Owner, Jeff Herman
5162 Government Street
“Fry it and they will come”
Jeff Herman is out to make Baton Rouge a better city, a half-dozen gourmet Deaux-nuts at a time.
“If you ever want to start a business, don’t think how hard can it be, just think it’s going to be the hardest thing you ever do in your life,” Jeff advises.
Jeff graduated from LSU with a degree in management and a concentration in entrepreneurship and small business. His plan was to start and build small businesses as his career. Jeff says, “I used my business classes to write a business plan and a start up plan. I got a working capital loan, used my savings, and had some help from my parents. It took me five months, and a significant investment before I could make my first doughnut. This is the definition of insanity.”
The donut shop idea came to Jeff one Sunday morning. He wanted a donut and the nearest available shop was Mary Lee donuts with standard donut fare. Jeff realized Baton Rouge lacked a quality specialty donut shop and there were no donut shops near campus. He had found his idea, a campus-area shop featuring gourmet donuts. Jeff says, “This was a needed business venture I could execute on reasonable investment. ‘How hard could it be to build a better doughnut shop?’ ” He found out.
When Jeff began the process of turning an idea into a business, he found it is a long and expensive process. He turned to current innovative donut shops for ideas and inspiration, such as Voodoo donuts in Portland Oregon. “They were innovative, but not culinary unique. Voodoo is not just a donut shop; they made donuts fun and interesting. They gave the donuts names and decorated them to be remembered; you remember which donut you ordered there,” Jeff says.
They created a brand, something Jeff wanted to do in Baton Rouge. You would go out for “the donut” not just a donut. Jeff wanted to go for quality, not convenience. He wanted to put thought and creativity into his product. The experience should be fun and ‘rememberable’. I want everyone who takes a bite of my doughnuts to say ‘wow,’ to think about what they’re eating. That’s what any good food should be. You remember the name of the store and the product and want to go back.”
“When I set out to start Tiger Deaux-nuts, my dream wasn’t to wake up at 3 o’clock every morning to make donuts; my dream was to build businesses.” Jeff opened his Tiger Deaux-nut shop in 2012 on Jones Creek road. He was only open on Saturday and would sell out of donuts by 9 or 10 o’clock. His plan was to open full time after building a customer base, and developing a product they wanted. Jeff managed to bootstrap his startup Tiger Deaux-nuts into a thriving, yet almost secret, grassroots business.
The Deaux-nut flavors include bacon-maple, key lime pie, peanut butter and chocolate, bananas foster, apple pie, mint chocolate chip, vanilla jalapeño, s’mores and red velvet cake donuts. Some seasonal flavors are pumpkin spice, orange cranberry pecan and white chocolate peppermint.
“I was not reinventing anything, not creating a new product; I was taking something that’s outdated and putting some effort, and thought, and creativity into it. Consumers want lagniappe, they want something extra, and they’re willing to pay for it too,’’ Jeff says.
Jeff always had the idea to have his shop in Baton Rouge areas where people are forward thinking, and people in the neighborhood match what he was thinking, yet they geographically lack a donut shop. In January, 2015, Jeff realized his long-term goal to move closer to his customers. He moved his operation to 5162 Government Street in Mid-City. He is now located in the building formerly known as Phil’s Oyster Bar. He is open from 6:00 AM to noon Tuesday through Friday, 7:00 AM to 1:00 PM on Saturday and Sunday and closed on Monday. Now he has space where he can brew coffee to pair with his Deaux-nuts. The relocation also allows him to have an expanded breakfast menu, space for customers to “eat in”, and the possibility to expand his hours and his menu. Jeff wanted to add something to bring people in without compromising the product he already has. He created a breakfast sandwich; it comes with boudin, bacon or sausage, egg and cheddar cheese on a fried crispy Deaux-nut bun. The boudin is made in house. Jeff says, “We are probably the only donut shop that makes its own boudin. It has been very well received by our customers. We could brand our business with it. ”
Jeff has learned the demand for donuts falls as you get closer to lunch. For lunch people want protein and sides so it is not financially feasible to be open all day. He wants to continue to build the business and learn what he can offer on the menu to bring people in all day.
Jeff says, “My business is better since I stopped being the baker. It’s really taking off. I knew that it would; Baton Rouge is a culinary town. I have the greatest staff in the city, two full-time staff and one part-time. One is a pastry chef and the other has over a decade in top restaurants. We are a great team, we work well together, and our strengths complement each other.”
When asked about starting his business, Jeff says, “You always need a plan in place in the back of your mind, I need to know where I want to be; what I knew five years ago changes. Some of it is learning as I go, growing up as I go, what is realistically important to me now may not have been when I started. I’m changing my plan as I go. I am taking opportunities as they come. Tiger Deaux-nuts has grown into something that does not fit the plan I originally had.”
When asked for advice on starting a business, he compares it to running a mile. “Starting a business is like running a mile; it is not what you envision. You drive a mile and say, I can do this, you envision it in your head and then you start running. You take a few steps and say ‘This is easy’, then you get into it and it becomes hard, you become fatigued; the reality of running is not what you expected. Do I have the motivation to finish? Some people trip and never finish the race; you must adapt and keep running the mile. The ones who start a business and make it work are those who push through and finish. You can’t plan for everything when you build a small business.’’
Jeff is a member of the Baton Rouge area chamber, but is currently not very active. He is still learning how to balance running the business and doing other things. He has found there are a lot of things that need to be done for the business when it is not open.
When asked about the future of Baton Rouge, Jeff says “I started my business here; I stayed after graduation from LSU because I believe Baton Rouge has a future. What I have seen as progress and growth in the city since I have been here is pretty unbelievable. I can be an example of someone who wanted to stay. As long as the city provides the fundamentals, Baton Rouge can grow and become a first class city. The vision for the city will match what is happening, there is a lot of work ahead of us, and this is a very exciting time for Baton Rouge.”
On libraries, Jeff says, “Baton Rouge has one of the world class library systems in the world. For Baton Rouge to grow and progress as a city, these resources are very important. We need to catch up to other cities and surpass them. It is fun to come to a library like this. I came as a child but not so much as I got older.”
“The library system gives a community an opportunity to grow and move forward. It is a place to meet people and is a great community center. I am excited that the library continues to grow and has plans for a new facility downtown. The library continues to plan for the future, for the new trends, digital books, computers, 3D technology and who knows what else is in the future.”
Jeff says, “I went straight from graduating to running and building a business. Taking a full time job out of school would have been selling myself short and I might have become too comfortable to move on. I am happy with where I am now; I enjoy what I am doing.”
Jeff tells us the Maple Bacon King cake will be back on Jan 2, 2016. He recommends you place your order early because they sell out fast!