Start a donut shop by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your donut shop. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a donut shop?
You must have a location from which to make and sell donuts, you need basic equipment and inventory supplies to get you started, you need advertising to get customers in the door, and possibly a website, POS system, and insurance, and you’ll likely need some money set aside for licenses and food service training and certification (e.g., ServSafe). A successful donut shop location, depending on the area you choose and how many cars and foot traffic pass by the location can set you up well financially. Most donut shop owners lease a small retail space that is less than 1000 square feet. In most small and midsized towns you can expect to spend around $6 per square feet of rented space. Ideally, you want your cost to be between 10 and 12 percent of your overall cost. So if you rent a space that is 1000 square feet, and it costs you $6 per square foot, you’ll end up spending $6000 per month on your lease. To put this into perspective, you’ll need to generate just under $50,000 per month, to fall in line with this 10 to 12% range. When putting together your business plan, you’ll need to devise a strategy for selling $50,000 worth of donuts and coffee each month. This will start you in the right direction as far as knowing where to price your donuts, what selling strategies you’ll need to come up with, and how many dozen donuts per day you’ll need to sell. Knowing all this will ensure that you start off on the right foot and know what has to happen to stay in business.
A business plan is the most vital step you must take if you want to operate a successful donut shop for the long haul. Do not skip this step!
What are the ongoing expenses for a donut shop?
Donut shops must pay for rent, as discussed above, but also for equipment. Equipment costs between $15,000 and $20,000 assuming that you buy your equipment new. There are advantages to buying new equipment that many people don’t think about. For one, there are the tax advantages. Equipment depreciation can be deducted from your business tax return. There’s also the benefit of knowing your equipment will last for years to come as you build out your donut empire. And a good POS system is also necessary. A good POS system can range in price depending on which company you decide to go with. We’ve put together some great reviews on POS systems to help you decide which fits your donut business best. Budget at least a few thousand dollars for these POS system expenses. Employee labor costs will likely cost your business $10 to $15 per hour, depending on locality. Certain miscellaneous expenses might be incurred as well: You may need a truck to haul donuts to gas stations and other businesses that you partner with. You may need some money set aside for remodeling the commercial space, meaning you may have to pay around $20,000 to $30,000 to perfect your restaurant’s brand. If you take this route, you will spend between $50,000 and $100,000 or more to get yourself set-up to open and sell donuts. We recommend having a cash reserve of one year’s worth of rent and utility expenses set aside to cover the fact that a business takes time to acquire customers. After one year, you should be generating enough income to cover these most basic costs and if you’re not, you may want to revisit your business plan and tweak it accordingly to ensure you do what you need to do to get these costs covered. One year, though, will provide you with a financial safety net that will take a lot of the pressure off of you so you can run your donut business worry-free.
Who is the target market?
The ideal client type are coffee drinkers and early morning school and business commuters that require caffeine and sugar to help them start their day. Examples of such clients include university students, business professionals, parents of school age children, and churches on Sunday morning who need several dozen donuts to feed their parishioners. Many businesses make great customers too! Fire stations purchase dozens every week for their people. Corporate office buildings will often stock employee breakrooms with donuts. Factories will quite often bring in donuts for their line crews. You just have to think outside the box and start to understand who your ideal customer is. One of the best things you can do is go talk to someone else who is already operating a donut shop and ask them who their ideal customer is. Listen to what they say, because this will also be true for your own donut shop business.
How does a donut shop make money?
Donut shop businesses make money by charging customers for their primary products, which are donuts and coffee. The price of a donut is between .80 cents and $1.25 and is usually based on the size, type, and quality of the donut. Alternatively, it is possible to charge for larger quantities where you give a discount to customers who purchase a half-dozen or dozen donuts. The average cost of a half-dozen donuts is $5.95, while the average cost of a dozen is $9.99. It may sound like you’re not really making a lot of money selling such a large number of donuts, but keep in mind that the average cost to make a donut is just .12 cents. This is a substantial markup when you stop to think about it. You will need to sell a lot of dozens per day if you plan to stay in business though, due to the costs we mentioned earlier (rent, advertising, etc.).
A little known donut shop secret is that coffee is where the brunt of the profits comes from. A single cup of coffee averages out to $2.70. The cost to make that one cup averages out to .27 cents. The add-ons are where the real money’s at though. Add milk and chocolate or some flavored syrup to the coffee and the same cup sells for $3.95 per cup. The add-ons are an insignificant cost, but they mean huge profits for your donut shop business.
