In March 2020, just months after returning home from a semester abroad in Seville, Spain, and weeks after I learned I would spend the rest of my spring semester at home in quarantine, I was forced to think outside the box. My family’s disc jockey and mobile entertainment business had come to a halt due to COVID-19. With lots of experience moving trucks and trailers, my father, John Ziegler, and I discussed starting a food truck—we just needed to figure out what type of food to serve.
On a cold and snowy morning, we pulled into “America’s favorite coffee and baked goods” chain to buy a dozen doughnuts. An employee told us that they didn’t have any because the truck didn’t make it to the shop that day. Other than grocery stores, this was the only place within 20-plus miles that offered doughnuts. At this moment, we knew exactly what food to serve on our food truck: Fresh. Hot. Doughnuts.
We would not serve the everyday doughnuts found at grocery stores. We decided to offer a doughnut that’s different than anything around—a hot doughnut with an airy, cake-like texture that accommodates endless toppings and flavor combos. While we knew what product we would serve, it was time to do everything to launch the business, from marketing to establishing its physical operations.
Here is where the Gettysburg Network really helped. I used the knowledge acquired through my coursework for my computer science major and math and data science double minor at Gettysburg and created a more formalized business plan through the student life organization Gettysburg Entrepreneurial Thinkers. My experience working in the Office of Student Activities & Greek Life also gave me a head start in running social media accounts for my business. I even networked with Servo and Bullet Hole employees to learn more about hospitality and restaurant management, and I got the support I needed to complete my food manager certification.
The Gettysburg and surrounding communities provided unwavering support when we first opened the Ziggy Donutz food truck. This support has led me to uncover some of the most important characteristics of—and life lessons from—a great doughnut:
Freshness – Doughnuts have a short shelf life. To fully appreciate them, you need to consume them at their freshest. Similarly, fresh thinking fuels innovation, leading to revolutionary discoveries.
Volume – Freshness requires volume control. I started with a small batch that produced only 12 doughnuts. Over time, we have increased production, but we still handcraft and make each doughnut to order—one at a time. Start small. Remember to break your big goals into smaller, more reasonable achievements.
Visual Appeal – A great doughnut must look as good as it tastes—sprinkles, frosting, filling, and sugary coatings are all part of the package. Anytime you have an opportunity to present your ideas to others, think about how you can make them appealing to your audience.
Secret Spice – The right amount of spice creates an aroma and flavor that draws customers in and keeps them returning. Find your secret spice and learn to leverage it to be successful.
Variety – We offer more than a dozen glazes and toppings, which keeps our customers returning to try them all. Be open to learning about and trying new things so that you’re always expanding your base of knowledge.
The liberal arts and sciences education offered at Gettysburg College is well-rounded like a doughnut. Thanks to the problem solving, critical thinking, and adaptability skills I acquired at Gettysburg, I then opened the first Ziggy Donutz brick-and-mortar location in Hanover, Pennsylvania, in November 2022.
While many bumps may come up in the road, just remember: Donut ever give up.
by Danny Ziegler ’21
Photos by Abbey Frisco