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Can you please share a little bit about yourselves and your background?
We’re both in our late twenties and have an obsession with food. We’re cheerful and friendly (we like to think, ha!) and you could say a bit outspoken. Shenine is Fijian-Indian and I’m Cook Island/European and our colourful cultural backgrounds have played a huge part in becoming the women we are today. We love to represent the places our parents were born and find it exciting to be able to have an opportunity with our business to share our experiences and culture with others.
How did you two meet and when did you start cooking together?
We meet in high school when we were 15 years old and have stayed friends ever since (15 years of friendship, wow!). With a couple of friends, Grace and I decided to move to Sydney, Australia in 2014. We all lived together and we all loved to cook together. We also enjoyed eating out in Sydney, the food scene there was pretty amazing and there was always something new to try.
In Sydney we were often homesick, so we would make things that reminded us of home; in particular, Cook Island donuts (the recipe was given to us by Grace's mum). At the time, donuts were also a huge trend in Australia. After a couple of years abroad, our hearts still belonged to Aotearoa, so back home we moved. With us, we brought our new and improved skill of donut making. We had developed our original Cook Island donut recipe into a more versatile style of dough and had begun experimenting with different flavoured fillings and toppings. It got wild.
With the COVID-19 lockdown closures last year, how did it change your business? Were you working full time for Doe at this stage?
Grace and I had left our full-time jobs before COVID-19 lockdown and at this point, we were full time at DOE. During the lockdown, it was scary thinking about the unknown and what was gonna happen. We were still paying rent and other expenses and for us financially it was a huge struggle. Once we were in level 3, we were able to go back to work. DOE was already set up as an e-commerce business and this worked in our favour. Our customers during level 3 were able to order online and we were able to provide contactless pickup or delivery. We as a business count ourselves lucky, as we did not have to create a website or spend any extra money to be able to be open during level 3 lockdown.
What does a normal day look like for you?
We’ve become so much more efficient in the kitchen and bought a lot of expensive equipment to help with the labour that an early morning for us is now only 4.30 am. A regular day looks like 3-4 hours of prep the day before orders are due, with an early start the following morning. That morning involves rolling and manually cutting out as many as 300 donuts, deep frying, decorating and boxing up orders. During this whole process, we will be laughing and talking ALOT. At the end of each day, there’s a real fine line between whether we go to the gym after work or straight home for a nap at the end of the day. It’s usually the latter.
What's your favourite Donut flavour that you’ve created and why?
We have a few favourite flavours but we really enjoyed creating our pineapple pie donut. Pineapple pie is an island dessert and we like being able to create flavours from our culture. We love to represent where we're from and find it exciting to be able to have an opportunity with our business to share our experiences and culture with others.
Looking back, what has been the biggest lesson you’ve learnt so far?
It would have to be patience. Our donut journey started back in 2016. Five long years ago. From day one, we wanted a physical, retail shop. It’s 2021 and we've finally been able to open our shop. I guess the moral is that not only do good things take time, but they also take a lot of hard work, commitment and mistakes. These factors make the end result so much more satisfying and rewarding.
Share three pieces of advice to anyone starting their own business.
1. No one knows what they're doing, you're not alone. Don't be shy to reach out to other businesses for advice and help, especially if they're in the same industry/market as you are.
2. Always keep your finances in order, we use Xero and it's been amazing. When it comes to your accounts, it's best to invest in an accounting system very early on.
3. Remember to have a work, life balance. Owning a business can be very challenging, especially if you are doing everything from start to finish. You want to enjoy what you're doing.
Who inspires you the most?
Our mums inspire us the most. They've taught us everything we need to know and they continue to support us through this journey we are on. We can always count on them and they continue to come to our kitchen to help us. Our mums are amazing at cooking for the masses (our big families, haha), we've watched them do this our whole lives and now Grace and I are making donuts for the masses.
Best business book you’ve ever read?
We have not read any, we tend to google everything.
First place you would travel to when we can travel again, and why.
Somewhere tropical, we'd love to be able to be on the beach sipping cocktails and eating lots of seafood. We also love doing activities, if we could hike, snorkel or jet ski we'd be very happy.
As well as purchasing donuts at your epic new store in Grey Lynn, can we also purchase your donuts online?
Yes, you can! Once it is safe to do so, you can pre-order online to pick up at our Grey Lynn shop or you can choose to get your order delivered. We have over 30 flavours and we rotate them weekly, showcasing 8 flavours a week.