Intro: (00:00:00) Hey guys, welcome to Asian Hustle Network Podcast, my name is Bryan and my name is Maggie. We interview Asian entrepreneurs around the world to amplify their voices and empower Asians to pursue their dreams and goals. We believe that each person has a message and a unique story from their entrepreneurial journey that they can share with all of us.
Maggie: (00:00:23) Welcome to the Asian Hustle Network podcast. Today, we have a very special guest with us, her name is Mayly Tao is LA’s self-proclaimed Donut Princess, owner of Donut Princess Los Angeles, a donut bouquet delivery concept. She is the host of her podcast Short N’ Sweet: A Donut Princess Podcast where she explores the mindset, women empowerment, and small business tips! You can find her ”Securing the Box” at @donutprincessla. She stars in the Donut King Documentary, as seen on Hulu and across domestic flights across the US. She also has her own YouTube where she visits Cambodian-owned donut shops and highlights their stories. She hopes to elevate Asian American voices and representation and vows to create a legacy for the next generation of Asian Americans. Mayly welcome to the show.
Mayly: (00:01:08) Thank you so much for having me guys.
Bryan: (00:01:12) We were so excited to happy to show, and I want to start by saying thank you so much for being a part of the Asian Hustle Network, Uplifted Book. A lot of people love your story, and that’s the reason why we have it as the first chapter, thank you so much for that.
I guess for this podcast, I want to continue off that story and for the listeners who are listening, please check out the book It’s amazing, but I want to hop into things that are going on right now. We saw a Facebook post, about a huge transition, and I want to let you talk a little bit more about that transition and what was the decision?
Mayly: (00:01:49) A lot of you guys might know me as the owner of DK’s donuts and for those of you who don’t know my story, I grew up in my family’s business. DK’s donuts and a little bit about our history is my great uncle, Ted. He opened up hundreds of donut shops for Cambodian refugees in the seventies and eighties.
When my parents came over as Cambodian refugees, they started by making donuts! If you can imagine walking into a donut shop and seeing six-year-old me standing on a milk crate, helping my parents give change, sitting over there on those retro yellow and orange seventies type of chairs.
It was a family business that was my life and spent a lot of my time there on the weekends. I would help my parents. And I know a lot of you can relate if you grew up in a family business, that it is your livelihood are there all the time, it’s your daycare. And thank God for our hardworking parents who can create a business and support us through it all.
After I graduated from UCSD where my mom heavily pushed me to be a news reporter and I had internet and a news station and I realized that I hated it. I came back to LA and I was just trying to break the news to her, I told her I don’t think this is for me and so at the time my mom and my brother were like we need help at the shop.
Why don’t you come in and help again? And I have this very vivid memory of me going into the shop and just staring out the window and being like, is this, is this what I did? I just wasted my whole college education on communications and I’m not even going to do anything with it.
I’m back here again and I thought, you know what? I have a vision for what DK’s should be and I want everyone to know that DK’s donuts have the best donuts in the entire world and I’m going to tell everybody about it. I used my marketing skills and learned a lot of things along the way, and pretty much blew up DK’s donuts on social media.
You guys might remember in 2013, the half croissant, half donut craze, we won’t say the word, but you know, it is a trademark pastry that I decided to be the first one in LA to me. I think that put us on the map. We started adding a ton of new flavors to our menu of these like specialty caliber, which includes the world’s first tube donut.
I mean, can you imagine, trying to explain Ube to a white person? Like they thought they were like, oh, it’s an Ube donut, but it’s not so along with other creative ways to express. We started incorporating lots of other items like our letter doughnuts and Texas-sized donuts.
Along the way, I never saw that there would be any end to the DK’s donuts dynasty. My mom is such a hard worker and her. This is like her baby and anytime anybody wouldn’t show up for work, she was there all holidays. She was there. I was there and we ground and hustled together as a team.
She did a lot of things in the back. I handled the front and I built a lot of relationships along the way. :ast fall, she told me I’m ready to retire and I want to sell the shop. I was super heartbroken and so in my feelings of, oh my God, I just built this thing for the past X amount of years.
