Hey guys! Welcome back to Products Worth Talking About — the show about disruptive physical products and the people who built them.
We’re thrilled to have Marquez and Ondrea Fernandez on today’s episode. Marquez and Ondrea founded The Dough Bar, which makes delicious healthy donuts that are high in protein. They were featured on the ABC show Shark Tank, where they convinced millionaire Barbara Corcoran to invest in their company.
We talked to Marquez and Ondrea all about how they came up with their signature protein doughnut, how they grew their business, how they prepared for Shark Tank, and the importance of developing resilience and innovation when running a small business. We’re pumped for you to learn all about their great product and business, so let’s dive in!
Ondrea and Marquez Fernandez built a powerhouse doughnut company revolving around a revolutionary idea: the protein doughnut. Their doughnuts are both healthy AND delicious. So how did Ondrea and Marquez come up with this brilliant idea?
“I follow a bunch of foodies on Instagram, and so like literally the idea popped up, ‘Hey, we should make healthy doughnuts, and maybe we’ll ship them around the country. … If I put a protein bar in front of you versus the doughnut, what would you want?’ … I kid you not, the next day, we literally went to Bed Bath & Beyond and bought a bunch of different equipment and ingredients. And that night we were on YouTube, like practicing [and] making healthy doughnuts.” – Marquez Fernandez
After coming up with his brilliant idea, Marquez enlisted the help of Ondrea, and they began working on the product immediately. They came up with the idea to bake their doughnuts rather than fry them in order to make them healthier. They began shipping out protein doughnut prototypes to friends and family within only a few weeks.
“As time … went on, we ended up … relocating to a commercial kitchen. So we had some space to grow and that’s when we really were able [to] start selling them online. [It was] within a three month period.” – Ondrea Fernandez
Ondrea and Marquez began baking doughnuts on Sundays and shipping them out to customers on Mondays. They continued this process for nine months. As they expanded, they began looking for a co-packer. Marquez observed that scaling up production is a risky stage of running a small business:
“Looking for a co-packer [and] figuring out ways to scale … [is] always the hardest part. So over the past four and a half years, as we … doubl[ed] our revenue [repeatedly], … each time you [have to] prep for that. And as you go through that phase, it’s definitely the hardest thing. It gets challenging. There’s more risk each time.” – Marquez Fernandez
As you begin scaling up production, you risk having wasted products if you don’t meet your estimated sales. Fortunately for Ondrea and Marquez, they greatly increased their sales after finding a co-packer and scaling up production. They were able to sell doughnuts every day of the week, and their sales increased from $80,000 to $500,000 annually!
After killing it with online orders, Marquez and Ondrea opened up a physical store in Fort Collins, Colorado, and they eventually also opened a pop-up store in Broomfield, Colorado:
“[The Fort Collins location] was supposed to just be a one-time flagship store. If you come in, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience coming in to get doughnuts, but otherwise, we’re more of an online business. … But it was doing really well, so we said, ‘Hey, let’s open one up in Broomfield. [We’ll] put ourselves in front of built-in foot traffic at the mall right next to the Apple store.’ And on the weekends, we have lines out the door.” – Marquez Fernandez
Marquez and Ondrea developed a great product, and they were able to expand distribution and sales through their effective business sense. Depending on what product you offer, you may benefit from retail, e-commerce, or a bit of both! Like Marquez and Ondrea, don’t be afraid to try new tactics to see what works best for your business.
A key part of Ondrea and Marquez’s journey in growing their small business was presenting their healthy doughnuts on the ABC show Shark Tank, where inventors and entrepreneurs pitch ideas and products to celebrity investors. They didn’t make it to the investors the first time they auditioned, but they received a great deal of encouragement:
“We auditioned two years in a row, and the first year … I thought, ‘Well, this is a long shot. This is never happening, but I’ll do it.’ … We didn’t quite make it far enough. So they told us, ‘You know what? We love y’all. We want you to come back — don’t give up. We just want to see the business grow and evolve a little bit more.’ So that’s what happened.” – Ondrea Fernandez
The Dough Bar continued growing the following year. They were conflicted about auditioning for Shark Tank the next year because Ondrea was six months pregnant, but they ultimately decided to give it another shot. Their audition went exceptionally well, and the show notified them that they would appear before the celebrity panel of investors in Los Angeles.
