Joanne Ellis and her business partner Lance Elwood opened Daylight Donuts with the specific goal of employing workers with disabilities.
That’s where the state funding comes in.
Ellis and Elwood applied for a grant and received $49,000 in federal stimulus dollars made available through the Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services. They used that money as part of a $500,000 total investment to open the first Daylight Donut shop in Virginia. It is one of 900 independently owned Daylight Donut locations in the U.S.
The shop opened on Saturday and now employs 25 workers, who are being trained on how to run the equipment and also how to work with disabled workers.
“We’re understanding the processes of making donuts and then we’ll start bringing folks with disabilities in and identifying tasks that are appropriate for them,” Ellis said.
Working with the disabled isn’t just a shot in the dark for Ellis and Elwood. The pair also owns Career Support Systems Inc., which provides employment support for people with disabilities. They decided to create a business that not only would be conducive to employing those with disabilities, but also make some money in the process.
“We liked donuts because, number one, we don’t have a donut shop in West End,” said Ellis.
The 2,500 square foot shop is located at 10260 W Broad St., near Cox Road and Innsbrook. There is competition nearby, but not right in the Short Pump area. Krispy Kreme is about 10 miles away down Broad Street and there is a Dunkin Donuts on Staples Mill Road.
Ellis also believes donuts are viable no matter the economic climate.
“Donuts are pretty recession proof because most people when they are cutting back can still afford an 89 cent donut,” she said.
Ellis and Elwood have been working on this venture for more than a year, she said. They considered several other types of businesses they thought would operate well with disabled workers, including a fitness facility franchise.
“We wanted to open a business where we can provide an environment where we’re flexible for people with disabilities.”
The disabled workforce locally is large, Ellis said and it’s a group not surprisingly with constantly high unemployment. They hope their Daylight shop will be “a platform for other small businesses to see that people with disabilities are a viable means for their workforce.”
Career Support Systems has placed disabled workers in libraries, grocery stores, restaurants, state offices, retail and other types of business, Ellis said.
“But the recession made it harder for us to find jobs for individuals.”
The company’s retail agreement helped seal the deal. Daylight retail owners don’t pay any franchise fees or royalties. They enter into a licensing agreement with Daylight Donut Flour in Tulsa, Okla., whereby they agree to purchase ingredients for making donuts from the company.
In turn, Ellis said she gets some help getting going.
That included training the staff, finding the right equipment and site location and development and setting up specifics on the back office side of the business.
“We just pay them for the product,” Ellis said.
Michael Schwartz is a BizSense reporter. Please send news tips to [email protected]