What you really got going for you is the fact that sugar, which is what donuts are packed full of, and caffeine which is what coffees packed full of, are both addictive stimulants that people can hardly live without. Selling these two items together, well, you stack the deck in your favor, as people will keep coming back again and again, day-after-day, to your donut shop to get their daily fix of sugar and caffeine. It’s been proven that sugar is more addictive than heroin and cocaine.
How much can you charge customers?
You can charge customers more if you’re positioning your brand as an upscale elite brand or less if you decide to target the working class. The exact price hinges on several factors, how much you need to make to reach a certain income average, your costs, and your desire to keep customers happy and coming back to your donut shop. In general, a customer will pay between $7 and $10 per person for donuts and coffee. If they are buying for a group of people, this number goes down as they’ll take advantage of cost savings by purchasing a dozen or more donuts. Coffee is a fixed price though, so the price isn’t discounted if someone purchases four coffees over say just one cup. There is no discount for purchasing additional beverages, just discounts on the donuts.
How much profit can a donut shop make?
A donut shop business can make upwards of $50,000 or more in the first year. Stick with the business and you can earn $100,000 or more in subsequent years. Continue to build your brand, develop your customer base, and sell franchises, and you might reach the $1,000,000 mark or higher after a few short years.
How can you make your business more profitable?
If you want to drive profits with your donut business you have several options. A donut shop business that gives customers the option of other menu items, like for instance breakfast sandwiches, a small lunch menu, etc., can add to your profit margins. There are other actions you can take as well, where you can partner with convenience store chains and get your donuts into these businesses on a daily basis to generate more brand visibility but also more sales. Some donut shop owners decide to partner with food-truck vendors and doing so can be a great way to rake in more profits. The sky's the limits as far as ways you can generate profits with your donut shop business. Certainly you can use your imagination to come up with other innovative and strategic methods for generating your business.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Business Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your donut shop is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a donut shop business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Trademark & Copyright Protection
If you are developing a unique product, concept, brand, or design, it is prudent to protect your rights by registering for the appropriate trademarks and copyrights.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
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How to promote & market a donut shop
Network with local business owners and managers as well as those who are involved with local newspapers, magazines and other publications. Pass out your business cards to these individuals. Offer to let them try your donuts and to prove you’re a person worthy of doing business with. If you decide to network, be sure to advocate for those who advocate on your business’ behalf. Many of these leaders of the community can be exactly what you need to get your donuts in front of people so you can drive more business. It will also help to establish your brand and put forth to the publics you seek to do business with, what you stand for and why they should support you as a new business in the community. A little promotion just might surprise you when it comes to how easy it is to double your business. You might even want to do trades in exchange for advertising and marketing. Trade some of your donuts and coffee for a yellow pages ad spot or a listing in a local business publication. Offer to donate some donuts to some non-profits. At the end of the day, before you throw those day-old donuts out with the trash; think how you can benefit a local food bank or homeless shelter. A little good will can do a lot of good not only for others, but also for your business.
How to keep customers coming back
Take every opportunity to promote your business. Build strong relationships with customers, get to know regulars on a first name basis, and keep your product quality consistent to ensure people keep coming back to your donut shop regularly. Retaining customers is as simple as providing them with beyond excellent customer service and a total over-all satisfactory experience. Be sure to offer a loyalty rewards program that can be personalized for each and every customer. A great tip we’ll give you is to get a POS system that offers a built-in loyalty rewards program, such as a rewards card. The benefit of doing this is twofold: (1) you get your customers contact information so you can send them deals and discounts and keep them informed about your offerings, and (2) you give them a reason to keep coming back to your donut shop.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
Start A Donut Shop In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
Donut shops are perfect for those who have a passion for sweets, a creative side, and a solid work ethic. Donut shops typically have an assortment of standard treats, but it can take a special dish, or a unique take on an old classic, to really solidify your business as a local hotspot. If you plan on baking many of these goods yourself, culinary knowledge becomes incredibly important and should be a top priority. It is up to you to decide how to run your business, if you feel you have gaps in your knowledge, it is important to educate yourself or find others that you trust to fill those gaps.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.