This, this business has been in my family for so long. So what will life be like without it? What is my identity? Who am I even without the shop? I spent a little bit of time with my feelings, but then I realized like this isn’t about you. This is about your mom. My mom is tired and luckily, she has the common sense to understand her body, her physical body. Like she would say my hands hurt, my feet hurt everything hurts and she’s still doing everything in the kitchen. Like she’s not even like kind of delegating. She is delegating, but she’s just in it, like doing everything as if she’s the only person working with.
In the past decade, she worked at other donut shops that were in my family and she was the only person to do that. That includes washing the dishes, which turn like very heavy trays and everything taking out the donuts in the kitchen, and doing everything. Eventually, we found a buyer and we sold the shop at first we didn’t want to be public about it.
She’s like let’s lay low and for me, I just kind of felt like I was living like this double life. People be like, so how’s the shop doing? I’m like, oh, it’s great. But I sat down with my mom and I told her, that for me to move on, like, I need some closure.
I need to be honest with people about what’s going on in my life and what I’m up to. I just can’t like to continue to like, just live in this and I think that’s a very Asian thing too. It’s like, you don’t tell everybody your business. But for me, like, I think that there’s something special about sharing this journey with a lot of other people.
I asked her to sit down with me and give a very personal goodbye slash announcement, which you guys can see in the YouTube video that I posted in AHN. Where I also tell people of these big life changes in my life. We sold the shop. My mom’s retired and it’s been an interesting journey of trying to figure out what is next for me.
I’m not sure what will hold in the future. I’ve decided to create my agency. I’ve decided to create my own in-home care business. I’ve also continued to look into the mobile IB business. So really just expanding my horizons of multiple streams of income and just seeing what that’s like.
And then, and it’s okay that it’s in different industries because I mean, this is my chance to start from like zero, which is pretty cool at this age. So basically I’m exploring, and navigating these waters and that’s my big life change.
Maggie: (00:08:59) Wow. I got chills just hearing you share with us that story. It’s so refreshing to hear and shout out to your mom for working so hard and shout out to the relationship that you have with your mom. It’s so incredibly special and you and her mom have built such an empire with DK’s donuts and created opportunities for Cambodian refugees.
I’m sure that this milestone and the stepping through for you to like close down the shop or sell it, I’m sure you went through a lot of stages of like and going back to your own identity, you know, who am I? You were known as the donut princess and now that that’s kind of gone you have to like go back and reflect and see like, who am I? Like, what do I want to do? But you’re so talented.
It’s so incredible to be incredibly beautiful and I’ve never seen donuts like that before, and it’s still delicious as well. So. I just want to say props to you and your mom for building such an incredible empire. Thank you.
Bryan: (00:10:27) Your stories resonate with me a lot and in particular where your family shop also served as a daycare center when we were growing up. For reference, my parents had an appliance store that closed down last year. We didn’t even get an opportunity to sell it because the pandemic took us out. So like the transition period, I’m seeing my parents go through it and I kind of went through it too. I was extremely sad and like typical Asian fashion. They don’t tell me what is right. It’s like, oh yeah, we’re close. They’re just like, so bro, our generation is like, you need to talk about our feelings a little bit more, frankly speaking, and be honest with other people.
But I want to focus more on that initial feeling, like, oh man, how do you find your new north star and your new identity?
Mayly: (00:11:49) I’m sorry to hear about your parent’s appliance store. A lot of businesses did not make it through COVID. It’s just so sad how many businesses just didn’t make it in?
Seeing my mom go through this big transition for her, like our parents are fighters is just something. It’s hard for them to, and it’s a lot of pride. I think that’s not talked about like how prideful our parents are not in like an arrogant way, but like I was able to do this and stick with it. As you guys see in the YouTube video that I posted, I wasn’t expecting my mom to start crying.
That was out of nowhere, I felt bad. I was like, oh my God, I caused her to cry. Um, but when she was talking. I think for her, it became a present. That she had finally let go of a business. She started 40 years ago, and this is her spending all of her time in this place, along with all the amazing people that we’ve met along the way, there are so many regulars that we call our second family and they’ve been looking for us.
