July 17, 2015

The delicious taste of happiness

Twelve months after launching Doughheads, Newcastle-baker Anna Farthing is selling up to 4000 doughnuts a week. Her decadent doughnuts have hit the sweet spot with the business now employing 14 staff and averaging growth of 20 percent a month.

Can a doughnut create happiness? It can if it’s one of the handcrafted beauties from the kitchen of Anna Farthing.

Newcastle-based Farthing says delivering a feel-good experience, not just something to fill a hole, was her goal when she developed her fast-growing start-up business Doughheads selling her brand of decadent doughnuts.

“My idea was how can I take a humble product and create something that will astonish people and give them a great experience, which will create happiness,” says Farthing.

It’s a strategy that’s gelled with her loyal fans. Twelve months after launch the business is selling up to 4000 doughnuts a week with average growth of 20 percent a month and employs 14 staff.

From cupcakes to doughnuts

Before Doughheads, Farthing was operating her own cupcake business selling hundreds of her artisan versions of the cakes at local markets. The passionate home-baker-turned-entrepreneur had converted a room in her home into a commercial kitchen to meet demand. But after Farthing pulled back from her business due to a difficult fourth pregnancy she returned to find competition had intensified.

“The landscape of Newcastle had changed,” Farthing says. “Lots of people had the same idea. There were lots of pop-up boutique baked product businesses selling macaroons and cupcakes.

“I sat back and thought where do I go from here? I started toying with the idea of doughnuts. It was something with the same potential as cupcakes to create so much flavour that when people taste it they will say, ‘Oh my goodness’.”

Farthing spent a year perfecting her yeast-based doughnuts, with come in flavours such as maple bacon, which is maple syrup icing topped with double smoked bacon.


Selling out at the markets

It didn’t take long before customers were queuing up for doughnuts rather than cupcakes.

“One day we sold out of doughnuts in one hour, and I took cupcakes home,” says Farthing. “I looked at my husband and asked, ‘what do we do with this?’ Do we take the risk and just go with doughnuts?”

Armed with the Doughheads name – courtesy of her nine-year-old son – Farthing launched the brand as her sole product a month later. “We had no idea what the response would be,” she says. “We took 400 and sold out in three hours. People loved what we were creating and were passionate about it. Our social media went off the Richter scale.”

Farthing was confronted with the challenge of how to meet the demand as she sold more than 1000 doughnuts a day at the Saturday markets she was attending.

“It was a roller-coaster of learnings and choices,” she says. “We were looking at how to make this a sustainable business that could flow into weekdays as well and start to build a strong foundation for growth. The big question was whether we should add retail. So we did.”


Setting up a retail store

With a new larger kitchen already operational and a head chef on staff, Farthing opened a store in Newcastle’s CBD in December. Initial retail sales were strong but dropped off in the new year. Farthing responded by refocusing on her social media strategy to build the brand connection with customers. Sales doubled over the following month. “We started being very deliberate about our marketing,” she says.

Farthing celebrated Doughheads’ first birthday in June by rewarding her customers with live music and free birthday doughnuts at the store. “[Customers] choose to spend their hard earned money with us,” she says. “That’s an enormous privilege to have that trust and loyalty.”

Next in Farthing’s immediate plan is adding some new products to the menu. This includes savoury doughnut-based sliders with fillings such as pulled pork that she successfully trialled at a local beer festival, along with continuing to create new flavours in her sweet range.

A focus is also staff training and staff satisfaction because of the role they play in building a brand experience people love and connect with.“When [staff] are happy that’s the vibe they give out, and that’s the atmosphere we want to create,” says Farthing.

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