Radio In The Mix: Maine Entrepreneur Makes Dollars From Doughnuts

Leigh Kellis used to work for tips as a bartender in Portland, Maine.  She now raises dough in a different way.  In 2012, Leigh opened The Holy Donut, a bakery specializing in uniquely flavored doughnuts made from Maine potatoes.  Did I say potatoes?  Yes.  Every Holy Donut is made with all natural flavors, colors, no preservatives, and mashed potatoes.  Leigh, who admitted to Small Business Marketing Portland Maine RadioCNN that she can be neurotic about food, will “only use ingredients that I would be willing to feed my 8-year-old daughter.”  The results: Not only are the doughnuts delicious (I am a fan) sales have been, dare I say, sweet!

In addition to a great recipe, Leigh would need great marketing to compete in the $700 million doughnut industry.  She faced competition in Maine from Dunkin’ Donuts (owned by deep-pocketed Bain Capital) on just about every corner.  And on the corners without Dunkin’, there is a Tim Horton’s (owned by Canada’s largest fast-food operator).  Also, every gas station, convenience store, and grocery store sells pre-packaged doughnuts from Little Debbie, Entemann’s, and the ubiquitous Donette.  To compete, Leigh turned on the radio.

Leigh’s radio advertising recipe had four main ingredients:

  1. Careful Station Selection
  2. Memorable Commercials
  3. Relevant Sponsorship
  4. Engaging Promotion

Leigh could have chosen the most listened to radio station in Portland.  But instead, she followed the advice of our previous article, Advertising On A Budget: Quality vs. Quantity, and selected a station based on the qualitative profile of the station.  In this case, she chose WCLZ, a station whose audience, according to research from Media Audit, has a high-concentration of affluent, well-educated, socially-conscious consumers.  Exactly the people Leigh needed to talk to.

Next came the commercial. Based on her budget constraints, Leigh decided to use 15-second commercials, which are considerably less expensive than the traditional 60-second radio commercial.  In this way, Leigh could achieve a frequency of exposure for The Holy Donut on par with its competitors at a fraction of the cost. [Learn more about determining the appropriate length of a radio commercial download The Small Business Guide To Effective Radio Advertising]. Listen to The Holy Donut Radio commercial:

[Don’t See The Media Player? Click Here to Listen]

As part of her radio campaign for The Holy Donut, Leigh included a daily sponsorship of WCLZ’s Acoustic Coffee Break.  Ethan Minton, WCLZ’s Brand Manager, describes The Acoustic Coffee Break as: “A chance to take a little breather during the workday and hear different versions of songs you may know well and tunes you’re likely hearing for the first time”. Leigh says, “It’s a perfect fit for us because of the tone we are setting here…the music, the vibe…it’s the audience we want.” And of course, no coffee break is complete without a doughnut.

Delivering Happiness On The Radio

The final ingredient in The Holy Donut’s radio mix was integrating the business into the fiber of the radio station.  Leigh says, “It was a really cool promotion with CLZ where they did something called ‘Delivering Happiness’ every Tuesday.  They would promote on their website free doughnuts for whomever signed-up.”  Leigh was impressed with the promotion’s success. She says, “They have had 75 companies per week sign up to get [Holy Donuts] delivered to their door on Tuesday afternoon.”  Leigh goes on to say, “This says a lot about how people participate based on the exposure we have had on the radio.”

Leigh sums up the totality of her radio campaign this way, “Together with CLZ we figured out the perfect fit for us: to sponsor [The Acoustic Coffee Break] and to ‘Deliver Happiness’ with our product which enhances the whole reputation and aura of our product.” Watch Leigh talk about her radio experience in the video below.

What’s Next For The Holy Donut

When the Boston Globe’s Elizabeth Bomze asked about The Holy Donut’s plans for the future Leigh said, “We would like a couple more stores in the Portland area. Every neighborhood should have a doughnut shop.  It gets people so excited, like they’re kids.  And it’s about personal growth–having an idea and watching it become something is beyond a dream.”


Small Business Advertising On A Budget