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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 - she has 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

‘Small’ business was once a stigma, but is now a growing point of pride

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Small businesses make up the majority of companies, employers, and money makers of the American economy, that’s something to be proud of.

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American small business

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, all businesses were small businesses. Independent craftsmen served communities with vital services. Small merchants opened shops to provide the community with goods. Lawyers, doctors, and other professionals hung out a shingle to offer their services to neighbors. Small businesses were the norm. Some of the most beloved American companies started out local. John Deere, Harley Davidson, and King Arthur Flour, all got their start as small businesses.

Business changes led to a attitude change

It wasn’t until manufacturing allowed businesses to scale and produce more efficiently that the idea of big business became more important. Post-World War II, the idea of a small business became derogatory. It was the age of big government. Media was growing. Everyone wanted to be on top. Small businesses took a back seat as people moved from rural to urban communities. Small business growth plateaued for a number of years in the mid-20th century. Fortunately, the stigma of small business is fading.

Small businesses are the backbone of the economy

According to the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, the “American business is overwhelmingly small business.” In 2016, 99.7% of firms in American had fewer than 500 workers. Firms with 20 workers or less accounted for 89.0% of the 5.6 million employer firms. The SBE also reports that “Small businesses accounted for 61.8% of net new jobs from the first quarter of 1993 until the third quarter of 2016.” Small businesses account for a huge portion of innovation and growth in today’s economy.

Modern consumers support small businesses

According to a Guidant Financial survey, the most common reason for opening a small business is to be your own boss. Small business owners are also dissatisfied with corporate America. Consumers also want to support small businesses. SCORE reports that 91% of Americans patronize a small business at least once a week. Almost half of Americans (47%) frequent small businesses 2 to 4 times a week.

Be proud of small business status

Small businesses are the innovators of tomorrow. Your neighbors want to support small businesses, knowing that their tax dollars stay in the community, and that they’re creating opportunities within their own city. Your small business status isn’t a slight. It’s a source of pride in today’s economy. Celebrate the fact that you’ve stepped out on your own in uncertain times. Celebrate the dirt under your fingernails, literally, or figuratively, that made you take a risk to do what mattered to you.

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Business Entrepreneur

Why and how to acquire a business – 4 tips for radical success

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Acquiring a business can be a key part of your business’s future growth, but there are some factors you should consider before signing the deal.

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A meeting room with people shaking hands over acquiring a business

Growing businesses have multiple levers that can be pulled separately or in unison to continue scaling and expanding. And while many companies choose to grow internally, there’s always the option of acquiring other businesses to supercharge results and instantly expand.

Why Acquire?

Acquiring a business is certainly a complicated path to expansion, but it’s also a highly attractive one for a variety of reasons. This includes:

  • Increased market share. If you’re acquiring a business that happens to be a competitor, you can instantly increase your market share. If you currently own 20 percent of the market share and the competition has 15 percent, you suddenly catapult to 35 percent. That might make you the industry leader overnight!
  • Expansion into new markets. Sometimes you acquire a business outside of your industry or niche. In this case, it allows you to expand vertically or horizontally. This can improve top-line revenue and/or reduce costs and benefit profit margins.
  • Advanced tech and IP. In some situations, an acquisition is about acquiring a specific piece of technology or intellectual property (IP). This may prove to be the final boost you need to accelerate growth and initiate further expansion.
  • Talent acquisition. One of the secondary benefits of an acquisition is the opportunity to welcome new talent into your team. Whether it’s a seasoned executive or a highly effective sales staff, this is one benefit you can’t ignore.

Mergers and acquisitions aren’t the correct solutions in every situation, but they often make sense. It’s ultimately up to your team to sit down and discuss the pros, cons, opportunities, drawbacks, and possibilities of pursuing this option.

Helpful Acquisition Tips

Should your business choose to move forward with the acquisition route, here are some essential tips to be aware of:

1. Assemble a Talented Team

Don’t do anything until you first develop an acquisition team. This is a very important step and should not be delayed. (Many businesses make the mistake of starting the search and then forming a team on the fly, but this results in missed opportunities and foundational errors that can compromise an otherwise smart acquisition.)

