Dum Dum is an artisan concept with big commercial ambitions. In the latest edition of our Founders’ Forum series, Finn Scott-Delany hears how Paul Hurley has crafted a brand with a long shelf life.

Dum Dum Donutterie is preparing to push the button on expansion six years after it was launched – though founder Paul Hurley’s work with doughnuts stretches back much longer than that.

One of his first jobs 20 years ago was with the UK franchisee of Dunkin’ Donuts, where he rose through the ranks to become head of operations.

Later he and his mentor went off on their own to create Demon Donuts, supplying supermarkets and high street brands, which set Hurley on a path of creating “the best doughnut in the world”.

This life’s work has all contributed to the creation of Dum Dum, an artisan-minded brand with a commercial outlook. Hurley hopes to open 15-20 sites next year.

“We are unique product that’s hopefully attractive,” Hurley tells MCA. “I’m an artisan chef and very anal about what we do. We don’t take ourselves very seriously, but we take what we do very seriously.

“I’m very commercially minded. I don’t want a product which we just sell from a small unit in Shoreditch. I want the world to know about us.

“A lot of companies call themselves artisan, but the question is how do you turn that into a viable business and brand that lasts? I want us to learn from the commercial brands, like Krispy Kreme and McDonalds, but keep our artisan values.”

Like better burgers, and the reclaiming of a fast food product into something much more gourmet, Hurley’s doughnut mission has a similar angle to make the American staple more guilt-free.

“Everyone likes doughnuts,” he said. “But you don’t necessarily want to give them to your kids because they’re full of junk, and you don’t want to be seen eating them because you get called a lard arse.

“I wanted to improve them, but keep them as indulgent products.”

Against industry advice, Hurley developed a good-tasting baked doughnut, less greasy than the deep-fried versions.

Another star product which has remained a Dum Dum staple is the doughnut-croissant hybrid, the cronut, a nod to his time spent working in patisseries in France.

Savvy operator

With the patented product perfected over years, the brand needed to be internationally accessible and the name Dum Dum was chosen for its lack of meaning and potential to appeal broadly across ages and borders.

And when it comes to marketing, Hurley has been savvy operator, getting lots of exposure with little spend.

YouTube star vlogger Zoella is a fan and has give Dum Dum plenty of exposure, while publicity stunts involving a £1,500 caviar-studded cronut won headlines and social media chatter.

“We are lucky that a lot of PRs want to work with us on product launches, and we will end up doing doughnuts with their logos on, or funny colours.

“It was definitely in my mind things were going in the social media direction. The doughnuts are designed to be Instagrammable but also taste good.”

Having established Dum Dum in five UK stores – four in London and one in Brighton (as well as four franchises in the Middle East) – Hurley has a further four

UK sites lined up: Intu Lakeside, Euston and London Bridge railway stations and Westfield White City, which are opening either this year or early next year.

His next step is to work with KPMG to sign up experienced multi-site franchisees to kick-start regional rollout.

He is targeting shopping centres, travel hubs and high footfall urban locations with flagship corporate stores to open alongside the franchises, with the aim of signing up three to four franchise operators who can open 20-30 sites each.

Hurley is also preparing to launch a fund in the coming weeks, which he describes as a chance to invest in Dum Dum without getting involved in operations.

“We have partners in the Middle East who would like to invest in us the UK”, he says. “They want to be a part of Dum Dum. It’s a fund for people who want to invest but don’t want to operate.

“There will be an initial round of funding for those people, with a set amount of money to open, say, 20 stores.”

When it comes to dominant doughnut brand Krispy Kreme, Hurley sees no problem with Dum Dum operating alongside it in shopping centres, with its higher price point, more premium, artisan product and different customer base.

He also hopes to take influence from Dunkin’ Donuts, which sells more coffee than doughnuts and is one of the biggest coffee retailers in the world – an area Hurley sees as having great potential for growth.

“Coffee and doughnuts is a really American thing, so we’re updating our coffee offer,” he says.

“Everyone has their coffee their set way, so we will have expresso and syrups, but filter coffee is a big trend we are looking at. Sometimes people don’t like the nonsense, they just want a straight-up coffee.”

■ The Founders Forum is MCA’s quarterly networking club for emerging entrepreneurs. For details visit www.mcafoundersforum.