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WOMEN IN BUSINESS | Q&A with Grace and Shenine of Doe Donuts

This is one of those magic stories, in which a couple of besties turned their hobby into a side-hustle and then their main source of bread & butter. Ironic, as that their specialty market too – bread, butter and a WHOLE lotta passion go in to making the tastiest treats that we know and love as Doe Donuts. 

Situated dangerously close to the new Saben office, we called in to the new Doe Donut Café to sit down with Grace and Shenine.  On the journal they share the challenges that come with starting and running a small business, where it all started and what inspires them.

WARNING – you will ABSOLUTELY want to eat Doe Donuts by the end of this. And full disclosure, we have a treat (the virtual kind) that encourages you to do just that! You’re welcome. We know you’ll love it!

Doe Donut cofounders Grace and Shenine

OK, but first: doughnuts or donuts?

Donuts! Less letters.

To start, can you share a little bit about yourselves, your background and what led you to become the women you are today.

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.

And your friendship? How’d you meet and when did you start cooking together?

We met in high school and have been friends ever since. We both believe one of the best things in life (apart from food) is laughing and I definitely think that’s why we’ve been friends for so long. We started cooking when we moved to Sydney together in 2014.

And for some full-fat content, talk us through those early days – when did the dream begin?

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 my muma). At the time, donuts were also a huge trend in Australia. It was like “Move over cupcakes, DONUTS ARE TAKING OVER”. 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.

The name?

DOE was a suggestion that popped up during a discussion with friends. It was a short, catchy name and was a play on the original word “dough”. It also worked out to be a great acronym for “Donuts Over Everything”.

First it was online orders, Friday-only right? How did you manage to scale up from here?

Well, first it was actually markets! We attended a market over on the North Shore in Auckland once every 3 months. That’s really how we initially got a bit of attention. ThenFridays started. At this point in time, most of our orders were coming from friends and family, but sure enough the word started to spread and we started getting our first lot of orders from complete strangers! This was a very exciting time for us and as orders began to increase, so did our donut days. We went from Fridays, to Thursdays and Fridays. And then to Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

And those first steps? When did you leave your main hustle to focus 100% on Doe?

We didn’t leave our main hustle until right before the first Level 4 lockdown in NZ. It was a blessing in disguise really because by this time we were only part-time workers at our main 9-5pm jobs. Businesses were freaking out so we told our current employers that we’d step down from our casual roles due to the tough times ahead. This gave us the opportunity to really focus on Doe and start working on a plan for our future, post lockdown.

Seriously guys, the 2am starts – how do you do it? ...What does a regular day look like for you?

We definitely don’t wake up that early anymore! 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 4.30am. 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 200 donuts, deep frying, decorating and boxing up orders. Then there’s a real fine line between whether we go to the gym after work or straight home for a nap. It’s usually the latter.

How do you come up with the flavours?

We basically think of desserts that we love and deconstruct them to make a variety of different donut fillings and toppings. Our friends and family (as well as our customers) also like to make suggestions on new flavours, which we always appreciate and get excited about.

Looking back, what’s the greatest thing you’ve learned both in business and as women?

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’re only just about to open one (editors note: it's now open!). 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.

There are challenges that come with balancing work and friendship; pro’s & con’s of being in business with your bestie?

It’s weird because we don’t fight. Like, at all. We know each other so well and we know what pushes each other’s buttons. We have the same sense of humour and share the same outlook on life, which is basically to have fun.

Shenine, what is your favourite thing about Grace?

Shenine: My favourite thing about Grace is that she is very reliable, you can always count on her for anything! Not matter what the situation may be, Grace will always come through for you.

Grace what is your fave thing about Shenine?

Grace: The one thing that I absolutely love about Shenine is her ability to stay cool, calm and collected when shit hits the fan. Me on the other hand, I’m skittish panicky freak whose cortisol level goes through the roof. Without Shenine during those times of uncertainty or disaster I’d be doomed. Oh and she ALWAYS has my back!

What can we expect to see from Doe doughnuts next?

You can except to see us freaking out in our new retail shop which we have just opened!!! Where there will be coffee (which we will try our best not to stuff up) and donuts and quite possibly a few other surprise treats on the menu.

Congrats! Where?!! And can we order delivery?

You can find us in the flesh at 356 Great North Road, Grey Lynn or if you’re more of an introvert, jump on our website to order a box (we have a delivery service!).

Editors Note: We recommend getting there as close to opening time as possible - as they are open until they sell out, and they are popular for good reason!

 outside the shop of doe donuts

A split image of the doe donuts shop and then grace and shenine standing beside each other wearing Saben Handbags

Shenine opening the door to her donut shop Doe in Grey Lynn

Doe Donuts

STYLE FILES: What do you love most about wearing Saben?

We love that Saben have so many classic styles of handbags; there’s really something for everyone. Many pieces are timeless which is what you want from a bag and the leather is of great quality! We also love Saben because it’s a New Zealand brand and we love to support designers from our beautiful country.

Which style did you choose and why?

Shenine: I chose the Carter tote because it’s light weight and large enough to carry all my DOE necessities. It’s perfect for work, not only would I be able to fit my laptop and diary but I’ll also be able to sneak in a few snacks from work.

Grace: I love the Bex bag because it has several different compartments. It’s casual, but still smart and I’m a sucker for a bag with a long strap to sling around.

Stay in touch with the girls online HERE or follow along on insta @doe.donuts

Now for an extra treat...

The gorgeous girls at DOE have given us a code - you lucky lucky things! Use the code JUNE$5 to receive $5 off online orders for the month of June. Well - what are you waiting for ....!?! Order HERE. 

T+C's: Valid the month of June, for online orders only.