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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

Cowrkr gives you accountability while you work solo

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) Being accountable for your own accountability is a tall order. Join Cowrkr and let someone else do it for you.

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My boyfriend and I have always had a great appreciation for film and television, as well as the writing that goes into it. We always talk about different project ideas, but never get too far in execution with the busyness of real life.

Last night, I finally thought of a way that we can help each other bring our projects to completion, and that is simply by holding each other accountable. I suggest that each week we could have a new task that is due by 10 p.m. Sunday night.

We both have ideas for scripts, so the plan is to start off with having a plot synopsis and character list due the first week, having an outline due the second week, and so on. This will not only help keep us on track but will also help in terms of formatting ideas.

While I’m grateful that this little plan has come together, I know that most people aren’t working on similar projects to people they are close with. Therefore, they may need to look elsewhere for accountability.

Now freelancers and entrepreneurs have the opportunity to be matched with a fellow freelancer or entrepreneur to help hold each other accountable for their respective projects. Meet Cowrkr.

“This is an initiative to help makers keep themselves socially accountable by getting them to build publicly,” says cowrkr developers.

Users sign up and give some info regarding what project they’re working on and what they’re shipping. It works by connecting two makers at a time and cowrkr works to help each maker keep the other accountable until each project is completed.

Once a project has been completed, the makers then end their accountability relationship. When their next project comes along, they will then be assigned a different maker.

Cowrkr’s website does not give a ton of insight as to how the algorithms and matching systems work, but it is an intriguing idea for freelancers and entrepreneurs looking to take their individual projects to the next level.

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Business Entrepreneur

The top 10 startup cities in America

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) If you’re thinking about launching a startup anytime soon you may want to check out this list on the top 10 cities for startups.

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The digital revolution is in full swing, and some cities are setting themselves up to capitalize upon these innovations by supporting startups.

In order to “better understand the U.S. cities driving the digital revolution,” several groups have come together to rank which cities are making the most of the tech startup boom.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 1776, the U.S. Chamber Technology Engagement Center, and FreeEnterprise.com have teamed up to publish a report called Innovation That Matters (ITM).

The report analyzes and ranks U.S. cities on such factors as startup capital, the connectivity of startups, startup culture, the availability of worker talent and specialization, and more. Data was taken from surveys of entrepreneurs and businesspeople, startups, and leaders in public and private sectors.

J.D. Harrison, senior director of strategic communications at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says that the “digital revolution has the potential to make winners of some cities and leave others behind.”

The study aims to find out which cities “embrace this shift to a digital economy and actively support technology startups,” arguing that these cities “will be the best positioned to unleash the power of high-impact innovation and cultivate vibrant, thriving communities.”

The top ten ranking cities are as follows:

10) Portland, Oregon because every city needs a nickname, has been dubbed the Silicon Forest, referencing its leadership in green tech.

9) New York City, New York. The largest tech hub on the east coast.

8) Seattle, Washington. Home to Amazon.com and several other tech firms, with Microsoft’s headquarters in nearby Redmond.

7) Dallas, Texas. Dtown moved up significantly by increasing startup connectivity and tapping into a large, diverse workforce.

6) Atlanta, Georgia. The “most improved” city on the ITM list, moving up 15 places to number six due to a surge in financial, educational, and health tech industries.

5) Austin,Texas. Home of The American Genius, Austin has become a “haven for tech-savvy millennials seeking good-paying job opportunities.” Besides hosting many tech startups, Austin still has a relatively affordable cost of living.

4) San Diego, California. San Diego is full of cybersecurity, Big Data, robotics, and software startups.

3)Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Also known as Philicon Alley, moved up from number eight by deregulating and becoming more business-friendly.

2) San Francisco Bay Area. The Bay also ranked number two last year. The seaside neighbor to the Silicon Valley has been doing a great job attracting seed funding these days.

1) Boston, Massachusetts. This is the second year in a row that Boston has topped this list, due to its large number of startups and robust entrepreneur population.

How does your city rank?

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Business Entrepreneur

Customer surveys tell more than just satisfaction

(ENTREPRENEUR NEWS) While they can be annoying for the consumer and cost time for the company, customer feedback surveys are crucial to your business.

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While Richard Dawson, Louie Anderson, and Steve Harvey may not be able to personally help you with customer service, what they have in common can. Surveys, and personalized follow-up attention in general, help clients and consumers know that they mean something to your business.

For the sake of this article (and the fast-paced, technological world we live in) I am going to be speaking about surveys. However, I want to share this anecdote first.

I used to work front desk at a salon and part of my job was to follow up with new guests about a week after their appointment.

Now, most of the time, my calls went to voicemail, which were never returned; but every once in awhile a human answered.

After going through the spiel of why I was calling, I could almost always sense a sound of surprise from the other line before the person answered my question. One conversation in particular left me realizing how important this seemingly useless task was.

I called an older woman and asked her about a recent appointment she had at the salon. She thanked me for calling and then went into detail about how great the appointment was and how much getting her hair done meant to her.

Before we hung up she said, “thank you again for calling. A salon has never done this before.” It then hit me like a ton of bricks just how significant something as small as a callback is.

If you have the time, definitely make those callbacks to clients as it could be very meaningful. However, it’s understandable that most of us may not have the time in our schedule for personalized phone calls.

So if that’s the case, don’t forget about surveys. I know most of them will either go to spam or go unanswered, but the mere fact that you’re sending it out shows clients and customers that you care about their business.

And, for those surveys that do receive responses, it can be extremely beneficial for your company as you can get insight into what works and what doesn’t. There’s really no disadvantage to this tactic, so remember to make time for that follow up with existing clients rather than just focusing on getting new ones.

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