We were so privileged to be invited to speak at the Free From and Allergy Show in Sydney in October 2023.
So many people at this event got to try a donut for their first time ever, or had not had a donut in many, many years.
Here’s an excerpt of the presentation by one of the four directors of OMG! Decadent Donuts, Diane O’Reilly:
I was talking to a lady the other day who managed an allergy family social media community page. She asked how OMG! Decadent Donuts came to have the level of allergy friendliness that we did. I told her truthfully that it was born from our goal to be inclusive. That we imagined a kids birthday party or an office morning tea or a family just cruising around a farmers’ market together where everyone could enjoy the same treat regardless of if they had a dietary requirement or not.
We didn’t want to see kids having to take their own ‘treats’ to a birthday party. Or for half the office to miss out on morning tea due to dietary requirements due to allergies, intollerances, beliefs or faith and being relegated to a token rice cracker and hummus dip on the side table. Food is such a basic thing – it’s something we all have to have to survive. And at the grass roots level, we didn’t want a ‘separate’ food – we wanted an ‘inclusive food’.
The lady I was talking to burst into tears. I’m quite used to people crying with happiness when they try our donuts for the first time. But she wasn’t eating a donut at the time. Turns out, the day previous she had dropped her 7 year old at a birthday party. She sat in her car outside the house in which the party was being held, for the duration – which was 3 hours – with EpiPen literally in hand, waiting for the call. Even though she’d briefed the host, because so many times previously, she’d had too many close calls with her anaphylactic child.
I can only imagine the stress of being an Allergy family. I’m a Mum, of many, mercifully, none are allergic to any foods – plenty of other things, but not food ingredients.
OMG! Decadent Donuts are a treat. Let’s be honest, it’s a ‘sometimes’ food. We call ourselves ‘the goodies with no baddies’ and we unashamedly and honestly let people know that we are not a health food – we’re a treat.
That just happens to be free free from gluten, dairy, egg, wheat, yeast, nuts and sulphites. With no artificial colours flavours or preservatives.
Our OMG! Business Owners all live local to the areas they do business in, and as a licensed business all money earned stays within those communities – it doesn’t go back to some big corporate in Seattle or somewhere. We are possibly the most highly certified fast food businesses in Australia. We’re multiple national and international award winners.
How OMG! got started in the world of donuts was with our sugars. My lovely co-director – David who is over there making donuts right now came up with it actually – we call him ‘The Ideas Man’. The sugars are unique to us and are blends of real fruits, vege and spices that are dehydrated, nothing added, and blended with sugar.
One day, David was eating a regular cinnamon donut and wondered why they were only ever dusted in cinnamon. I mean cinnamon tastes great – but why only one type of sugar?
He started playing with fresh fruits and blending them and coming up with funky combos. Then he bought some regular donuts, without sugar, and dusted them in his own creations. Turned out they tasted amazing.
David is anaphylactic to some foods – not foods you’d usually find in donuts – specifically shell fish. Prawn and crab donut – mmmm that’d be yummmmy. David’s had some close calls himself over the years with his food allergy, so you know – he gets it. It’s bloody scary.
David’s allergy is not what got us started on this path though. It was his life partner Andrew – also over there making donuts like a champion. Andrew can’t eat gluten or dairy.
David is very entrepreneurial and thought these funky fruit and vege sugars on donuts he’d been making might go well as a business – a side hustle perhaps to their regular jobs. At farmers markets on weekends.
But the problem was Andrew didn’t want to do it unless he could actually eat the donuts. Finding a donut mix that was both gluten and dairy free and which tasted great was problematic. The original brief, was to create just a gluten and dairy free mix – but along the way and working with a food technologist the desire was to create a treat that illuminated as many allergens as possible whilst still great tasting and with a beautiful texture.
So apart from gluten and dairy, they ended up also knocking out eggs, wheat, dairy, yeast and sulphites. Not only that, but they thought artificial colours, flavouring or preservatives were bad – so let’s get rid of them as well. All. Completely. Natural. AND they were vegan.
