. It’s a twofer!

3. Phone a friend

What do the two previous tips look like when you combine them? Virtual co-working. This is a tough maneuver to pull off if you’re the only freelancer you know, but if you can finagle a work session with a friend or colleague even one or two times a week, it’ll pay dividends.

Co-working is a bit of a tired concept when it comes to staving off invariable pangs of loneliness, but in this case, it may actually be the solution to your problem.

4. Take a mid-day break to run errands

Taking an hour in the middle of your work day to go be around other people is remarkably refreshing, even if it’s just a trip to the local Fred Meyer (or, y’know, McDonalds).

You’ll also end up feeling better about the back half of your work day if you give yourself some time to decompress in the middle of it.

If this isn’t possible for you (I work a standard 9-5 rotation remotely), get up earlier than you need to and make your rounds or grab a cup of coffee then. Especially if you’re an introvert, you’ll get your fill of interaction by the time you clock in.

5. Learn to inherently loathe other people and adopt a hamster.

Shhhhh. Embrace the darkness. JK, ignore number five… even if it’s tempting…

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Business Entrepreneur

Millennial women share about how they spend (and save) money

(ENTREPRENEUR) A group of millennial women were surveyed about how they save their money. These are their stories…

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millennial money savers

Advice to your former self

In three weeks, I’ll be turning 23 (while I know this isn’t old, I never thought I’d be this old.) With this in mind, I’ve been asking all of my friends and family members the same question: “If you could give any piece of advice to your 23 year-old self, what would it be?”

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While I’ve been getting varied and interesting pieces of advice, the one I need to focus on more is working on saving more money. This can be tricky, especially when you first start making money, so it helps to hear how others do this.

Millennials and money

Recently, Bustle surveyed over 1,000 millennial women, in their 20s and 30s, and they shared how they save money. Their incomes ranged anywhere from $30k to $150k Twenty-one of the responses were published, and below are 10 that include innovative ideas to potentially implement.

1. Samantha, 30: Uses a budget for her finances. Rather than enjoying instant gratification, Samantha makes a wish list of things and experiences she wants to save money for. Then if she accomplishes a goal, she treats herself to something on the list.

2. Ronnika, 33: Instead of continuing a habit of meeting friends for drinks every week, Ronnika has found it is more fiscally responsible to invite friends over. Also, She takes any extra money from her paychecks and puts it in a checking account that is not locally accessible.

3. Michelle, 24: To save on entertainment, Michelle has opted for only using WiFi rather than getting cable. Additionally, she keeps her thermostat set at 62-64 degrees and uses layers and space heaters to save on costs. She also encourages packing a lunch everyday, as that is a big saver.

4. Kelly, 24: Kelly attributes her money saving to living with her parents. She also suggests an app called Qapital: “You can set your own rules for how you want to compile your savings — for example, I have a ‘Round-Up Rule,’ which rounds up every purchase to the nearest dollar and puts that change into savings, as well as a ‘Set and Forget Rule,’ which just automatically takes out a pre-selected amount. For me it’s $10/weekly.”

5. Libby, 24: Libby only uses her credit card for necessary expenses (such as payments for her car) and puts anything else on debit. With her credit card, she makes sure she pays off the balance in full each month so that she does not fall into debt.

6. Savannah, 25: Savannah keeps a peaceful mind savings to fall back on in case of emergencies. “I’ve found having a savings account balance equivalent to two months of my salary is a good cushion.”

7. Alexandra, 26: Alexandra keeps an Excel spreadsheet that tracks all of the money she has coming in as well as what is going out. She helps herself save by setting goals of what she wants to save and by when.

8. Lyn, 29: Lyn saves her money by looking at it as a way of paying herself first. She puts a large portion of her paycheck into her 401k and puts the maximum amount of her paycheck into her Roth IRA each year. She will then spend liberally on the things that are important to her, and harshly cut anything that she deems frivolous or won’t make her happy.

9. Marissa, 26: Marissa budgets her money and attempts the tactic of cooking for herself as much as possible. She has found that one meal out is equivalent to five meals at home.

10. Danielle, 23: Danielle saves by setting up two automatic transfers from her paycheck to budgeted savings. “So it’s like I don’t even notice the money is there. One transfer goes to ‘future me’ in the form of RRSPs or other investments, and one transfer goes to ‘fun times,’ like trips abroad.”

#SaveMoney

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Business Entrepreneur

4 things to remember when things look bad for you as an entrepreneur

(EDITORIAL) We obsess about successful entrepreneurs but don’t always see the struggles it took to get to that point. If you’re struggling as an entrepreneur, let this editorial encourage you and give you an honest perspective.

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The American fairy tale of entrepreneurialism

We love a good success story just like the next guy. We love tales of triumph, of someone winning against all odds, and today, the American fairy tale of entrepreneurialism is one that has captured the minds of screenwriters, musicians, and Instagrammers alike. We worship the Zuckerbergs of the world who went from no one to bajillionaire in a short period of time as their lines of code changed how the entire world communicates.

But in that idol worship, we focus on that moment of success and don’t see the tales of failures hovering just below the surface. Every entrepreneur can tell you about the overwhelming nature of those struggles and failed moments, and they can all tell you about the crushing pressure that exists before the dawn of success.

