The Idea for Hurts Donut actually began with a single shaved ice business that founders Tim and Kas Clegg inherited from Tim’s father. After operating the shaved ice shop for a few years, the couple decided to also open a business that would bring in money regularly year-round. Utilizing Tim’s branding know-how from a past career in advertising and Kas’ social media and marketing expertise, the Cleggs opened Hurts Donut, an eclectic doughnut shop in Springfield, Missouri.
Today, the brand boasts 21 units, each serving up an astounding 77 flavors of doughnuts a day. Customer favorites include the Maple Bacon Bar, the Jesús (white cake doughnut with vanilla, cinnamon, sugar, and caramel drizzle), the kids’ Cookie Monster (blue like the favorite “Sesame Street” character with icing eyes), and—Tim’s choice—the Oreo Cheesecake doughnut. The Cosmic Brownie is so named for its resemblance to the Little Debbie treat, while the Cotton Candy variety is bright pink and blue with a small tuft of cotton candy in the doughnut hole. Hurts also whips up classics including another of Tim’s favorites, the old-fashioned, glazed, sour cream doughnut.
Founders: Tim and Kas Clegg
Headquarters: Springfield, Missouri
Year started: 2014
Annual sales: $20 million-plus
Total units: 21
Franchised units: 19
Many of the over-the-top selections are playfully promoted on the brand’s website. The doughnuts become co-subjects in ’80s-style glamour headshots. Think: mullets, big glasses, and scrunchies galore. Beyond the gargantuan selection, the doughnuts themselves are double the size of the mom-and-pop standard. “We maximize the size of our products,” says Tim Clegg. And then there’s the unusual name, which is a pun. (When asking someone if he wants a doughnut, the inquirer can reply with a light punch, “Hurts, don’t it?”)
The brand’s high-energy brand persona is matched in its locations. “It’s been referred to as the Hard Rock Café of doughnut shops,” Clegg says. The music is loud, the space is adorned in bright colors, and customers are encouraged to stay and mingle with each other. “We eliminate [TVs] from our shops to try to invoke a spirit of community and conversation,” he says.
And since the brand invites customers to stick around, locations are on the larger side, ranging from around 2,000 to 5,000 square feet, with the brand’s sweet spot at around 3,500 square feet. The addition of a new espresso line will also bring drive thrus to many new Hurts locations.
For a brand that got its start in Midwest America less than six years ago, growth has been strong. The first Hurts location opened in November 2013 in Springfield, with the second following just a short seven months later in Norman, Oklahoma. “Once we opened the doors, we knew we were really onto something,” Clegg says. “We started expanding internally right away and were ready to expand quickly.”
Front-loading the team in anticipation of this growth was an important move. Now the brand boasts training materials to onboard new franchisees. “We really invested back into the company,” he says. Hurts started to franchise in July 2015 and has since opened 19 franchised locations.
The strategy thus far has been to cluster restaurants, boosting brand recognition and awareness for already-existing stores. The team began by adding locations along the I-35 corridor that goes from Wichita, Kansas, to Houston. Now Hurts has locations in cities like Des Moines, Iowa; Tempe, Arizona; and Middleton, Wisconsin. “The real challenge is, Where can you put these and be the most successful?” Clegg says. “Because we know we could be successful anywhere. Where can we maximize our chances for success?” The target areas for Hurts are close to family destinations like malls, science centers, and parks. Following that guide, the company hopes to open 12 new stores in 2019.
As opposed to other larger-than-life doughnut chains, Hurts has something for every price range, Clegg says. “We have products that are low-priced, just over a dollar. There’s something for all demographics, all income levels,” he says.
As the brand grows, Hurts wants each shop to maintain that local, accessible feel. “We don’t want to feel like a big corporate chain, so we make sure that whenever we select franchisees, they are owner-operators, present in the store, and well-known as the local owners,” Clegg says. The brand’s social strategy follows this local impulse, too, with each individual location boasting its own Facebook handle.
But the most impactful initiative adding to the local feel is Hurts’ commitment to give back to its communities. “We have a very charitable business model where we’ve donated hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past five years to charities such as the National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society,” he says. The MS Society is an especially meaningful cause for Clegg, who has MS. “It’s been really exciting to watch all our other owners jump on board and be as supportive as our corporate stores supporting that charity and other charities that are near and dear to them,” he says.
Being open and available to the communities Hurts serves is important to the Cleggs. “Whenever there’s any sort of tragedy that might take place in someone’s community, we try to be the first to step up and offer a doughnut shop of healing, so to speak,” Clegg says. “You have a place to come together as community.”