After receiving the green light to present their idea to Shark Tank, Marquez and Ondrea then had to begin diligently preparing their pitch.
“There’s a lot of … homework. It’s kind of like a whole different operation of your business. So you’re taking time out of your day to practice for something that might not even be [broadcasted]. … A lot of rehearsal. We practiced a lot. So we have their faces in our living room. … So we would pitch in front of them, look at them, practice smiling. We didn’t want to get caught off guard. And so we practiced smiling for hours.” – Marquez Fernandez
“We wanted Mark for his sports connections as well as his e-commerce and technical background within that. And then Barbara … [has] connections within the food world. So that was our dream team: Barbara and Mark. Obviously, Mark said no.” – Marquez Fernandez
Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran decided that it would be more efficient if only one investor from the show funded The Dough Bar, so Mark Cuban declined, and Barbara Corcoran invested in Marquez and Ondrea’s business.
Barbara Corcoran’s team provides Ondrea and Marquez with helpful support, but they also give The Dough Bar a great deal of autonomy. In addition to the financial investment and business support they receive from Barbara Corcoran, The Dough Bar’s sales dramatically increased after their episode of Shark Tank aired:
“I think we had maybe 30 orders [that day]. And so we watched [the show] at 6:00 PM. We watched it live on the East Coast feed. … After it ended, I look[ed] at my phone, and there [were] like 3000 orders. And you’re talking about 12 minutes in just the East Coast. … We surpassed all of [our] 2017 sales in 39 days — about $900,000 in sales. And [that’s] just [the] power of Shark Tank.” – Marquez Fernandez
Ondrea and Marquez’s hard work and preparation for Shark Tank greatly paid off. Since their episode aired, they’ve significantly increased their revenue, and they’ve expanded their business!
The reason for The Dough Bar’s success extends far beyond Marquez and Ondrea’s television appearance. Their hard work in developing a great product and marketing that product effectively has led to their success. Marquez observed that an essential part of getting your product out to the public is being strategic on social media and knowing your strengths:
“It’s really about putting out the right content. Now you can’t just pump things out. It has to be great [content]. … So there’s the social media aspect. Within the retail side, … we’re starting to realize … we’re great at online [sales]. You know, that’s 90% of our business is the online [sales]. … We’re kind of working around that.” – Marquez Fernandez
The Dough Bar has accumulated a great deal of success through online sales and effective social media strategies. In addition to social media, creating new doughnuts and innovating new recipes drives sales from existing customers:
“New product development has helped us a lot. Right now, we’re doing kind of like a fun prototype lab with the protein items. … So that’s something that we’re trying to do. … [We] pique the interest of our long term protein doughnut customers [by] roll[ing] out new ideas and things.” – Ondrea Fernandez
Although Ondrea and Marquez have had great success with their small business, it’s crucial to remember that success doesn’t happen overnight. They both have worked long, hard hours, and they’ve faced setbacks throughout their journey. Marquez observed that it’s essential to stay resilient when running a business:
“One thing that we talk about a lot is resilience. You know, being able to get punched in the face and get back up. … You’re going to have a bad day. You’re going to have a bad week. … So you have to be able to weather the storm and stay even keel. … So that’s something [important] … in life in general.” – Marquez Fernandez
Whether or not you’re a small business owner, you need to remain resilient to achieve your goals. You’ll have misfortunes and bad weeks, but the difficulty is worthwhile if you love what you do:
“It’s all worth it. You know, especially if it’s … something that you love and you have fun. Like for us, [when] we wake up in the morning, it doesn’t feel like we’re clocking in. … It’s what we love, and we have fun, and we get to do it together. That’s like the best part.” – Marquez Fernandez
We’re so happy that Marquez and Ondrea love what they do, and we’re glad their great idea is thriving. You can check out The Dough Bar on Instagram, @doughbardoughnuts, and you can visit their website to learn more about their business and order deliciously baked doughnuts. Also, make sure to watch the full episode on YouTube to learn more about Marquez and Ondrea’s journey.
If you’re interested in building a product-based business like Ondrea and Marques, check out our business plan course. You’ll learn everything you need to know about pitching to investors and starting a lucrative business!
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Thanks for reading! Until next time—
RT and Tyler