How much would a Krispy Kreme fan pay for a dozen doughnuts?
Minnesota college student Jayson Gonzalez discovered the answer earlier this year when he stumbled across an unexpected business opportunity: Minnesota residents who desperately wanted Krispy Kreme doughnuts despite the fact that there weren’t any stores nearby. So desperate, in fact, that they were willing to pay about double the retail price for a box of a dozen.
So, Gonzalez started making weekly drives to Clive, Iowa, about four hours each way, in order to satisfy the need. He would buy around a hundred boxes (of a dozen doughnuts each) to resell on the way back.
You would think Krispy Kreme would applaud Gonzalez’s spirit of entrepreneurship, not to mention the fact that they were selling an additional 1,200 donuts every week to customers outside its normal area of operation.
You would think.
Instead, Krispy Kreme contacted Gonzalez and told him to shut down.
What followed was a major lesson in entrepreneurship, listening to your customers, and emotional intelligence.
The story began earlier this year. Gonzalez, a 21-year-old who studies accounting at Metropolitan State University, traveled with the youth soccer team he was coaching for a tournament. When he saw a Krispy Kreme, he posted a message on Facebook asking if anyone wanted him to bring them back some doughnuts.
“I kid you not, a couple days later, I had over 300 replies,” Gonzalez told Deanna Weniger, a reporter with the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, who originally reported the story.
And so, a great business was born. Weniger shared details of the operation:
Gonzales takes orders via a Facebook page, “Krispy Kreme Run Minnesota.” He emails the manager at the Krispy Kreme in Clive, Iowa, to make sure the large order of about 100 boxes will be ready when he arrives. Then, he wakes up before 2 a.m., which is when he begins the four-hour drive (about 250 miles) to Clive, where he loads up his Ford Focus with the 100 boxes.
On the return drive to the Twin Cities, Gonzalez makes eight stops, mostly in Target parking lots. After parking his car, he puts a Krispy Kreme bag on the roof as a signal to customers. Cars pull up within minutes.
Gonzalez, who became known as “the doughnut guy,” sells the doughnuts for between $17 to $20 per box. (A dozen “original glazed” doughnuts currently retails for around $7.99, according to independent website Real Menu Prices.) That makes for a profit of about $9 to $12 a box, minus gasoline costs, car wear and tear, and of course, labor.
With all of this positive press, it seemed like a no-brainer for Krispy Kreme. Help publicize the story, and support a young man who loves the brand.
That’s why it was so surprising when Krispy Kreme did the opposite. Less than a week after the Pioneer Press ran the original story, Gonzalez told Weniger that “one of the big managers” called him, and corporate said he should “cease and desist.”
A brilliant response
Gonzalez could have let his emotions get the best of him. He could have become frustrated and said: “Man, forget Krispy Kreme. Those guys are jerks.” Or he could have tried to fight them legally.
Instead, Gonzalez responded with remarkable emotional intelligence.
“It was never my intent to make Krispy Kreme seem like the bad person, or the bad company, in this scenario,” Gonzalez said in a video posted to Facebook. “It is kind of upsetting that I had to stop, but it is what it is.”
“One opportunity closes, another one will open,” he continued. “But we’ll kind of just see where we go and what happens and, who knows? Something amazing could happen from it…. But whatever happens, I’m always willing to embrace it. Always looking for the positive.”
Wow. Talk about refreshing. (Did I mention Gonzalez is only 21 years old?)
News outlets around the country picked up the story: The big, bad corporation crushing the entrepreneurial dreams of a single college kid.
And then, Krispy Kreme realized it had made a huge mistake.
“We have become aware of Jayson’s situation, which involves one of our well-intended locations, and are looking into this,” the company told Weniger in a statement on Sunday. “We appreciate Jayson’s passion for Krispy Kreme and his entrepreneurial spirit as he pursues his education.”
This response shows emotional intelligence on Krispy Kreme’s part, too. And a lot of PR savvy. It’s unclear who exactly called Gonzalez…but the company managed to not throw them under the bus (by referring to them as “well-intended”), and praise Gonzalez’s efforts at the same time.
And then, yesterday afternoon, Gonzalez published the following update to Facebook:
“I have received a call directly from Krispy Kreme, and we are working together! A positive solution is taking place as we want to make sure we do this the right way, and I will have more details soon…. Stay tuned!!!!”
In an additional update, Gonzalez said that he would be continuing the business as an independent operator, with the support of Krispy Kreme. Gonzalez has also started a GoFundMe page to help finance the purchase of a bigger vehicle–to transport more doughnuts, of course.
Looks like a happy ending after all.
So, the next time something doesn’t go your way, resist the urge to dwell on the negative or to give up hope. Instead, show a little emotional intelligence: Stay focused on what you can control, and find a way to channel those feelings into something positive.
Because, like “the doughnut guy” says:
Who knows? Something amazing could happen.
UPDATE: Krispy Kreme announced today that they are donating 500 dozen doughnuts to Jayson in support of his business.
Here’s the full statement, via Krispy Kreme’s official Twitter account:
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A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.