‘People need their jobs’: Donut D-Light shows concern for workers amid financial strain

For Donut D-Light owner Cindy Hicks, the success of her business is measured by the smiles put on people’s faces.

Hicks and her husband first opened shop in 2007 after looking for a new business venture. Today, Donut D-Light has expanded to two locations in Columbia with a mission to provide not only a tasty breakfast but support to its employees and those in need. With an overflow of donuts in the early years, Hicks said they decided to donate the extras at closing time to organizations like the Salvation Army for those in need.

“It’s something that comes from the heart,” Hicks said.

Donut D-Light is being honored with one of the inaugural Kindness in Business awards in the Kindness to Employees category. The awards recognize businesses and organizations that have shown and promoted kindness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn more about the Kindness in Business awards and meet the honorees.

Donut D-Light’s staff of about 18 includes Columbia youth employed through the city’s Parks and Recreation Department’s Career Awareness and Related Experience, or CARE, program. CARE provides at-risk youth between 14 and 20 years old with work experience and job readiness training by employing them at local businesses.

Hicks spoke with Missouri Business Alert about her shop and its response to the pandemic. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Missouri Business Alert: How does your business try to embody kindness?

Cindy Hicks: It’s something that’s got to come from the heart. We’ve got some amazing staff who are kind and helpful. From the very beginning, when we bought the business, it was struggling. There was a reason the owners were trying to sell. And so, at first, we would find that there were plenty of donuts left over at the end of the day, and we just tried to find who was in need and who we could help. We donated them to the Salvation Army Harbor House for breakfast, for example. During the pandemic, we posted on Facebook that if customers knew someone in need or someone who was laid off, they could take a couple donuts to them for free. When it comes from the heart, it just kind of spreads on its own.

MBA: What’s been a highlight or ray of sunshine during the last several months?

CH: The food industry, it’s a minimum-wage industry, and we had just some really great people work for us during the pandemic who were maybe out of jobs at this time for a short while. It’s nice to see that we’ve got people working for us that step up and care about what they do.

MBA: What adjustments has your business had to make due to the pandemic?

CH: As it was about to hit, we lost about 100% of our wholesale counts, and so we are kind of struggling now. But we said we would try to remain open during this time. And people need their jobs. We didn’t want to let anyone go during that time. Then when it came time for the city of Columbia’s CARE Program, we went ahead and said we would help out. Normally, we have about one or two kids, but this year we had about eight. So we had to create jobs for them. We fit the kids into the current staff we have.

We also thought about how we can help other people. And I thought about how I had this can of peaches in my refrigerator for a while that I was not going to eat. So, we started thinking about what we could put on the counter for others. People in the area may not have transportation to the food bank. What seemed like a natural thing to do is what we really tried to do.

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