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Grace Tauber and Shenine Dube say opening a second shop in Commercial Bay will take Doe Donuts to the next level.
When Auckland high school friends Grace Tauber and Shenine Dube made the move to Sydney in their early 20s, they had no idea that they would almost 10 years later be running a business together.
It was a shared love of food and “Island-style doughnuts” that kept the two New Zealanders from being homesick but, after separate careers as a paralegal and a digital marketer, the two decided to move home and put their corporate skills to work in the kitchen.
Doe Donuts’ business has now been operating for six years and its Grey Lynn store has been open for two.
Dube, 31, said the pair had always wanted to do something on their own, to be their own bosses, but never thought it would involve each other or doughnuts.
“We started experimenting in Sydney, and were putting chocolate in them or marshmallows then deep-frying them – just being total fatties, and we loved it. Then we came back home to Auckland.
“We knew ourselves how yummy they were, so we found a market to sell [the doughnuts] at once every couple of months, and that’s how it started,” Tauber, 31, said of the early beginnings at the Rosedale Factory Markets on Auckland’s North Shore.
Doe Donuts has built up a following for its doughnuts, inspired by the flavours of the Pacific Islands.
“We made an Instagram first, and did a few trials with friends and family. Then we would post on Instagram and sell them from there. Then we started to do markets on a Sunday once every two months.
“From that our followers accumulated and there was a bit of anticipation about when they were available next.”
The pair – who first met in Year 12 at Epsom Girls’ Grammar – ran the business part-time, one day a week as an e-commerce offering. At first, they made the doughnuts from home, before moving into a commercial kitchen, initially sharing a space with a catering company.
As their popularity grew, they moved into their own commercial kitchen in Kingsland, when they decided to take the venture full-time.
The pair quit their jobs in early 2020 just before the first Covid-19 nationwide lockdown to take the business full-time.
They say the business took off during lockdown, servicing and delivering online orders. “A lot of people found us through that lockdown, at a time when everyone was online looking for things to buy. We were already set up for e-commerce, so it worked really well,” says Dube.
Doe Donuts’ opened its first shop in May 2021.
Tauber and Dube say trade had been up and down over the past year, which they put down to a pullback in consumer spending on hospitality and dining out.
On June 1 the pair will open their second shop in Auckland’s downtown Commercial Bay mall.
“The reason why we are opening a new shop is so that we can make money. I think people have this idea that we are killing it and doing really well, therefore we’re opening a second shop.
“A second shop is a big risk that we are taking – and willing to take – we’re business owners, that’s what you do – and so we are doing this as we know that space we are going to be in the city will be great for us, and we can get corporates coming through the door,” said Dube.
Doe Donuts’ next shop will target corporates and downtown Auckland shoppers.
Doe will make all of its doughnuts in the Grey Lynn shop and sell them in Commercial Bay.
“We’ve had this retail shop for two years now so [we were looking at] what’s next – we can’t keep chugging along as like a little suburban coffee shop breaking even. We want to take the next step,” said Tauber.
“You can get scared because everything costs money, and when you’re not making money or you’re breaking even, you don't really have money to spend, but we were like, ‘Let’s just do it and let’s just take this risk’– it will work out, I'm sure it will work out’.
“Shenine and I are in this weird this place where everyone is like ‘Congratulations, you guys must be doing so well, opening a second shop’. Yes we do well, but I don’t think it is as well as people assume.”
To open the Commercial Bay hole-in-the-wall Doe will double its employee roll and employ eight staff.
Tauber’s dad is an accountant, so too is Dube’s partner, and they have a business adviser who they can turn to for advice.
The pair said they felt pressure to succeed, especially now that they had taken on debt to be able to open the new store. “It’s like, I need to make the right decisions as there is not a lot of room to mess up.”
Currently, Doe Donuts makes up to a thousand doughnuts each week, sold online and at its Grey Lynn shop Wednesday through to Sunday from 8am to 2pm.
The pair expects to at least double their quantities when the new store opens.
To do that they have had to invest in expanding the Grey Lynn kitchen, through new equipment to help them roll out the dough quicker. They have also spent $15,000 to upgrade their website, and in total invested about $80,000 to get the business to a point where it is able to scale.
The fact that has been funded with bank money made the pair nervous but even more “hungry for success”, Tauber said.
“Loans and being in debt are things that a lot of businesses don’t openly talk about ... and when people say they are taking a risk, it means going into debt,” Dube said. “I think for other people with small businesses wondering how do they elevate yourself to the next level, that is how you elevate yourself to the next level.”
“You have to spend money to make money,” said Tauber.
The pair is aiming for at least $1 million in sales in the next financial year.
All going to plan with Commercial Bay, they want to open more Doe shops.
“We’d love to have little pink holes-in-the-walls all around the country.”