Business Owner Spotlight – Tommy & Thomas Byrd, Byrd’s House of Donuts
Today’s business spotlight shines on a couple of entrepreneurs whose journey looks a little different than most. Tommy Byrd and son, Thomas, knew they wanted to manage their own business and went looking for the right opportunity. In 2016, they came across a former donut shop with all the equipment still in place. Thomas (Jr.) had some prior experience in fast food management, but neither had ever made a donut before opening their shop. They learned quickly, and as anyone who has experienced a Byrd’s donut would agree . . . they learned well!
“It wasn’t so much creating Byrd’s House of Donuts as it was a desire to run and guide something that was ours,” shares Thomas Sr. “I’ve run some large facilities, but always executed someone else’s vision. I always thought I could do it better and this was an opportunity for me to prove it.”
This father/son duo had a plan in place to get them through their first few years. That plan involved them working together each night to make their donuts. Thomas (Jr.) would load their shelves and run the donut shop while Tommy (Sr.) would go to his full-time job where he would continue to work to support them until Byrd’s got off the ground. The business grew so quickly Tommy had to quit his regular job after just a few months. “The first several months we worked 18-19 hours per day, seven days a week. We grew so fast we had to hire some help.”
After a year, they moved into downtown Elkins and expanded their business even more. “With the help of a local bank, we were able to purchase the building we’re in. Donuts are still by far our main product, but we’re now also doing custom cakes for weddings, birthdays, etc. We make pies, cookies, candies, pastries, sweet rolls and pretty much any other sweet you can think of. Everything is made from scratch, not a box mix. We’ve also added hot and cold lunch sandwiches, breakfast sandwiches, all beef hotdogs with homemade chili, and award-winning pepperoni rolls.”
Thomas and Tommy describe some of their proudest achievements. “It was a great feeling when we had grown enough to purchase our own building,“ shares Thomas. “Something else we enjoy is the partnerships we have formed to help local schools and other organizations with fundraisers. This part of our business has grown tremendously. We even work with organizations in surrounding counties.”
Their greatest challenge? “Finding the right employees. We have a great core group of employees that help us keep going when times are rough, but we had to go through some not-so-great ones to find them. We are constantly looking for good additions to our team. Finding them will allow us to grow our business here in Elkins, and possibly expand our brand beyond.”
“In a way, we didn’t choose Elkins-Randolph County. It chose us,” says Tommy (Sr.), “and I’m glad it did. I was recruited as a plant manager for a local company. That’s how I originally came to be here. This became home. The people and surrounding businesses have been very welcoming. They ask how we’re doing and if we’re staying busy enough. When things were slow during the pandemic, we had a lot of customers who came in for the sole purpose of making sure we could keep going. They would buy a few donuts for themselves and buy a dozen to give away just to make sure we were making sales.”
Tommy shares some advice for other prospective entrepreneurs: “A business takes a lot of time and you must be prepared to invest that time. You also need to build that core group of reliable employees you can depend on. Make sure you get to know the other businesses and people in your community. Other small businesses around us have helped our growth. They send new customers our way a lot. They have a vested interest in our success as we do in theirs. Our local customers know we enjoy hearing about how their mom and dad are, or how well their kids played in last night’s game while they give us their donut orders. What’s important to them is important to us.”
Interested in learning more about starting a business in Elkins-Randolph County? Give us a call at 304-637-0803, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!