Like most kids her age, 11-year-old Gracee Gallegos loves dogs and horses, enjoys gaming, bike rides, horseback riding, boating trips to the lake and she’s a talented artist. And now, she can add young business entrepreneur-in-the-making to her ever expanding list of talents.
When her dad Michael Gallegos bought the local donut shop, Desert Donuts in Tramonto Marketplace, last spring, he did so with the goal of teaching his daughter the fundamentals of owning a business and to simply spend more time together.
The fact that the lesson could be centered around owning and operating a donut shop together has been the proverbial icing on the cake for the father and daughter duo.
When the sixth grader isn’t attending school through her private online academy or engaging in a pasttime, she’s gaining hands-on experience in business ownership, management and operations in a fun way, and even more importantly, she is seeing the ups and downs and tough decisions that come alongside business ownership.
“She still gets to be a kid, but I’ve been making it easy her whole life, so now she is getting a first-hand experience of what it’s really like to own a business,” says Michael.
The donut wall at the shop features more than 70 varieties to choose from, with endless toppings and flavor combinations, many of which were named by Gracee herself. Batter is made fresh throughout the day, but where Desert Donuts differs from the competition is that the donut creations are prepared made-to-order right in front of the customer and served warm.
Once the cake base is selected, the sweet creation can be customized from there— whether that be a simple combo with icing and one topping, or next level flavors like the coffee cake donut, which Gracee helped create—featuring espresso icing, cinnamon sugar and finished with a cream cheese drizzle. Either way, the end result is a warm sweet treat made the customer’s way.
Besides helping with flavor creations and the naming process for the donuts, Gracee’s influence is clearly part of the vibe from the moment you enter the shop. Decorated in bright, cheery colors, the shop features a mural inspired by Gracee, along with a wall where patrons can share their happy thoughts in writing with dry erase markers.
Besides donuts, other popular menu items include donut shakes (a literal shake with a donut served on the straw), donut sundaes, breakfast bowls with donuts, eggs, cheese, bacon to name a few toppings, ice cream, and coffee creations made with locally roasted beans.
And while Michael admits when he bought the place, he originally only had plans to own the one donut shop, but because of its unique concept, he and Gracee have big plans for future growth. At the time of this writing, Michael and Gracee were working on securing a shop location in Flagstaff and hope to open another location in the Lake Pleasant area of Peoria soon as well.
Franchising is also part of the growth plans within the next five years.
“It’s so exciting to have her learn about the process at her age. She has grown so much since buying the shop… she’s been a part of the higher level franchise meetings, hiring decisions, marketing and management,” says Michael.
Giving back to the community has also been an ongoing lesson to his daughter since a young age. Every week, Desert Donuts helps feed the homeless through Trevor’s Vision, and they also plan to support other charities with donations for causes such as Parkinson’s and autism.
But besides all the fun in the donut creation process and the time she dedicates to helping with the business, Gracee says the best part is simply “spending time with my dad.”
3134 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix
Hours Daily: 7 a.m.–4 p.m.
If you know a young entrepreneur in the community, write to us at [email protected] for consideration in a feature article in an upcoming edition of Valley Vibe.
By Karen Goveia