With a business, so many things can happen. You can have, you can be 10 p.m. and somebody could call up for work the next day and you need that person who else is there to step up. It’s our parents and when that multiplies over and over again, like in the pandemic, we lost like 10 employees on one day sometimes. And so it’s like, those things are so hard for them because they take full responsibility for it. So to see that and not have that responsibility anymore and define new ventures or new hobbies. I mean, it’s kind of refreshing. I never thought I would be able to see that part of them. I’ve seen her stress levels go down a lot. She was constantly stressed about the shop and now I get to see her and she’s a lot calmer. She’s more relaxed and she’s. Doing our own thing and it’s great to see like it’s true freedom at this point.
Maggie: (00:15:57) I was just amazed at what you were saying because that applies to so many of our parents and I think Bryan can attest to this too. Bryan always tells me that his parents never go on vacation and I think a lot of our parents go through the same thing because they always constantly have to think about work and providing for their children and making sure they have food on the table.
Once they retire, then they’re like, okay, like, why didn’t I do this sooner? Because there’s so much missed out time that they were able to have with their family, with their kids and that didn’t have that quality time until it’s too late or maybe like they grow old, they look back and they say like I wish I did this sooner.
So I’m so glad that your mom came to that realization. What you say about the American dream is that is really what they came to this country for and oftentimes, a lot of our parents don’t get that opportunity because they have to work so hard for their family, but it’s just amazing what your mom has been through. It’s just so resilient and she’s such a fighter.
Mayly: (00:17:13) we went out to lunch with my uncle Ted. He was here in America and we’re at this Cambodian restaurant and the lady was like, you guys are sisters. Like, how do you do it? I don’t know how my mom does it. She’s ground for her whole life and she looks amazing. I think it’s the Asian genes.
Bryan: (00:17:31) props to your mom and find your new identity. Like Maggie said it’s very relatable watching our parents’ stress levels fall dramatically.
I want to hear more about like, you find your own new identity and about this agency, can you talk a little more about that?
Mayly: (00:18:24) I think what we don’t realize as the children of immigrant parents is we are their legacy. Like their kids are their legacy and everything that we do and the grandkids that they’re always asking for they’re the living legacy. They have sacrificed everything so that we could live our best lives. I think people kind of miss the mark on that part of like the relationship between their parents. It was only until like my late twenties, and early thirties, that I started to even develop a new relationship with my mom of seeing her, not only as my mom, but she’s as my homie, she was like my ride or die.
I think that we all forget that our upbringing of us is very harsh. I don’t know about you guys, but it was very harsh for me, but it was just to train us to be, or be so efficient and productive and be great human beings. And to answer your other question, how did I find to like this new kind of golden star as you mentioned before.
My partner, Jesse, and I talk a lot about business and he’s also super business savvy and has helped to guide me into knowing there are other ways to make money than grinding, super hard.
And so he’s been a big inspiration for me to like work smarter and not harder. We stumbled upon this opportunity together and I’m currently taking my license and got all the credentials and I’m ready to rock and roll. If you guys want to hear more about it, it’s kind of a lot to talk about, but definitely, DM and I’d be happy to share with you, but pretty much it’s finding that there’s an opportunity.
And industry and seeing the co the compensation structure and knowing that I have all the skills possible to make it happen, even though it’s a completely new industry that makes me feel confident that I’m going to be able to crush it in this industry. I’ve been in this like tunnel vision of donuts for like my entire life thinking like, that’s the only way I’m going to do it, but you can always reinvent yourself. You can always try something new and I mean, we have the internet guys, like, this is like the thing this is the biggest tool of mankind that we could use to our advantage.
Bryan: (00:21:20) Yeah, just for clarification. What does the agency do again?
Mayly: (00:21:25) It’s an agency for life insurance. So pretty much bringing and helping families find the policies that are suitable for them and it’s cool because I think in the past, when people have thought about life insurance they’ve been approached by friends and family who are kind of poaching them.
These are leads that. People who are interested and want it and I think that because of the whole pandemic, people are wondering, like what’s going to happen when I die and what’s going to happen to my friends and family, when I die, what am I going to leave for them? What’s the legacy for them.