A good acquisition team should include an experienced mergers and acquisitions advisor, a responsible executive, an attorney, an HR professional, and an IT expert. You’ll also want to bring on a public relations professional as soon as possible. This will ensure you control the messaging that customers, investors, and even employees hear.

2. Do Extensive Due Diligence

With the support of a talented dream team, you’re equipped to find the best acquisition opportunities. As you narrow your targets down, you’ll want to identify and implement a very detailed due diligence process for acquiring a business. This may include an extensive, objective analysis that consists of a letter of intent, confidentiality agreement, contracts and leases, financial statements, tax returns, and other important documents.

3. Make an Initial Offer

If the due diligence checks out, then it’s time to work on formulating an offer for acquiring a business. While the first offer almost certainly won’t be the offer that gets accepted, it’s the single most important offer you’ll make. It frames the transaction and sets the tone for the rest of the negotiations. It’s generally a good idea to offer no more than 75 to 90 percent of what you’re willing to pay. It should be low enough to leave room to inch up, but not so low that the other party could potentially see it as an insult.

4. Negotiate

Your first offer won’t get accepted. But unless you’ve totally insulted the other business, they should come back with a counter. Now is where things get really interesting. Negotiations ensue and it’s time to counter back and forth. The offer consists of a variety of elements – not just a price tag – so consider all of these variables in your subsequent counters.

Adding it All Up

As valuable as an acquisition can be, the process is often filled with friction. It’s up to your team to make the transition after closing as smooth as possible.

It’s very important that you respect the products, services, employees, and customers that the acquired business has. If you come into an acquisition and attempt to shake things up on day one, you’re going to get backlash. There’s nothing wrong with making changes – you now own the business – but be diplomatic and patient. Build trust, work together, and gradually introduce changes.

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Business Entrepreneur

Should you use use confidentiality clauses in your severance agreements?

(BUSINESS) Confidentiality clauses and NDAs have long been tied to severance agreements – but is that notion becoming outdated?

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severance agreement

Severance agreements and their ilk have long included confidentiality clauses, often comprising an exhaustive list of actions former employees may not take should they desire to keep the benefits listed in the agreement. Carey & Associates P.C.’s Mark Carey breaks down the knowledge you’ll need to successfully incorporate a severance agreement – including a stern warning about the future of confidentiality clauses.

There is a long list of things you’ll need when curating a severance agreement, but we’ll start with Carey’s honey-do-nots.

Carey’s primary recommendation is avoiding a non-compete clause where, previously, there wasn’t one.

“As employment lawyers, we see this tactic used every day, but you do not,” he says.

This is because most employment lawyers will advise that a non-compete agreement is largely unenforceable, which sets a poor precedent for an otherwise airtight document.

Carey even recommends against reviewing prior non-compete clauses for the same reason.

He also eschews what he calls the “21 days to sign – or else” philosophy, and he advises that employers should loop themselves into the non-disparagement clause so that employees cannot be blacklisted – something he refers to as “a very real phenomenon.”

What a severance agreement should include is a non-admission provision, a payment provision, a release of all claims to cover any feasible scenarios regarding employee disclosure, a challenge to agreement, a “no other amounts are due” section to release the employer from future responsibility, and a mandate to return any company property. This is a truckload of information, so you’ll want an employment lawyer to help you through the process.

But what Carey warns against is the future of confidentiality agreements, or NDAs. While these provisions have long accounted for employee silence in the face of abusive or corrupt employers, Carey posits that, one day, “confidentiality provisions in employee severance agreements will be banned as a matter of statute and public policy.”

This assertion comes in the wake of the #MeToo movement and the uncovering of the manner in which powerful people were using NDAs to buy silence from the people who suffered under their direction. Carey points out that it’s a non-partisan issue; corruption isn’t aligned with one specific political party, and the option to come forward with allegations of misconduct is a courtesy that should be afforded to all.

Whether or not confidentiality agreements are ethical is a moot point, and Carey does recommend continuing to use them when necessary – but, sooner or later, one can safely assume that the landscape of severance agreements will change, arguably for the better.

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