Photographs courtesy of Founders Donuts coffee Almonds.
Have you ever wondered where the word “donut” came from?
It all started in 1809. It was originally small, nut-sized balls of fried dough. Hence, “dough” and “nut.”
This sweet, breadlike snack came from the United States and was introduced in the Philippines in the 1980s. Since then, Filipinos have grown to love donuts and, these days, many have ventured into donut business.
The Daily Tribune recently chanced upon Founders Donuts in Makati City — only a stone’s throw away from the office. We interviewed the men behind the trending donut shop — yes, it’s gone viral on Facebook — headed by business partners RP Argonza and Chris Estacion. Both are independent business consultants for entrepreneurs and businessmen.
Their office, where they used to hold business meetings with clients, had a small café corner where they serve coffee and heavy meals. However, pandemic happened and they had to re-do and simplify their menu.
Daily Tribune (DT): Share with us your business name’s story?
Chris Estacion (CE): This place used to be a workshop cafe where we, as business consultants, conduct our business workshops and, at the same time, serve food and drinks for our guests. Since most of our clients were entrepreneurs with start-up business and were ‘founders’ in their own fields, we adopted the name founder. Thus, Founders Donuts.
DT: How did Founders Donuts start?
RP Argonza (RPA) : When we were simplifying our menu, we retained our cafe drinks. We thought of what is coffee best paired with? Twelve to thirteen years ago, I was bragging to Chris about how great my donuts were. “O, pag natikman mo ‘yung donut ko panis yan.” (My donuts taste so great compared to that). I brought it up again to Chris. I let him try my original handmade donuts. He liked it so much, so we started selling the donuts.
My initial donut recipe came from my mom who was a restaurateur. I’m just a regular foodie with no formal cooking or baking background. Yung dough gusto ko hindi masyadong malambot, fluffy and airy. Dapat chewy. It is not super sweet. Hindi nakakaumay sa tamis dahil na rin sa target market ng artisan donuts. Simple lang. (The dough is just right — not too soft, fluffy or airy, but chewy. It’s not very sweet for our target market. It’s simple.)
Making donuts was a side hustle for me 10 years ago. I would make them and my wife would sell them. It eventually became a hobby for us for many years.
DT: Did you expect your donuts to become a famous donut brand?
CE: We always hope and aim for that. We didn’t expect it to happen so fast. There were growing pains along the way.
DT: What are your bestsellers?
CE: Our top four are Cereal Donut, Oreo Dream, Coffee Almonds and Biscoff Tiramisu.
DT: What inspired you to create such flavors?
RPA: Thorough research of top flavors here and in the US. Then, we made our own version. I incorporated US practices of making donuts. I use local and imported ingredients, but as much as possible local ingredients.
DT: What is your personal favorite donut?
RPA: Vanilla Bean Glaze.
CE: Chocolate Frosted, Oreo Dream and Biscoff Tiramisu.
DT: What were the challenges you faced when you were starting?
RPA: ‘Di pa kami bukas pero sold out na ang donuts at nagsimula kami sa manual making ng donuts at konti pa ang aming tao. Sa simula ay 500 to 700 pieces a day ang kaya namin. (Our donuts were sold out even before our shop opened. We started with making handmade donuts, and we only had a few staff then. Initially, we could only make 500 to 700 donuts a day.)
Our customers would express their frustrations online on why they couldn’t get hold of our donuts. We had to save enough money to invest in additional manpower and new equipment. Today, we can now accept thousands of orders. There are still times that we are already sold out by 3 p.m. We are working hard to address the demand issue.
CE: We would also receive complaints like late delivery. We started taking orders via Facebook messenger, receiving hundreds of messages a day. I single handedly managed it. I would stay up until 1 am. Once, I had a nightmare where a customer said, “Late na order ko.” Now, we are automated. RP runs the kitchen, while I handle the orders.
DT: Who are your usual customers?
RPA: Majority are families with kids. They enjoy our donuts a lot. Nakakatuwa. Naaalala ng mga bata kapag bumabalik sila at sasabihin, “Ikaw ‘yung the best donut maker!” (I like it when they come back and say that I am the best donut maker!)
DT: How do you keep up with the increasing demand of your handmade donuts?
RPA: We still do things the traditional way. Our main investment is manpower versus machinery to keep up with demand. Also, we have a bigger place now. We didn’t realize we would grow this fast. We get a lot of orders so we expanded our area to 80 sqm. Half of the space is for dining; the other half, commissary.
DT: What are your plans now for Founders Donuts? Any new flavors?
RPA: We currently have 15 flavors. We plan to add more to make it 24 flavors.
Our special ‘cake donuts’ will be released around next week or in April. They are denser and heavier compared to yeast donuts. They include cake donuts with toasted coconut; old-fashioned donut dipped in vanilla bean glaze; cake donut in melted chocolate; strawberry cake donut dipped in strawberry glaze; and cake donut with sugar cinnamon.
We will also have a new line of beverages called Milk Bevs. These are milk-based drinks with different flavors and mixes. Initial milk beverages would be ube, strawberry, milk and oats.
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