4 Keys to Top Pot Doughnuts' Success

As part of the "How I Made My Millions" series, CNBC.com asked the founders and CEOs of these companies to share their experience on a variety of topics. What follows are some rules of the road, so to speak, for both budding entrepreneurs and seasoned business owners from Top Pot Doughnuts' Mark Klebeck.

Here's some simple advice: DO WHAT YOU LOVE TO DO, and success follows. When my brother, Michael, and I started Top Pot Doughnuts, we did it out of pure passion for designing and building our cafes, and of course, our doughnuts.

Mark Klebeck (right) and brother Michael, Founders of Top Pot Doughnuts
Photo by Rick Dahms
Mark Klebeck (right) and brother Michael, Founders of Top Pot Doughnuts

The combination of this passion with the talents of other individuals (and a little serendipity) resulted in a strong foundation for our brand. Here are four basic ideas that helped us and that we would still recommend to anyone in business:

1. Emphasize Quality

When Top Pot started out, it was financially strapped. It would have been easy to cut corners on the design and build of our stores in order to save money. However, early on, we realized that we had something special in the marketplace that was the result of putting a huge emphasis on quality in everything that we did. As an example, our tenant improvement costs (T.I.’s) were substantially higher than other competitors’ cafes. Yet, the results speak for themselves. The downtown Seattle location has become a great destination for locals as well as tourists. Television commercials have been shot here, and the space is often used by production companies.

2. Let Go in Order to Grow

Giving up some control can be a scary thing at first. However, in order to grow your company you will soon realize that you cannot undertake every single task. In the beginning, this might not be a choice due to capital limitations. But knowing when to let go is key, and building a team is paramount. The best financial decision we ever made was hiring a CEO/president to take the lead at Top Pot because we realized we needed structure outside of our own contributions of building and design.

Photo by Redstone Pictures

3. Hire Supportive Individuals

Whether it is your custodian, baker, barista or financial controller, make sure you hire individuals who get what you are doing. Remember, it’s your vision and the individuals you hire are stewards of the culture you have established. These individuals are there to help run your organization and hopefully inspire you to grow as well.

4. Diversify as You Grow

My goals in the past eight years have changed. With growth comes opportunity, and seizing such opportunity presents even more opportunity in areas you might not have imagined early on. Being receptive to change and diversity in the marketplace is important, too. This is not to say you need to deviate from your vision but rather, be open to opportunities that can expand on what you initially set out to do.

Do you have any other tips to share? Leave a comment below!

Mark Klebeck and his brother, Michael, started Top Pot Doughnuts in February 2002 out of a small brick storefront on north Capitol Hill in Seattle. They paired a vintage aesthetic with a gourmet spin on the traditional coffee and doughnuts. Today, their hand-forged doughnuts can be found in their five Top Pot cafés and other retail locations in the greater Seattle area.