I think with the changing times and how everything’s structured, that’s the agency that I’m going to be creating. So I think also if I’m confident that I can do it and have never even been in the industry, why not also bring people who are interested too, who don’t want to grind, like how I did before, and celebrate together when we have this new, like the quality of life that is provided when you explore a new industry.
Maggie: (00:22:32) Thank you so much for sharing that and for clarifying. I mentioned I’m so glad you went through that realization because you’re so talented and for you to like, recognize it’s about entrepreneurship, it’s about like possessing multiple streams of income.
So now that you were a second-time founder, now that you’re doing this for the second time around, like, what were the things that you learned from DK’s donut?
Mayly: (00:23:42) Oh, my gosh, like so many things, when you’re a business owner, you learn and as Gary V says, you know, entrepreneurs eat shit every day. That’s just something that you got to know that if you see these business people and they’re having a great life like they’re not showing you what’s going on. I mentioned before you’ve got to make sure that you have the right team. I think that’s like rule number one, have people who have experience on your team.
I’ve learned too is in partnerships, some partnerships sound good, but they’re not great at all, and in these partnerships, you want to put yourself in the best position possible.
If you’re starting your own business, you want to have the right people on your team. That means like choosing the nerdiest most experienced people and having them be right by your side, learning how much to pay people. That’s a big thing that I learned, definitely overpaid some people when I started donut princess and I had to learn the hard way, but, you know, have really like a thing that I learned behind that is to solve that.
It’s just a conversation and doesn’t be afraid to explore other options. A lot of the times we’re very attached to certain people or the way things have to be, but you could keep an open mindset and kind of, I think a big thing also is I guess the third thing is, you know, interview people who are in the same industry as you.
As I’m going to go to coffee or lunch and just pick their brain you don’t want to be making the same mistakes that they’ve already made. There’s just like so much, like I’m trying to think of the best things, you know, look into your network. There are so many people, there’s so much fear that I feel like people are kind of hiding behind of like, not lying to start or afraid to jump into an industry. You have a lot of tools behind you. You have a great network of people who are cheering you on and if you just ask for help, that is a huge, piece of advice that I tell people don’t be afraid to ask for help.
I guess the last thing is consistency and have been building a social media following for decades. I was super consistent. I started when it was zero it’s at 90K right now. I remember before you could plan your posts on social media. I would be so committed to posting every day or multiple times a day. I’d be like out of Vegas day club and like being like, hold on, guys, I need to do this thing real quick. That’s how dedicated I was to consistency.
Maggie: (00:27:44 I love the story about you finding time to post on Instagram.
Bryan: (00:27:50) I could relate to that too many times where I’m like doing something fun. We’re about the border airplane or something, or like waking up super early or waking up in the middle of the night in a different country. It’s made sure we make time to post.
Mayly: (00:28:30)That’s the dedication that you have to be so consistent that you know you can’t miss it.
Bryan: (00:28:37) I agree with everything you said too. It’s like mindset. how do you know which opportunity is right for you?
Mayly: (00:29:37) Spotting different opportunities just comes from like looking at the trends of what’s out there, going online, doing research, asking people who are entrepreneurs themselves, what they’re up to, what their margins are, what their lifestyle is like. I think a big part of choosing those specific industries that I have chosen as a side is because it aligns with my lifestyle. I still want to have freedom in my schedule. I hated working like a nine to five and that just didn’t sit well with me. I want the ability to go out to lunch with my friends if I wanted to or work at a later time if I wanted to because I can.
That is true freedom for me is to have time for that. If my mom decides to want to have dinner with me, I don’t want to say no. These are moments that you will never get that time back to do the things that you want to do with the people that you want to do with if you’re kind of locked to a certain schedule.
So that’s a big part of why I chose the certain side hustles that allows me to travel. I love to have this independent way of like living my life and on top of that, I get bored easily. So I liked that there’s a variety of things in my day that I get to do that are fun.
I think that it’s all really fun to build and to connect and explore like, those are things that helped to guide me. And another thing is that and a big part of the side hustles that I chose is because it deals with people. I’m a very like people person. I love connecting with people from anywhere and everywhere.
I have this strong love for my own family too. So I want to make sure that I can take care of my family. I want to make sure I can take care of myself and I love the freedom that comes with being an entrepreneur.
