In this entrepreneur interview, Aylin Cook is joined by local Los Angeles donut legend, Mayly Tao to chat about her inspirational business motivation and recent startup company: Donut Princess LA. In this interview, you can learn how to think outside of the box when it comes to branding and product innovation. Mayly also shares her secrets to grow a business fast. In this business talk show, Eric Siu and the Single grain team chat with today's top entrepreneurs to uncover their personal secrets to small business marketing, personal growth, and marketing advice in general. For more business stories that inspire, tune in to our channel and subscribe.
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Full Transcript of The Video
Mayly Tao: Hey, everyone. My name is Mayly Tao, and I am the Donut Princess, that is a self-proclaimed title. My business journey actually started when I was very, very young. I was seven years old when I started to help my parents with our family bakery, DK's Donuts & Bakery in Santa Monica. I spent many mornings instead of watching cartoons like most kids, I was standing on a milk crate trying to reach the showcase, helping my parents who were immigrants here. They actually survived the Khmer Rouge, which was the genocide of millions of Cambodian people. In their childhood they didn't have the opportunity to get an education. They were too busy trying to survive the Communist rule, escape the concentration camps and basically come to America for the American dream.
We had this donut shop in Santa Monica. I helped there even as a teenager. When I went to UC San Diego for Communications I was still coming down to help them on the weekends. These were my parents and this is how they were able to provide for us. After UC San Diego, realizing that I didn't want to be a news journalist, coming back to LA and just thinking, "You know what? I'm going to rebrand the store. I see that there's so much potential for what it could it be." I never imagined that I could bring it to what the level it is today, but I just started out working a lot of hours, having lots of creativity and having fun with it. Eventually we started coming out with these really cool new products that people were really interested in.
A few of them are LA's first half croissant, half donut. We have the world's first Ube donut. We have waffle donuts, ice cream donuts, and 120 different kinds of donuts at DK's Donuts.
Aylin Cook: DK's Donuts is an institution in Santa Monica. It was just featured in LA Magazines. You are starting with an amazing brand before Donut Princess.
Mayly Tao: Thank you. Yeah, so one of my dreams was, "Wouldn't it be really cool if we had a boutique version of the donuts that people already love?" I knew that it's a way for me to have fun and be creative and kind of express my love for food. I decided to launch Donut Princess LA. It's a delivery only donut concept. We have specialty donuts. We have LA's first Donut Bouquet. We have some delicious vegan and gluten friendly and mini donuts. Just because I think that one of the most important parts of business is knowing your audience and knowing what they want.
Aylin Cook: That's very true.
Mayly Tao: In this day and age, I feel like people really like the idea of sending something that's special, or receiving something that's special, and donuts are just one way of saying anything really, like "thank you. I love you. Congratulations." It's a great treat coming to the office. I feel like if you're into food, you always want to be one of the first ones to be like "This is new. I'm the first one to show you this." That's kind of my business journey now.
Aylin Cook: Yeah. I want a donut bouquet for Valentines Day. I'm telling my husband.
Mayly Tao: Yeah, so do I.
Aylin Cook: How do you personally stay informed when it comes to new business trends or learning the different ways to brand Donut Princess?
Mayly Tao: I think that I kind of stay up on the news. You know, I read the news every day. I have friends who are heavily involved in the foodie community, and so it's really great to kind of pick their brains of what do they think is coming up next. Sometimes you don't know. Sometimes you have to set the trends. You can't really depend on what's been done before.
Aylin Cook: Totally.
Mayly Tao: It's kind of like use your creativity. Use what you like. A lot of it is my personal taste. It's like, "yeah, I don't know if hot Cheetos would be good on a donut, but you know, maybe let's try it and see if it's good or not."
Aylin Cook: I didn't know that was an option.
Mayly Tao: We did that with ba- ... We did a hot Cheeto bagel once, and it was pretty popular. There are certain different demographics for different likes and tastes. If you ask a 60 year old person if they want hot Cheeto on a bagel, I wouldn't say that they would really enjoy that, but they might be down to try it. Nowadays though people want to try something new and different and delicious, so that's something that I aim to offer.
Aylin Cook: I read this thing about Glossier being the first brand that's completely for the Instagram generation. People love putting it on Instagram. Can you tell me about maybe different social media techniques or how to brand in the era of Instagram and Snapchat and people wanting to share the cool new things they're eating?
Mayly Tao: You know, Instagram has definitely helped our business a lot with DK's I've seen, and with Donut Princess as well. I do have to admit that the Instagram game has changed. I think before when we were dealing with less Instagram users there was a more sense of having your voice in the community. You could engage directly. You can still do that, but now it's kind of blown up to where users know if a brand is throwing something at you, and that's not something that you want to encourage. You don't want to talk at your audience. You want to talk with them.
When you talk with them, you create this space where you can have them stay engaged. You can ask them questions. You can get them involved in what the next flavor is. You can make them a part of your event. You really bring them into your world, and people really love that. They want to be a part of your brand. With donuts, luckily they're very photogenic. There's lots of different ways to style them.
Aylin Cook: Beautiful.
Mayly Tao: Oh, I have to make you a donut princess too.
Aylin Cook: Yes. Oh my god, what an honor.
Mayly Tao: Yeah. Think it looks good?
Aylin Cook: Yes. Well, I'm like, "Do I have a big head?" Okay, here we go.
Mayly Tao: Perfect.
Aylin Cook: Can you tell us about a challenge you faced in your business and how you overcame that?
Mayly Tao: With Donut Princess it's a delivery only concept right now. What I've realized is that you enter this space of variables. If you came into DK's donuts, you would see me and I would help you out with your donut selection. I'd ring you up, I'd tell you a little bit, and you'd exit the store. With delivery, you now leave so many variables up to the driver. Is he nice? Is he that like really angry Postmates guy who just kind of throws your food at you, or is he someone that goes "Here. Enjoy these"?
For me, my experience is that it's kind of the warmness that comes when you're growing up. I was raised by my grandma. My parents were too busy working. The first question that she asks is "Did you eat yet? Come eat". That's always the kind of experience that I like to give people is like, "Come into my home and eat these. You've traveled so long." However, when I have these variables, the driver, or the customer is not picking up their phone on delivery, or somebody is sending a surprise and they're not there that day, there's lots of things that come into it that are out of my control. I've decided that I'm looking actually for a storefront to kind of create that experience for people and to let them know this is your community. I know these are just donuts, but it's also the connections that you create with people.
That's what I'm missing now. I'm trying to overcome that by taking action and creating that experience for people.
Aylin Cook: What advice would you have for someone starting out in your field or just as an entrepreneur?
Mayly Tao: Be patient and also to learn how to separate the emotions from business.
Aylin Cook: Thank you so much for coming in and doing this interview with us.
Mayly Tao: Of course.
Aylin Cook: Mayly Tao, Donut Princess. Do you want to tell us how people can get donut delivery?
Mayly Tao: Of course. You guys can visit our website. It's donutprincessla.com. You can email me [email protected] I am an email slayer, so I'll definitely get to your email soon.
Aylin Cook: Oh, I love that. Okay, thank you so much.
Mayly Tao: Thank you for having me.
Aylin Cook: Bye.
Mayly Tao: Bye.
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