At his first market David made a whopping $96. No signage, no business name. But they knew quickly from customer feedback that they had this awesome product and can I tell you, these donuts really do taste amazing. They were working their day jobs, their home smelt like a pot pourri factory with David dehydrating fruits and spices and blending them up in the Nutri bullet and doing markets on weekends, but you know, earning some significant extra coin per week and having fun. So worth it.
I ran into David when shopping at a farmers’ market. David and I had been great friends and we had worked together over many years in various incarnations of our respective careers. He gave me a free donut that didn’t change the world, but changed my life. With a mouthful of that donut I uttered “Oh my Goodness”.
Which is actually what pretty much everyone says when they bite in to one of our donuts and is in fact how the business got its name. You kind of can’t believe that something that is free from so many of the things that make food taste great, particularly bakery items, really does taste this amazing.
I said “Mate, come over for dinner and pick my marketing brain and I will try and help you, for free, to take this amazing product further”.
So David and Andrew came over, and I am waffling on and on and on, as I am want to do, and banging on that they should maybe replicate with a franchise or some such. Then Steve, who is my lovely husband and also over there serving donuts today – dropped in to the conversation and said ‘babe, get out my sand pit, this is my area”. Steve’s a commercial lawyer. So just as friends I’m flogging David and Andrew with free marketing advice and Steve’s giving them free legal advice. As you do.
Steve asked David and Andrew, a very thought provoking question “If they were to replicate the business, what would you want to achieve?”. The dining room kind of went a bit quiet, and they were very clear. “We’d want to help people” they said “We’d want to help ordinary people start their own business, we wouldn’t want to be like a big brother franchise. We’d want to do business in a different way – in a kinder and friendlier way.”
Long long story short, and not changing the world yet – that night David and Andrew said well, let’s do that together, and so we did. And that was 5 years ago.
Born from our own core values, our first objective was to create an inclusive product that as many people as possible could enjoy. Obviously, food intolerances and allergies are super serious, so we set about putting checks and balances into the manufacturing process including ensuring that every batch of donut mix is independently lab tested to ensure cross contamination hasn’t occurred.
Then we set about getting certifications and accreditations from peak bodies such as Coeliac Australia and Vegan Australia.
We wondered if we were being inclusive enough, and so we also considered people’s cultural or religious beliefs then also sought and then received accreditation from Kosher Australia and the Halal Authority of Australia.
We kept thinking about the kids’ birthday parties and the office morning teas, where everyone could have the same treat.
We refined all our processes to ensure further safety. The donut mix is sealed in 1 kgs bags rather than in bulk. This is far more expensive to manufacture but means that literally no hands touch anything.
Whereas any 14 year old could work a donut machine, our licensees go through extensive training both with us and with our accreditation organisations.
Literally nothing gives us more joy than when we get to see a child who, due to allergies has never had a donut, or an adult who hasn’t had one for a long time – try one of our donuts for the first time. Sometimes people cry. It’s pretty special.
Our second very clear goal was and is to help people by providing a low cost business model that was less ‘big brother’ more ‘be your own boss’. It’s worked. We now have close to 70 OMG! Business Owners around Australia in the license model. Plenty of room for more though. We’re in Geraldton, Dubbo, Perth, Hobart, Cairns, Adelaide, Brisbane which is where we are all from, Noosa, Pambula Beach, East Gippsland. You name it.
We’re about to launch into New Zealand and then who knows where from there.
Each licensee is allocated a great region allowing them to operate in multiple locations simultaneously if they wish. Meaning there is the potential to grow it in to quite a substantial business. It’s low cost and very low risk.
About 70% of our OMG! business owners have been drawn to the business because either they or their child or someone close to them has some kind of food allergy or intolerance. Some operate in the business full time, some part time as a side hustle to other work or to parenting.