Maggie: (00:31:37) I agree with you. I think a lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners in AHN can resonate with that facts too. There’s no hate for people who are in nine to five because if that is your profession, you can also side hustle in that as well.
You just kind of have to weigh out the pros and cons and see what works for you and everyone is different and some people, you know, think that nine to five works better for them. I think a lot of small business owners, the patient can resonate with that too. I mean, we all want freedom in our own lives. Especially if you’re close with your family. It’s always nice to have that extra quality time with your family and not be restricted to a line of five where you can’t, you know, spend the daytime with your family.
I love that you came to that realization because you are such a hustler and you worked so hard, especially with the donut process, you were working late hours in the night, even if like an employee had to call in sick at 10:00 AM, you had to like a scramble to see if you could find another person to cover for them.
I’m sure it comes with a lot of lows, right? A lot of ups and downs. There are valleys that we go through where it just gets really hard and as a founder, as an entrepreneur, we go through those lows a lot. They want to know, like, how do you manage your day to day of just like managing those lows and how do you kind of like managing your mental health as well?
Because as founders and entrepreneurs, there’s a lot that has to do with mental health. We always have to make sure that. We are operating at a point where we’re happy, where we can function on a day-to-day basis. So how do you manage your mental health and how do you kind of like do your self-care as well?
Mayly: (00:34:01) That’s a great question and I’m glad you asked this because we don’t talk about our mental health again people put on their best face on social media and everything’s fine. You know, things are not fine. I think I have these things that I fall back to, whether that’s an accountability partner, whether that is like meditation, whether that’s like just some time to spend on myself, doing self-care for myself.
It’s being responsible that when you start to feel burnout when you start to feel low like something bad happened that day. Give yourself the time to feel sad about it, but give yourself a limit because we don’t want to spend months on something that happened a day ago that is like on that day, that like really impacted you, but understanding that a lot of things are gonna happen.
I’m going to give myself the rest of the afternoon to be sad about it, or I’m going to do something about it tomorrow, or I’m going to do something about it later that evening. I think that’s a really big part of it has, again, as people to, you know, be able to tell this to that they’ll understand. Um, luckily I have a ton of entrepreneurs, and friends, some that whom I’ve met through AHN, which is amazing that we get to talk about mental health.
Being an entrepreneur can be lonely sometimes where you feel like you’re going, you’re the only one going through this, but in fact, other people have, it’s just never talked about. So just having people in your life that, you know, you can rant to and it’s okay to rent to them about it and they understand and can give you that constructive support and be there for you.
I know that there are days when I beaton up myself we are our own biggest critics. We are our own biggest bully and we’re always holding ourselves to this, like the perfection of like, oh, I needed to be like this and needs to be like this. And I think, you know, kind of bringing this whole like it didn’t go that way.
I’m not attached to it. Like, let’s move on, and let’s focus on the wins, celebrating those tiny little ones. Even if they’re super tiny, it trains your mind to celebrate these little things that you might overlook and you might put more emphasis on the thing that didn’t go well. So really celebrating everything that you do is amazing.
And sharing that with people, because that is a big part of going on this journey by yourself, but having people watch from afar and seeing that I think being super vulnerable for me on social media. I mean, it’s hard sometimes because I’m like, I don’t do, I want to tell people all these things like, like how much do people want to know?
I don’t want to like to talk to people, but the reason why I share these things is that I’m confident that another person is going through this or another person needs help in this area. What if I’m, if I dare to talk about. Then maybe, you know, they won’t do something drastic and they’ll like, feel supported and they’ll get a chance to move forward or they’ll feel like they’re not alone.
And so I would say just understand that the human mind is a crazy thing. That just kind of goes in a bunch of different directions, but find the thing that works for you, where it grounds you and brings you back to the present.
Maggie: (00:37:32) So absolutely true especially in the Asian community, like we rarely talk about what’s going on in our whole lives, especially in our own like businesses and like what’s going on within our entrepreneurship journey. But it is so important even from like the aspect of like making sure that if there’s any other person who’s going through the same thing, they can find inspiration from, from what you’re going through and see what you’re doing to resolve the issue.
