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Monday Morning ‘MUG’ing: So good you wouldn’t even know (3 photos)

This week’s Monday Morning ‘MUG’ing is about Donut Run, a home-based bakery that makes gourmet doughnuts that happen to be plant-based.

THUNDER BAY -- Mother of two and an avid runner, Ashley Lange came up with the idea for her business while out on a run with friends. A former bakery employee, she enjoyed baking at home as well, and was on a doughnut kick at the time. “I thought I’d call it Donut Mile,” she recalls, “and it would be secretly plant-based.”

She didn’t think she was the kind of person to start her own small business, but a few weeks later, she brought some doughnuts to a group run and they were a huge hit. She only baked for her family and friends, but people began asking her if she had a business card and if they could order some more.

“Antonio and Nick of Upriver Running asked if I wanted to sell doughnuts at the [race] kit pickup five days later. So I whipped together this business in four days, brought 150 doughnuts and sold out in an hour and a half.”

Soon after, she set up a menu and Facebook page, decided to call her new business Donut Run and started selling doughnuts for pickup at her home on Court Street.

She advertises what varieties will be available on social media, and takes preorders. Doughnuts are priced between $2.50 - $3 each, and she usually has more than 10 different kinds.

All of the doughnuts are plant-based, although she does not specifically advertise that fact, “because they’re so good and no one can tell anyway,” she explains. “Sometimes when it’s vegan or plant-based, people right away think it’s not for them. But you don’t have to be vegan. Oreos are vegan. People just aren’t aware of it.”

Most customers don’t care that there are no eggs or milk in her doughnuts, and when they find out, they are pleasantly surprised. Occasionally, she would get a new customer asking if she has vegan options, and they would get “super excited” when she responds that they all are.

The doughnuts are baked at home in her kitchen. Popular varieties include the Simpson (vanilla doughnut with raspberry icing and sprinkles; the classic doughnut from The Simpsons) and salted caramel chocolate. She tries to change the flavours seasonally, as well as adding a new variety every so often.

Lange thinks most of her customers are people grabbing half a dozen or so to take home. During the COVID lockdown, she also saw customers buying larger numbers to bring to work, or to gift to nurses or the hospital to lift people’s spirits.

Lange says she owes her success partly to luck and timing. “I have a good product, it’s high quality. But I didnt realize that doughnuts were such a big thing right now. I just merged in with a trend. I think even the plant-based thing too, the trend has been building for a few years, but this year it has become much more mainstream. The universe lined up, I got very lucky!”