The glaze of The Rolling Donut’s glory is attributable to the power of a strong brand narrative and the consistent delivery of a memorable donut experience to consumers. In 1978, Lisa Quinlan’s father, Michael, spotted a gap in the Irish donut market. He began his venture by travelling to “festivals, concerts and garden shows” selling hot-pressed ring donuts. The iconic ‘Rolling Donut’ kiosk on O’Connell Street soon followed. Over forty years later, Lisa has six additional stores across the country. Although business is booming, the CEO does not sugar-coat the path to success.
The entrepreneur describes the period between 2014 and 2017 as “Dublin’s donut wars”. The “highly photogenic qualities of donuts” combined with social media platforms such as Instagram & Twitter, contributed to Ireland’s donut trend leading to steep competition in the industry. The Rolling Donut’s competitive edge lies in Lisa’s drive to bring creative flavours and unique designs to the market. By investing in quality ingredients and innovative talent, Lisa has differentiated her brand in a crowded and competitive marketplace. When launching new ranges like vegan and sourdough donuts, The Rolling Donut showcases the family’s early roots in the donut industry. As it has since its origins, all donuts are made from scratch everyday using high quality ingredients. Fresh lemons are essential for The Rolling Donut lemon curd product while the chocolate ganache and caramel toppings and fillings are also made in-store. Although using fresh ingredients can “be challenging for the sheer quantity of donuts,” it is a unique selling point that resonates with the loyal customer base.
Lisa mentions how “the business is feeling the on-going effects of the Covid-19 pandemic” such as staffing shortages. However, the entrepreneur has managed to seek out opportunity by focusing on building an online presence as well as catering to delivery and collection options. This has been highly successful and the company has seen online orders “double since the pandemic”. Lisa has had to pivot and remain adaptable with the business model as the industry grows and the target market matures. This has encouraged The Rolling Donut to innovate and streamline new products, such as “DIY Donut Boxes”. Creating diverse themes varying from the DIY Unicorn Magic Box to the DIY Choco Caramel Box has strengthened the growth of a diversified range of target markets “from children to corporate clients”.
Describing the expansion of The Rolling Donut as the “hardest thing” she has ever done, Lisa advises young entrepreneurs “not to give up”. The most important lessons she has learned as an entrepreneur is to “always use a business plan and spend money where it counts in areas such as equipment”. Lisa advises young entrepreneurs to “not sweat the small stuff” as “things often have a natural way of working out”. Following the launch of Very Berry, a new business specialising in chocolate strawberries, Lisa remains motivated by her entrepreneurial passion to grow her enterprise, innovate products and, no doubt, the sweet taste of success.