But then also like the community aspect of it. It’s also after you built a community, you also want to feel like, or also want them to feel like they’re still a part of every update that you have for your business.
Bryan: (00:38:25) We agree with everything a lot, but they’ll see that as entrepreneurs, we’re just trying to keep the ship together. Thank you so much for sharing that because it does matter to have friends and family and community there when you’re struggling.
Maggie: (00:39:06) Mayly, what do you hope to accomplish with building the new agency? Let’s say, like, I know you’ve just started it, but I’m sure you have a lot of plans and goals that you want to accomplish with the news agency. And I want to know like what you see coming out of it and like the next five to 10 years. Just knowing you and knowing what you’ve built with your previous ventures and your entrepreneurship journey, you are more than capable of building something amazing.
And Bryan and I are excited to hear about this great news, and I can tell a lot of other people are excited about it. Just hearing you become vulnerable and telling us this new update in your life, takes a lot of courage. I know you’ve been thinking about all the plans that you have. So I want to know about that.
Mayly: (00:39:54) My biggest focus this year is just hitting a financial goal for myself. I think a lot of people don’t know that when I was owning DK’s, I was supporting my entire family, which includes my mom, my dad, and my brother, I’ve been supporting my family and the biggest thing is like being to build this, this thing for me, and to build my portfolio, but also with the agency, I get to do that with other friends and family who decide if they want to work with me, which is. So there’s that the second thing is understanding how the structure of industries already occurs.
So for example, in The Donut King documentary, I think it was great that we got to tell our story, it tells Uncle Ted’s story, but the thing is, is that it was kind of. Not fully in my control, both in the structure of it and financially. So I hope that I want to create my own, like my own documentary, my movie, and have that tell the story from my lens.
That’s another goal of mine that I hope to do and eventually start a family. I know that’s like really like hard to even fathom for me to even say, but I look at my parents and I don’t want to be an old parent. I know our parents, like, just like back on us all the time about having kids and like you don’t see it at first.
I want to do this but a lot of which my mom sees as her legacy. Like I think that a big part of my legacy is having a family and not being an old mom because I do enjoy this whole chapter of being like a friend to my mom and my mom being my friend, we being ride or dies for each other.
And it’s like, if you’re a lot older, I don’t know how physically capable you are to do so. Everything hurts and age and all of that stuff too. My whole thing is, again, it’s, it’s freedom. It’s the freedom to be able to do what I want when I want to do it. A provider for my family and myself, and just have the world be my oyster. I think for a long time, I was put under a lot of like, it has to be done this way or I’m under like my parents, like jurisdiction or what is good for the shop. There are a lot of obligations that I had to answer to, but now I get to just like be free and do things the way that I want to. So those are my plans for the next 5-10 years.
Maggie: (00:42:40) I can’t wait to hear about your documentary that comes out just from your perspective and your lens because we would watch that. I love how you’re so family-oriented, it’s super important in this day and age, as we see our parents grow older and we often forget that our parents are growing older as we’re growing older, but a lot of the things that we have today, They probably open up those opportunities for us.
They migrated here with nothing on their backs and I think it’s important for us to see that oftentimes we don’t like some of the things that we, our parents do.
Maggie: (00:44:20) We have one last question for you, and that is if you could give one piece of advice to an entrepreneur who is trying to refine their identity again, what would that one advice.
Mayly: (00:44:35)I think if you’re trying to find your new identity, which I just literally went through, I would, you know, spend a little bit of time with yourself to reflect and think about who you are and who you want to be for the world.
A lot of the times when we’re scrolling on the gram and the internet, we might get clouded as to what that is, but who you are unique is the thing that’s going to bring you the most happiness and understanding of the values that you love and appreciate and want to kind of leave on this earth.
I think that’s a big part of how I found my identity. What’s the legacy that you’re going to leave, not just for other people, but for yourself. So when you die, you’re like, hey, I did a good, I did a good thing when I was on this Earth.
Maggie: (00:45:24)That’s so important. It’s not only thinking about the people on this earth, but you have to be, you have to make sure that you’re doing it for your happiness too. I love that so much. Thank you so much for being on the show.