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Homemade doughnut business finds recipe for success in Greenville

BJU graduate Shannon Mercado started an artisan doughnut business in Greenville last summer. Photo: Ciara Weant

BJU grad Shannon Mercado started her homemade doughnut business just last year, but Circa Doughnut has already built up a loyal following of Greenville foodies who appreciate good old-fashioned cake doughnuts.

The idea for this new artisan doughnut business began when Mercado, a 2012 BJU organizational communication graduate, and some friends got together to make homemade doughnuts, and someone suggested that she try selling the doughnuts. Mercado then began to sell her creations at local markets as a creative outlet, thinking it would be a “fun Saturday thing to do.”

But in June 2014, Circa became a transportable ‘pop-up’ doughnut shop that Mercado sets up at businesses and events around Greenville. Because Mercado doesn’t have a permanent store location yet, she partners with local businesses that allow her to sell her doughnuts inside their shop in exchange for the foot traffic the store receives from Mercado’s customers. Mercado calls this method “customer sharing.”

Because of the following Mercado has on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, her customers come and purchase her doughnuts wherever she is set up. At the Indie Craft Parade in September 2014, Mercado sold over 800 doughnuts in two days. Customers can also place a private order for fresh doughnuts and can book Circa for private events such as wedding receptions or “anything you can imagine,” Mercado said.

Mercado chose the name Circa, the Latin word for “around,” because the word is associated with unknown historical dates, and the origin of the doughnut is unknown. Mercado said that Circa accurately describes “the mystery of the doughnut.”

Mercado begins her handiwork by preparing homemade dough and forming each doughnut by hand, without a press or a doughnut cutter. The doughnuts are then fried in small batches of three at a time. The result is a doughnut that is hearty and dense, not light and fluffy like those purchased at many chain doughnut shops. The doughnuts are priced at $3 each and $30 a dozen.

The 10 flavors that Circa offers are unique. While the old-fashioned variety is the best-seller, creative flavors like cornbread with jalapeño infused brown butter honey glaze, lemon lavender and peach rosemary are also popular. This week’s new doughnut is called “the pink one,” which is a hibiscus-and-berry flavored doughnut. “I’m trying to reinvent flavors and do the unexpected,” Mercado said.

As a small-business owner, Mercado said she now uses many of the communication principles she learned from her classes at BJU. Mercado said her communications degree has helped her to understand and read people and know how people are going to react to her marketing and new products.

Mercado also said graduating from BJU gave her a kick-start in the networking process in Greenville, as being connected with BJU opened a lot of doors for her in the Greenville community.

Mercado said she will be looking for interns for Circa in the near future. Interns would learn the doughnut-making process, gain the experience of working in a commercial kitchen and learn about marketing strategies and business tactics. In addition, Mercado said she is looking to hire hard-working people interested in entrepreneurship and small businesses in order to expand her business.

Check out Circa’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts for more information about Circa Doughnut and where these handcrafted treats can be purchased.

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Homemade doughnut business finds recipe for success in Greenville