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Running a business

Amanda Kinden is Creating a Safe Space One Doughnut at a Time

In honour of Pride Month we are celebrating amazing LGBTQIA+ small business owners that are a pillar in their community. 

Name: Amanda Kinden

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Business: Oh Doughnuts

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What does your business offer?  

Oh Doughnuts offers classic and unique gourmet doughnuts made fresh from scratch with local and organic ingredients (where possible) everyday.

Why did you decide to start your own business? How did you get started?  

On some level I always wanted to own my own business, without really knowing why at first. But as the business has grown and evolved I’ve realized owning my own business allows me to be creative and make decisions that benefit the staff, the community, my family, and the business. 

In 2014, I was working at Green Action Centre and spending my whole weekend baking when I decided to start catering the desserts for small events on the side. I made doughnuts for one event and everyone loved them, and it occurred to me that Winnipeg didn’t have a gourmet doughnut shop yet. So in September 2014 I rented a shared kitchen and started supplying doughnuts to Parlour Coffee. 

Soon, more coffee shops started carrying them, and I couldn’t keep up with demand. So in April 2015 I stopped making doughnuts to focus on opening a physical location, and in May 2016 the Broadway location opened.

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What is the biggest lesson you learned in the first year?  

The biggest lesson I learned in the first year is to acknowledge your shortcomings and hire people who can fill the gaps in your strengths.  I steer the ship but I am not the only one that makes it go.

What was the most surprising thing about becoming a business owner?  

The most surprising thing about starting Oh Doughnuts is the safe work environment that was created when I, a member of the 2SLGBTQIA* community, started this business. Especially for Trans folx.

What is an aspect of running a business that you needed to learn more about when you started? How did you learn about it? 

I needed to learn more about all the aspects of running a business when I started. But managing people was the biggest area I needed to improve on. I read a lot of articles, listened to the staff and talked with my therapist and did a lot of personal work.

How does running your own business make you feel? 

There are so many feelings associated with running my own business. I feel very proud, in awe, overwhelmed and grateful folx like what we’re putting out there. I am often just in disbelief that I built this business from the ground up and now we have two locations (and big things planned), 35 staff (about 2/3 of which identify as 2SLGBTQIA*) and were part of a National scandal (due to Justin Trudeau’s visit in January 2020). It’s a whirlwind!

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What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome or are working to overcome as a business ?  

There have been so many challenges- staffing issues, quality control/consistency, and cash flow stress when opening the second location (which happened at the same time as the start of my divorce). Balancing work and a personal life is a constant challenge, and one of the most difficult. Another constant challenge is being a female business owner. I am often not taken seriously or respectfully from men I deal with for various reasons (landlords, repairmen, suppliers).

What are your proudest moments? 

Some of my proudest moments involve customers including Oh Doughnuts in their special days. One example is when someone wanted to propose to their fiancé in the store. The thought that someone wanted to experience that moment at Oh Doughnuts was a very lovely feeling. Paying off the first loan was amazing, having Justin Trudeau pick up doughnuts and the subsequent media coverage of the “scandal” was incredible too. 

One of my favourite moments was when I made a layered rainbow doughnut for pride. It was a few years ago and I hadn’t been spending much time in the kitchen, and I was able to go in and create for fun this doughnut, I didn’t need to be working on anything else for the shop that day, and it was just the best feeling.

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I’ve realized owning my own business allows me to be creative and make decisions that benefit the staff, the community, my family, and the business.

What are three things that you feel have contributed to your success as a business owner?  

Three things I think have contributed to my success as a business owner are:

  1. Self-reflection/self-awareness
  2. Attention to detail
  3. Total devotion to the business (largely to the detriment of everything else in my life)

What challenges do you feel are unique to small business owners in the LGBTQIA+ community? Have you come up against any bias? 

Besides sometimes the obvious homophobic vandalism that likely happens too often, I think there can be some discrimination from customers or from people who don’t understand why it’s necessary for a 2SLGBTQIA* business to be “loud and proud.” Sometimes I hear “I just want to buy the doughnuts, don’t shove your sexuality in my face.” And that’s part of the problem, some people feel like we are just flaunting it and talk about it too much. But visibility is incredibly important for our community, and there is still a long way to go to address the homophobia and transphobia in Canada and most of the world. 

I haven’t experienced too much homophobia since opening Oh Doughnuts, mostly people are very supportive and accepting. Personally, and this might not be the same for everyone, but I have experienced more positive than negative feedback about Oh Doughnuts being Queer owned.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs in the community? 

I would just encourage any entrepreneurs to embrace what makes them different and go with it. Starting a business is scary and stressful, so I would recommend starting small and focused. There are probably a million things you want to do, but focusing on doing one thing very well rather than stretching yourself and your resources too thin, is never a bad choice.

When you’re having a tough day, who or what inspires you to keep going? 

My 4 year old daughter Olive makes all my troubles melt away, and I think about building something that can help prepare for her future. Also the hope one day I can purchase a cabin on a lake. On a smaller scale, taking my dog Pickles to the dog park and meeting all the other doggies instantly lifts me up.

What’s your “power song” and why? 

I think I’ll have to say “Dance Yrself Clean” by LCD Soundsystem. It starts so slowly then just drops and gets big.

What are the next big plans you have for your business? 

In 2023 we are going to renovate the Broadway location and expand into the space next door. We are going to offer breakfast and lunch items, some of which will be made with doughnuts (doughnut grilled cheese?). After that I plan to open a central kitchen where all the doughnuts will be made (running two kitchens is a lot), and then we will open two more locations in the North and East ends of the city. And after that, either franchising or expanding to other cities!

To learn more about Oh Doughnuts and support their business, visit their website or check them out on Instagram.

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