Looking to the future: Tips from a family startup

Products mentioned
Oaks from tiny acorns grow

Our family is originally from Cambodia. We are refugees, and faced adversity growing up. We came to the U.S. for the American dream and to build something together as a family. For us, it’s always been about looking to the future.

Family is everything to us.


We always wanted to start a business of our own. My dad was a baker and my brother has worked at a donut shop. Growing up, I loved donuts and always scoped out different donut shops when I traveled. Because we love food so much, it just made sense to open up a food business.

Steps to startup

We opened Donut Parlor in Tempe, Ariz. in 2016 as a way to share our passion for baking fresh donuts and pastries. The first thing we did was decide on the business name and buy the domain name, donutparlor.com.

Within a year, we became the best donut shop in Arizona.

Looking to the Future Chhaya Sophya
The author and her brother, Chhaya, who co-owns Donut Parlor (also pictured above as children).
Photo: Donut Parlor

There was quite a bit of DIY when we started our business, as we didn’t have a lot of time or money. We did most of the construction on the shop, including making the donut display case above, as well as menu board and vinyl signs. We also built out the kitchen in the back.

We used GoDaddy’s GoCentral Website Builder to build our own website. Though I have web development experience, we decided to build our website using GoCentral because it was fast and easy-to-use. Our website is beautiful, and we’ve received many compliments from our customers!

Looking to the Future Donut
Donut Parlor serves donuts with toppings ranging from bacon to M&Ms and cereal.
Photo: Donut Parlor

Donut Parlor allows us to be creative, as our donuts are like little pieces of art. We offer fun donuts with cereal or candy on top that we call “breakfast on breakfast.” You can even get Donut Melts, which are donut ice cream sandwiches.

Our donuts are baked fresh daily on-site with high-quality ingredients. We also offer a wide variety of items like freshly brewed coffee, Thai iced tea, croissants, bagels and smoothies.

Things we gave up

There were many sacrifices our whole family made along the way. It’s a lot of hard work just to get the doors open. Baking starts at midnight, and we open our doors daily from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. It’s exhausting — there were countless days where we barely slept.

We all worked two jobs with long work days seven days a week. The term “weekend” didn’t exist.

We are a true family-owned business. I focus on the back-end of the business, which includes the website, online orders, emails, social media, accounting, paperwork, employee scheduling, payroll, etc. My brother, Chhaya, runs the business operations on-site and helps my dad bake; my mom helps with our customers.

We have the support from our family when things get hard. We stay motivated by seeing everything that we accomplished together so far — with so much more we want to do with our business. It keeps us going knowing that we are building something for our future generations to come.

4 tips from a family startup

Starting a business is never easy, but you have to keep looking to the future. These tips might help.

  1. Tell the world.

  2. Make a budget.

  3. Show gratitude.

  4. Keep going.

I think it’s safe to say no one really knows what they’re getting into when they decide to open a family business. Here’s what we learned.

1. Tell the world

Research the competitive market and understand how your business will differentiate from others. Then, find creative ways to grow your audiences — by word of mouth, promotions and an online presence that includes a website and active Instagram and Facebook accounts. We’ve also collaborated with many organizations, events and other restaurants to raise awareness of our business.

2. Make a budget

Create a budget plan for the business and leave ample room for unplanned expenses. If possible, get a mentor who is successful in the industry. Be clear on what you need to do for the business, how long it will take and the cost.

3. Show gratitude

Giving back to the community and helping those in need has been a given for us. We donate our leftover donuts to various charities and participate in volunteer events. We also collaborate with different organizations throughout Arizona’s East Valley to promote higher education, first responders and various community-building fundraisers. Donut Parlor will continue giving back to the community, as our family knows firsthand what it means to face adversity.

4. Keep going

It’s not easy starting up your own food business. There will be rough days with long hours. There will be days where you want to give up. Just keep moving forward and always give 100 percent. This is the opportunity to make your dream and passion a reality. The sky’s the limit.

Looking to the Future Donovan
The family line continues with the author’s first nephew, born a year after Donut Parlor opened.
Photo: Donut Parlor

When my mom was sick with cancer, our family had to put things on hold. Chhaya took a break from college and everyone had to work in the shop while she recovered. We are very fortunate for our family and friends to be there to help staff the shop when needed. We truly couldn’t have done it without every one of us.

Looking to the future every day

Starting a business with your family isn’t easy, but it is rewarding. No matter how long the day, these people you love will still be there with you at the end of it. Just remember to let the world know you’re open, make a budget and give back. And keep looking to the future no matter what.

Image by: Donut Parlor