Franchisee Kristen Hull discusses her support of local charities and offers expert advice for fellow entrepreneurs to authentically connect with their communities.
Kristen and Darryl Hull run The Dapper Doughnut in New Stanton, Pennsylvania. In addition to being business owners, the duo is dedicated to building authentic relationships with their local community by giving back whenever possible. The Hulls provide support through a diverse range of efforts including monthly in-store donation jars, fundraisers and their original “Get Rocked” promotion.
The New Stanton community has taken note of the couple’s active role, and in turn, is showing its support for the business. Following each effort, the store has seen its organic foot traffic increase.
1851 Franchise connected with Kristen to get the scoop on her community involvement and advice for fellow entrepreneurs.
How important is it to give back to your local community as it relates to growing your business?
Being able to help out in our community is paramount to our business. Prior to starting our business, my husband, Darryl, and I were very active in our church and local school district as well as with several non-profit organizations. One of our goals was to use our business as a catalyst to further our work in our community and we've been striving to do just that from the time we opened.
What local or charitable outreach efforts have you made in order to connect with your local community?
There are many efforts we've taken part in over our seven months of operation. One of our favorite charitable contributions is our monthly tip jar; each month we select a local non-profit organization that has meaning to either us or our team members. All tips put into our jar are donated to that specific organization each month. We work with several local business associations to connect with like-minded business owners to help find local nonprofits in need or other programs we can help with.
Additionally, our team has volunteered time and we've donated doughnuts and coffee for great programs like Veteran's Day Breakfast for a local school district, American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, Alzheimer's Association Benefit for the Cure, Church Volunteer Programs and several more. We actively seek benefit drives being held in our town (or those in surrounding towns) to help where we can. Just last month, a local high school student was diagnosed with cancer and friends held a fundraiser to help offset the costs of surmounting medical bills. We contacted the family to attend the event, in which we donated doughnuts for the dessert portion of their spaghetti dinner. The month before that, we did the same for a local family whose four children are battling a terrible disease called A-T. We donated doughnuts for their fundraiser, and a majority of our staff attended the event to help serve dinner, sell raffle tickets and help out.
We've done a number of fundraisers at our store to help aid our charitable efforts. We've worked with local non-profit organizations, sports teams, churches, daycares and more to host "Doughnut Days,” in which we donate a portion of all sales back to the organization. On multiple occasions, we've hosted Coffee and Color where customers come in and paint a canvas drawing to raise money for a cause. Next month, we're conducting a school supply drive to help provide school items such as notebooks, pens, crayons, Clorox wipes, tissues, etc. for the schools within our communities. Each customer who brings in a school supply for the month will receive a discount on their order.
Lastly, one more initiative we're currently taking part in to bring some fun to our community is our "Get Rocked” special. Our team has been painting rocks with images of doughnuts that we'll be taking and hiding in areas through our town as well as surrounding towns. We'll be posting a message on our Facebook page to bring awareness to our customer base, with instructions for them to take a picture of the rock and tag us in the image. When they're done, they can bring the rock in for a special treat at our store (which we'll then re-hide).
What are your top ideas or tips to market your local business?
My first tip is to be active and my second tip is to remain true to yourself.
If you're not active in your community, you absolutely cannot grow your business. Having worked for previous companies where community outreach has not been at the forefront of a business plan, I now see the benefit to our business.
Also, remaining true to yourself is incredibly important because if you don't have a passion for helping in the community, then others will notice. If community outreach programs don't excite you, then that's okay. Don't go out and set yourself up for failure. Instead, find someone on your team (or hire someone if needed) to get out there for you. When customers see you having a great time when you help or celebrate the success of others, they want to see more of you.
How effective are charitable efforts in growing your business?
Being active in our community has undoubtedly helped grow our business. Not only have we made contacts through the networking efforts of each outreach, but customers see the passion we have when we help others and that garners a trust in our business. When we volunteer at benefits or donate our goods, we put out a table runner or menu, but we try not to push attention on us (after all, we're there for a much better cause). However, we have had organic traffic in our store after every single event we've ever done because customers want to see what else we offer. So, in the end, each time we go out in the community, we end up gaining more customers.
What advice would you give to other franchisees who are just starting their businesses to best set themselves up for success on the local level?
As I mentioned earlier, in order to garner business–or grow your business–you must be active within your community. If networking isn't something you feel comfortable with, then find an individual you can depend upon to get out there for you. You absolutely cannot grow your business without your community knowing what you have to offer.
Secondly, don't quit. Even when your business starts to grow, and you don't need to market your business as much as you did in the beginning, don't stop. Your community will notice the difference. When your business does well, you need your community even more. Celebrate your success with your team and community when you can