My word of the year? Creativity
How to preserve the magic whilst scaling your business
with Doe Bakehouse
We know that taking your business from a daydream to reality can be tough enough, so for many, expansion feels like a lifetime away. Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with keeping your independent – well, just that! – but what about those with ambitions to emulate that same small business magic across a line up of locations, showcasing their product or passion to an even bigger audience?
To find out, we spoke to Evie, the founder and creative brain behind Doe Bakehouse, a new dimension of bakery destination – with a focus on doughnuts – for the Instagram generation, and beyond. Having seen her instantly recognisable brand go from one location to four since the pandemic hit in 2020, we were keen to hear her secret recipe for growing a business, without losing the special sprinkles on top. Her formula is simpler than you may think, and it has a lot to do with following her founder instincts. Here’s how Doe Bakehouse has made expansion taste so sweet.
When it comes to expansion, Evie and Doe Bakehouse have done more in a year than some businesses manage in a lifetime, and we think a lot of that may come down to Evie’s desire to give things a try, as she explained how she jumped from her full time role to entrepreneurship with ease.
‘When I handed in my notice, I did so without a thought about what I was doing! I hadn’t really got a business plan and I hadn’t made doughnuts before. I just kind of believed that I could do something more.’ she explained. ‘I think that’s what excites me about business. People say things are so difficult when there’s so much happening at once, but I think that’s what I like about it. The feeling that you can keep growing and changing.’
Taking her attitude to change into last year’s first lockdown, Evie saw a chance to innovate and offer more from the business. ‘I looked at lockdown as a chance to think “what can we do? How can we change?” That growth-side of things has always felt natural. I’ve not gone into it thinking that I’m definitely going to make money, I’ve just always taken the opportunity to try new things.’
‘There’s more excitement in that for me than planning too strategically, and sometimes things don’t work, but I’ve always given them a go!’ Evie shared. This “give-it-a-try” mantra is something we think could be key to the brand’s rapid expansion during even the most challenging of times!
So, once you’ve decided that expansion is part of your game plan, how do you set tangible goals to work towards? In the same way we’ve come to expect since meeting Evie, her make-up as a founder allowed her to go with her gut.
‘I’d like to say I had defined goals, but I honestly never did.’ she shared. ‘I’m one of those people that constantly falls into something, whether it’s from talking to someone or something that inspired me, I tend to find myself in those situations.’
Having no set ideals about the direction of Doe’s destiny has allowed Evie to be adaptable, and grasp every opportunity that’s come her way, from multiple sites in York, an imminent launch in Clitheroe and rumours of a pop-up in Leeds, all alongside her flagship Harrogate shop.
Lockdown saw the Doe Bakehouse team innovate so they could meet their customers’ needs on a wider scale, having told us of their initial postal doughnut offering; ‘honestly, you could tell we were the first to explore postal doughnuts because everything that could possibly have gone wrong, went wrong!’
‘I looked at lockdown as a chance to think "what can we do? How can we change?" That growth-side of things has always felt natural. I’ve not gone into it thinking that I'm definitely going to make money, I’ve just always taken the opportunity to try new things.’
But from tapping into a wider – before unexplored – market, Evie and the team found interest in the brand coming from areas they’d never imagined. ‘We found that we had repeat buyers from specific places. We had loads and loads of people that bought postal doughnuts from York. So we suddenly realised, we must have had a customer base that were traveling to Harrogate from York, and also, that it was the nearest city that didn’t already have a doughnut shop. So obviously it felt natural to open a shop there.’
Around the same time, Evie collaborated with a local healthy food brand by sharing their more central York site, seeing both units serving different purposes for her business. ‘I went back and forth thinking about it, and their building was smack bang in the centre of York – it was the best spot in town. We wouldn’t have the issues we sometimes have had in Harrogate with the location, people would know exactly where it is.
I quite liked the idea that it was two businesses working together during a really hard time. Customers loved the story. They knew that we were helping each other and in this together, so people really got behind that and supported it.’
The pandemic didn’t come without its challenges, and like all high-street stores, not only was Doe seeing less people through its doors, but felt they were marginalising their market but simply pivoting online. Ready to explore where her brand fans really were based, Evie started to try travelling to different areas to branch out. Almost instantly, she met huge demand from her Lancashire customer base, cementing her next bricks and mortar location in Clitheroe. ‘Everything and anything that could have gone wrong with Clitheroe went wrong! But it kind of hasn’t mattered because it’s given us time.’ she explained ahead of its hotly anticipated opening.
Like many founders, when it comes to expansion, one of the hardest parts can be relinquishing some of the control you hold onto the tightest as a solo entrepreneur. For Evie, she knows how that feels. ‘It’s something that I battled with a lot. But one thing that my dad said to me not long ago was that now the business has got to where it is, everyone in that business – including myself – should be able to walk out the door and there should be no change.
Even if I wasn’t there, the business should be able to continue and if it can’t, then you need to work out what’s going wrong and you need to understand. Have you not taught your staff what Doe is? Because everyone should be able to live, breathe and advertise the business just how I can.’ she told us.
'But one thing that my dad said to me not long ago was that now the business has got to where it is, everyone in that business - including myself - should be able to walk out the door and there should be no change.'
Interestingly, business expansion for Doe Bakehouse doesn’t just mean popping up in more locations, pivoting online or quadrupling in team size. Evie has dreams for how Doe Bakehouse can have a social impact on her wider community, expanding in ways well beyond the realms of doughnuts.
‘Because of the bigger unit, we’ve now got the opportunity to do so much more with the business now than before expanding. I’m going to work towards doing open days where I can contact the local charities and say “come in”, where most importantly people will feel safe.’ she shared. A focus for Evie is wanting to support local minority communities that may feel overlooked, including disabled people, those that struggle with mental health issues, and the trans community.
Evie’s journey over the last year shows us that sometimes, the best innovation in business comes from acting with bravery and taking opportunities when they come your way, rather than always meticulously planning your next big move. After all, life as a founder is always unpredictable!
1. You’ll never perfect your plan – so just go with it! We suspect part of Doe Bakehouse’s success has come down to Evie’s ability to sense a good opportunity, regardless of whether she’d thought of it as part of her game plan.
2. Be flexible: There aren’t many businesses that we’ve come across who have pivoted and expanded in such a big way in the face of the pandemic. Opting to try new things could help you to unlock a whole new customer base.
3. Don’t think of “expansion” in just the physical sense: Expanding your brand can mean offering a new service, exploring your values or temporarily popping up somewhere different!
Secrets of a serial entrepreneur
Marcia Kilgore, founder of five well know brands including Fit Flops and Beauty Pie, cites innovation as one of the key drivers to her success. Find out what she has learnt from her entrepreneurial journey.