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When Following Trends Pays Off - The Founder Of One Of SA's Coolest Food Brands Shares All

Dope Donuts founder, Elise Spilkin on how she gets the attention of the country's trendsetters


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In a world where trends come and go faster than you can take a food picture for the 'Gram, is it advisable for entrepreneurs to build a business around what's in?

The answer is yes. Trends are one of the biggest drivers of consumer purchasing decisions and brands that are able to leverage these significant trends can, according to a Forbes article, find themselves in the sweet spot. 

Johannesburg-based artisan doughnut brand, Dope Donuts has found that sweet spot.

 

Blueberry glazed and filled with pretzel ice cream! We're at @ice_cream_sunday

A post shared by Dope Donuts (@thedopedonuts) on

Launched almost four years ago, Dope Donuts has managed to maintain its status as one of the coolest brands among its customers - young, trendsetting urbanites who are often themselves drivers of trends. The brand is also often listed among the best doughnut spots in Johannesburg by publications such as Food24.com as well as EatOut.

Elise Spilkin​, confectioner and founder of Dope Donuts, started the business after she grew tired of the cupcake trend that was taking over Cape Town and Johannesburg. "I saw a market here for doughnuts, and so far the response has been great," she says in an interview with EatOut.

Spilkin is also part of the rising trend of artisan entrepreneurs who sell everything from craft beers, ethically sourced coffee and organic, gourmet foods to consumers who crave healthy, sustainable and authentic eating experiences.

"Maintaining the younger client base is vital, as they usually are the trend followers, as well as trendsetters"

To keep on top of what's in Spilkin keeps her eye on what's big in the US, which has a huge doughnut culture in cities like New York. Because of their popularity customers can queue for hours to sample unique flavours like Nutella s'mores doughnuts, brioche and bagel brioche doughnuts with bacon, egg and cheese, and surprisingly, even spaghetti and sushi doughnuts.

Dope Donuts' own offering includes (mint flavoured glaze with Peppermint Crisp topping) and Twice as Nice (double doughnut stack, cream filling with mini marshmallow topping). And her customers have in turn continued to spread the Dope Donut gospel through social media as well as word-of-mouth, according to Spilkin.

 

Trends can be a critical advantage for your business, Spilkin says, but cautions that brand experience and a good product will always be a trend you should follow.

"Trends, although passing, are very important in my business. I am often asked to use trendy toppings such Matcha and Chai in my toppings. I am also a firm believer that one trend that will last forever is quality and customer service. Current trends determine how many donuts will be sold, but it really comes down to quality and experience for me," says Spilkin.

Spilkin shares 5 secrets that keep Dope Donuts on 'must-haves' lists.

1. Being a 'trendy' brand doesn't necessarily translate to a healthy bottom-line
As mentioned before, a healthy bottom line is only achievable if your product is dependable and of a high standard. Trends will only increase sales, but don’t always last.

Dope Donuts has its 10 consistent flavours. Occasionally, I will do a promotional flavour in order to keep up with current trends, but, my focus is on quality and consistency.

2. You want to draw the young crowd
Maintaining the younger client base is vital, as they usually are the trend followers, as well as trendsetters.

3. Make sure the brand resonates with your target market
I needed the brand to be approachable and the donuts needed to be of a high standard. I wanted my customers to feel that they got their money’s worth.

One never knows how the public will respond to a brand. But, I knew that with the name ‘Dope Donuts’ the chances were high that people would want to share and talk about the brand.

4. I use social media to keep my ear on the ground
I use my Instagram and Facebook account to get feedback from my customers. Give-aways and questionnaires about their likes and dislikes keep me in the know and allow me to adjust the flavours and offerings.

5. Being an 'artisanal brand' has also kept us cool
It’s important to be ‘anti - factory’ in order to appeal to the masses.

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