So what should every hopeful, budding, or veteran entrepreneur keep in mind? We asked Victorio Pellicano, Founder and CEO of Verenia for his thoughts on the topic, on overcoming the difficulties of entrepreneurship. He earned his BS in Computer Science from the University of St. Francis, which he followed up with a law degree from Loyola University Chicago School of Law. He worked as a software engineer and soon founded Verenia which is a popular CPQ company (“Configure, Price, Quote” is software that accurately prices goods as endless variables change constantly).

Although there were already huge CPQ companies in existence (Salesforce, SAP), Pellicano has been able make his company meaningfully competitive and skyrocket revenue, all without outside funding. Talk about a high pressure scenario.

Below are Pellicano’s words of guidance for entrepreneurs when things look bad:

Starting a business from the ground up is tough

A lot of things need to go right to be successful. Too bad human existence has a funny way of doing exactly the opposite of smooth. Things change, people get into fights, or maybe the overall vision of the business isn’t what it once was. When you’re in business for yourself, the term “bootstraps” can mean a lot of things.

It isn’t easy, but if you do find that mythical “magic quadrant,” the payoff is incredible. You’ve built something you believed in, and you put in the work to achieve awesomeness. There are few feelings as gratifying as being the boss and taking a long lunch whenever you damn well please.

But, it ain’t all roses. Stuff will suck a lot of times. It will be hard. That’s just inherent to the culture of being self-made. I mean hey, busting your ass, coming up from nothing is basically, like – 80% of rap music, right?

As new entrepreneurs set off into the business world, there are some things they should know, what to expect and what to do when things don’t go as planned.

Check out these four things to keep in mind when it feels like the sky is falling.

1. Build a support system stronger than the Great Wall

When in business, stuff goes sideways. Anyone who’s ever held a job knows stuff changes and can go bad quickly – that’s just inherent to the DNA of work. But, when you’re in charge, and it’s your business, you’ll be pulled in a lot of directions. Many times, those directions are uncomfortable whether it be about the staff, progress, earnings, whatever. Because of this, you gotta assemble the All-Star team behind you, the folks who’ll always keep your head in the game and won’t let you get too big for your britches.

As an entrepreneur, you’re inherently optimistic. You had the guts to go it alone and do your own thing. That optimism is what makes you, you. Because of this bold attitude of work-related sunshine, you’ll probably not likely pay attention to that bad stuff, until it’s like, crazy bad.

By keeping a group of advisors, friends, and family close who you can talk to, you’ll have voices who offer advice from a place that isn’t about anything but helping you succeed. Success is a long process, rarely do businesses go from red to black overnight. You need some reliable people to keep you sane when all is quiet.

2. Don’t lose sight

When you had the idea to start your business, it was about more than just making money. You had goals, you had a vision, and you wanted to make an impact on the world. After a while, those emotional price points evolve. When you suffer a setback, or something goes way better than planned, it’s important to stick to your guns.

Keep a list visible near your workspace. You got into this game because you wanted to do better for your family, or maybe your last boss was a jerk and this is your way of paying the universe back. Either way, a little motivation never hurt anyone. You wanted to be the boss of yourself, don’t lose sight of that through the rough patches.

Set small goals to nail, and then work your way toward the bigger rocks. Motivation is hard, just ask anyone who wants to hit the gym, but still has a gut. Business is no different. You need to focus on the stretch goals and fight your way through the murk of self-doubt.

3. Rome wasn’t built in a day

You know why this old cliche sticks around? Because it’s true. Nothing worth doing happens overnight. If being self-made was easy, everyone would be doing it, too. (Just ask Biggie Smalls.)

Read any bio of successful folks who built an empire, or just a solid place to grab a burger in the neighborhood – success took time. For many of these folks, that time was spent worried the dream would go under from lack of early adopters.

But they persisted. They invested their money back into the business, they promoted, they made smart choices instead of the easy ones. Building brand equity will take smart moves and a lot of patience. Can’t be selling that charbroiled cheeseburger when no one’s coming in the door, right?

4. Accept your plan isn’t perfect

Just because you dream it down to the final note on paper, that doesn’t mean it’s going to work out that way.

If you’re a business-type CEO, you’ve spent a lot of time planning, writing business plans and Go-To-Market plans – that’s business 101.

If you’re a technical CEO, you’ve spent a lot of time coding, researching, and watching trends.

Both CEOs have done the homework, they’ve planned, prepared, and are committed to taking on the world, helmet strapped on and mouth guard in place.

But then the world doesn’t give a shit. Doesn’t even kind of care. No leads come in, there is no money to spend to bring in new customers, and no foreseeable change.

All the planning in the world won’t prepare you for the harsh realities of the free market. As you roll out and talk to people about your business, invite criticism and learn from what other people tell you. It doesn’t mean you have to change course every time someone’s opinion is different than yours, but their thoughts and critiques could offer a nugget of truth you may have not considered.

Final word of encouragement

I’m from Chicago, and if there’s one thing we love more than The Blues Brothers, it’s His Airness, Michael Jordan. I rely on one of his quotes to get me through the bad times:

“I’ve missed 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

If that ain’t some #realtalk, I don’t know what is. See you out on the court, folks.

#realtalk

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