Lyndsey Bell and Jay Valeri left high powered careers behind to pursue their entrepreneurial dream – running their own donut shop. Along the way, they’ve learned how to simultaneously manage their marriage and business, how to hire the right team, and how to navigate the challenges of a pandemic.
In 2021, the duo scooped the Premier’s People’s Choice Award at the Small Business BC Awards. This unique award category is our only award that’s entirely decided by a public vote.
Ahead of this year’s Awards competition, we caught up with Lyndsey and Jay to learn more about their incredible small business, the power of community, and how the Awards have helped their business.
“Both Jay and I come from very different backgrounds to food. I was in First Nations Economic Development and commercial finance, while Jay was in computer mapping. Pretty much the furthest things you could think of from doughnuts!
“The thing is, we come from a long line of entrepreneurs. It’s always been in our blood to start our own business. We would go on vacations from our old jobs and travel across the Pacific Northwest and always seek out donut shops. It just became clear that donuts are what we wanted to do – we love donuts. The first steps were pretty small, Lyndsey started first with cakes out of our home kitchen, and any opportunity she had to bake she would, whether it was for a niece’s birthday or a get together with friends. That progressed into experimenting with batches of doughnuts, trying to make them better and improve our recipes.
“Over time, we learned a bit about business, a lot about baking and we grew a particular love of donuts that’s turned into Bigfoot Donuts.”
“Don’t get us wrong. It’s hard work! We’re there from four in the morning and we put in 12-hour days, every day. But we absolutely love it and we hope that passion comes through in our products and in our service.
“We want to see the people who come into our shop and say hello to them. We’re able to do that because of the way we split up the tasks. I run the back of house and Jay is our leader out front. I make the donuts and Jay is the one selling them and leading the team and he runs it really, really well.
“We have such a good dynamic right now and we’re learning all the time. One of the areas we’ve gotten a lot better on is our prep in the day before. We’re always going back and forth, asking ourselves how much we need to prepare for the next day. It’s a key question we face every day and it’s a tricky one to nail accurately.
“We’re sometimes left with some leftovers at the end of the day and it’s important for us to give back to our community. When we have an excess we’ll take it to local businesses in the town, drop them off as a little treat. We give to the church across the street for their Friday lunches and we love that sense of community all around us.”
“Community is really at the heart of what we do at Bigfoot Donuts. BC is full of little downtown cores like the one we have here in the Comox Valley and those areas have lots of little shops and bakeries just like ours. They’re such a great community hub for people to come and gather.
“We love our little community here and it’s got such a strong ‘support local’ movement, especially during COVID. It’s been great seeing the growing support for small businesses, farmer’s markets and people going out of their way to show some love. It hasn’t always been like that, but I think the pandemic has opened people’s eyes to the importance of small businesses.
“The Comox Valley is such an amazing place to live. People will find a way to live here and if that involves starting their own business – they’re going to do that. That’s what we did!”
“Aside from the actual donuts, community is our main focus at Bigfoot. We know that without them and without their support, we just wouldn’t exist. Everything we do is to make sure they’re happy and want to be behind us and beside us as we grow.
“We’ve grown on the mantra of be good to our community and they’ll be good back to us, and that’s never been truer than in the last year. The Small Business BC Awards are such a great example of this. The Award we won is decided on who gets the most votes. Through our social media, we asked our community to show some local love to small businesses and vote – not necessarily for us, but for their favourite small business.
“Our community showed that love back by voting for us. People were posting on social media and it just really picked up a lot of steam from there. We even created a fun little video of ourselves asking our community to tell us how we impacted on them. We turned that video into a collage. The whole process just got us comfortable talking about our business, presenting in front of people and so on. Both Jay and I are introverts so this experience has helped our comfort level so, so much.”
“Something we don’t do enough of is celebrate. We think it’s special to be in business and it’s something that’s really worth celebrating. If someone’s willing to nominate your business, you should definitely embrace it and put yourself out there because it is so worth it.
“We’ve realized so many amazing benefits from winning our award. We’ve been in the newspaper, on the radio, we’ve had new customers come in after hearing about the award. We’ve even had lending institutions contact us asking ‘what can we do for you?’ – for a food business, that’s remarkable.
“Even if you don’t win, you’ll become better at being on film, better at talking to people about your business. You also get a chance to focus on some bigger picture aspects of the business that are so easy to get lost in the shuffle during your day-to-day work. These are all skills that are so important that we improved thanks to taking part.”