Many have decided to do this business for their financial future. Others have been motivated to do so to teach their kids at the coal face, about entrepreneurship and business. Some have had to press pause on their OMG business – because life got in the way somehow, like a new baby, or illness or whatever – that’s all good, they’re not locked in to a 5 year lease in a shop, they can do that.
The second thing that gives us great joy – apart from watching customers faces when they eat a donut when one of our licensees says to us – and these are actual examples – ‘I’m now able to afford a better school for my kids’, or ‘I’ve put in a pool’ or ‘We’ve paid off our mortgage’ or, and I love this one “I didn’t want to be on the bottom of the ladder, I wanted to own my own ladder” . Our OMG! business owners range in age from 24 to 74 years old.
We are not so presumptuous as to set KPIs for our licensees – they set their own goals. We sincerely believe that the definition of success is simply ‘achieving what you set out to achieve’ – if the goal is to make money – great- if the goal is to spend more time with your family and less time working – also great – if the goal is to spend less time working to spend more time lowering you golf handicap – no arguments here.
We love the journey of helping our OMG! Business Owners – most of whom have never had their own business before – become completely empowered by their experience. As we often say “you’re in business for yourself but not by yourself” and we help support and guide our licensees as much or as little as they want for the lifetime of their business. The business is really like a family.
All our licensees operate locally. They are independent local small businesses and they are active in their local community. 100% of what each earns stays within their local community – it’s not going back to some HQ in Seattle as it would with a franchise. With a licensed business, licensees pay no royalties.
It’s only taken me the entire time allocated today to get to the actual point. How can a donut change the world? You know, it’s only a donut. We didn’t invent donuts – they’ve been around for yonks. They’re even mentioned in Roman times – described as dough balls —–mmmm doughy balls, sounds delish.
So how the hell can we claim that a donut could change the world?
Well could it be that we do lots of fund raising as you can see on our giving page.
Green and Gold Athletes
Plant a Tree
As well as countless schools, sporting and community groups around Australia. But, nope, that’s not how we might change the world.
We’re a vegan product so maybe we’re changing the world by advocating plant based eating because It’s better for the environment. Could that be how we’re hoping to change the world?
It could be that, but it’s not.
I’ll tell you how our humble little donut is trying to change the world.
Through advocating inclusivity. We’re changing the world one donut at a time every single time one of our donuts is consumed by a child with allergies and they feel included at a birthday party or break-up day at school. Not just that child, the entire group of kids who are experiencing inclusivity, in an entirely delicious way. It’s only little, but it’s powerful.
Every time there’s a work morning tea, and the people following a diet based on their culture or religion – that’s everyone in the room experiencing inclusivity, one donut at a time.
Championing changing the worlds’ view of inclusivity via a donut – I’ll admit, it’s kinda quirky – but if everyone championed inclusivity, the world actually would be a different place.
To be honest – we at OMG! still have a long way to go, but we are trying to make a difference in two main ways…
1. By being considerate of people who have dietary requirements. Be it due to allergy and intolerance or because of their beliefs or culture. We think everyone should be able to feast from the same plate and for that plate to not just be a plain old plate of carrots. We are also trying to educate other food businesses that accreditations and certifications and processes are important in ensuring the safety of others.
2. By proving that business can be done differently. In a kinder way that is more respectful and mindful of, I guess, if you think about it – what life is all about.
As mentioned earlier – at David’s first market he made $96, that equates to about 30 donuts – last year Australia wide – our OMG! lovely business owners produced a collective 2,800,000 donuts – throughout Australia.
So we figure that we’re getting there, with this one donut at a time palaver – this world changing business takes a while. There are 7.8 billion people in the world, so we’ve got a ways to go.
If you’d like to help us achieve our goal of improving inclusivity through a donut – simply give us a like, write a review, tell your friends – and ask about becoming an OMG Decadent Donuts business owner in your community.