She Turned Adversity into Opportunity by Starting a Mochi Donut Business with Her Family After Getting Laid off Work

The COVID-19 pandemic played a significant role in setting Nichole on her path towards entrepreneurship.

By Hannah Liza Tapan

May 27, 2023

Like many of us, Nichole Williscroft was caught off guard by the COVID-19 pandemic and was suddenly laid off from her corporate job. At this point in her life, she felt like she had nothing left to give, and she wasn’t sure what to do next. But instead of jumping right into another job, she allowed herself some much-needed rest and time to think.

It was during this period of reflection that Nichole’s creative juices started flowing again. Her sister came to her with a business idea, and she and her husband decided to take the plunge and say yes!

Instead of going for an opportunity to license with another company, they decided that they were tired of building other people’s kingdoms and wanted to have their own, take control of their own branding and their products.

The only catch is that they didn’t have any experience in running a restaurant or business in general. But despite all the challenges they faced, Nichole and her family were determined to make their dream a reality.

After two and a half years of research, building, and creating, they finally opened the doors to MochiDot Donuts, located in Phoenix, Arizona, on March 25th.

The first month has already been filled by overwhelming support from the local community. Nichole and her team are carving out their own little space in the competitive mochi donut market by focusing on their people, product, and place. They may not have the experience, but they have the passion and drive to make their family business a success.

MochiDot is run by a family of Asian Americans: Nichole (Korean-American), her husband Brian (Japanese-American), her sister Rebeckah (Korean), and Rebeckah’s husband James (Filipino).

LIFE BEFORE THE PANDEMIC

Looking back on her life before the pandemic, Nichole knew that there was a need for change. As an introvert who enjoys stillness, she felt that the routine and busyness of her pre-pandemic days had become dull and tiresome.

When the pandemic arrived, it brought about a new way of living that had its own set of challenges and moments of beauty. It disrupted her old routine and allowed her to reflect on herself and strengthen her bonds with loved ones.

She started going for more walks and spending quality time with her family. With fewer commutes and less unnecessary busyness, she found solace in the calm and stillness she enjoyed.

A BLESSING IN DISGUISE

“Getting laid-off was a gift,” Nichole said. It was a blessing in disguise. Prior to the layoff, she had faced disappointment when a promising opportunity slipped through her fingers.

Although the news wasn’t great at first, she now looks back with gratitude for the fresh start it provided. Embracing the situation, she saw it as an opportunity for personal growth and exploring new paths.

HOW IT ALL STARTED

The idea of MochiDot Donuts came about in a casual conversation within Nichole’s family. Her sister, Rebeckah, known for her visionary thinking and numerous ideas, came up to her and asked, “Hey, mochi donuts are becoming a thing in LA.. what do you think?”

Nichole, who had reached a point where she was ready to take a risk and venture into a new business, immediately saw the potential in the idea. She and her husband Brian said yes, and so MochiDot came to life.

Brian takes charge of the day-to-day operations, ensuring the smooth running of the business, and Nichole actively participates in the evenings and on weekends, personally serving delicious mochi donuts and assisting with various administrative tasks. While Brian handles the operational aspects, Nichole remains fully engaged in the business, dedicating her time and effort to ensure its success.

WHAT SETS THEM APART

What sets MochiDot apart from others is their commitment to providing an elevated experience for customers. They believe that their uniqueness lies in three key aspects: their people, their product, and their place.

Rather than relying on pre-made or mass-produced icings, Nichole and her team take the time to prepare their icings in small batches throughout the day. This hands-on process allows them to maintain a consistent level of freshness and flavor in their donuts.

But aside from their dedication to freshness and delicious products, MochiDot also actively showcases local artists and business owners to help build and foster the community.

“It’s not just about us!” Nichole said.

OVERCOMING CHALLENGES AND HURDLES

Nichole and her family faced a lot of challenges on all sides when they started running their business. These included opening the business remotely during a pandemic, dealing with tenant improvements and permits, managing labor, and introducing a new product to customers while educating them about mochi donuts.

But despite the challenges, they face a proactive and resourceful mindset that helps their business grow and succeed. “We’re a growing business so we expect challenges but the creative part is finding the solutions!” Nichole said.

NICHOLE’S ADVICE TO SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO START THEIR OWN BUSINESS

Find your why and keep it in front of you at all times.

This is what will keep you going when you’re facing a setback, receiving negative feedback, or when you’re just insanely exhausted.

CONNECT WITH NICHOLE

Website: mochidot.com

Instagram: @mochidotdonuts

Facebook: MochiDot Donuts

TikTok: @mochidotdonuts