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3 tips for building a passionate team and community base



San Angelo is a small town in West Texas, hours from the flashier cities in the Lone Star State, but it’s filled with 5-star businesses that help put the town on the map. In this Community Spotlight series from Behind the Review, Yelp Elite reviewer Josh H. connects with his favorite local business owners to talk community building, business tips, and more. Read all their stories.


Ash and Sophea Cordona made Donutopia a hit in San Angelo, Texas, by baking donuts that stand out. Their colorful display case includes everything from chocolate glazed to donuts as large as cakes—elaborately decorated with unicorns, Marvel characters, or custom messages. And when they need new ideas, they go to their most trusted source: their customers.

“They’ve asked me for some opinions and feedback, which really makes me think they value my opinion and they have a general concern for pleasing their customers,” said Yelp Elite reviewer Josh H. “They want you to be happy with their product, which is donuts—putting smiles on faces and warm fuzzies in your belly seems to be their objective. And they do it every time.”

Donutopia has become a staple in the small Texas town, not only because of their products, but also because of the way they treat people. Ash and Sophea take great pride in engaging with customers and their community. Below, they share three key ingredients to their success.

1. Putting passion into the product

Featuring apple fritters, mochi donuts, kolaches, breakfast sandwiches, and more, Donutopia’s extensive menu helps it stand out from the competition. “We sell so much glazed chocolate, and that’s really our focal point,” Ash said. “The rest of the stuff is just to get people in and curious and have fun and come in, but it’s all been really popular.”

Keeping the menu fresh also creates moments of surprise and delight for their customers. Sometimes, they even get emotional. Ash said: “[We’ve seen] a little girl almost start crying because [we had] a unicorn donut. We’ve had people come in and just say, ‘Can you put this on a donut real quick for us?’ We’ll do it, and it just melts their heart. It almost makes you cry. That’s [our] passion.”

Seeing customers get excited about their offerings is its own reward. To maintain this experience, Ash and Sophea take quality control seriously—even if it means losing inventory for that day. 

“We don’t cut any corners. We make everything fresh in the morning. We make sure everything’s right and perfect,” Ash said. “Somebody else would say, ‘Let me just get my money for this product today,’ but [Sophea will] wipe out a whole entire deal if something’s not right, just to make sure that it’s always right for them. And I think that says a lot.”

2. Creating a positive work culture 

Sophea and Ash put their heart and soul into everything they create. But to ensure this heartfelt experience makes it to the customer, their front-of-house staff must feel the same passion for the business. “Our culture is everything and is measured by contribution and attitude. We expect everybody to contribute, and we expect everybody to have a great attitude,” Ash said. 

They accomplish this by hiring people who show genuine interest in the job and fostering that excitement with a positive work culture. “The most important thing is we [hire] people who want to be here,” Ash said. “In our experience, the people we’ve hired who meet that mold, they tend to want to work, they want to be here, they want to integrate, they want to meet the people, and they want to come up with their own donuts. And they want to have a lot of fun doing it.”

Running a business is not all unicorn donuts and tears of joy—part of maintaining that work culture is knowing when to take a break. As their small shop reaches capacity, Ash and Sophea have had to say no to sales that might put their team at risk. “We can’t serve more than what we can do here. So we drew a line and said, ‘Look, this is what we feel comfortable that we can do without killing everybody,’” Ash said. 

3. Investing in the community 

Ash and Sophea take their role as a community staple seriously. Just as San Angelans have embraced them, they continue to invest in the community that made their success possible. For example, they donate excess donuts to local organizations, offer special discounts for veterans of the nearby air force base, and show their San Angelo pride through Angelo State University decor. 

“The fact that they have their partnerships with organizations that routinely will get excess donuts—how is that not gonna make them friends with you really quick?” Josh said. “The fact that they do military discounts, they do student discounts, they do first responder discounts. That shows that they understand where the big players in the community are—the base, the hospital, and the university—and they give something back to them.”

For Ash and Sophea, that care and attention to their customers and community goes back to the culture they want to establish at Donutopia. “Everything is measured by your contribution and your attitude and love to contribute to anybody. We like to see people enjoy the stuff that we do,” Ash said. “It’s just about contributing. We love spreading happiness, it’s just really about love and happiness for us.” 

Not every customer leaves as overjoyed as Josh, but Ash and Sophea are thankful for the opportunity to hear directly from their community on Yelp—whether those reviews are positive or not. “That’s just part of being a business. You’re gonna have people that are gonna be very happy here, and there are gonna be people that you know are not. You’re fortunate that they’ll share that feedback,” Ash said. 

Interviews by Emily Washcovick; images of Donutopia on Yelp


These lessons come from an episode of Behind the Review, Yelp & Entrepreneur Media’s weekly podcast. Listen below to hear from Ash and Sophea, or visit the episode page to read more, subscribe to the show, and explore other episodes.

Community spotlight: San Angelo, Texas

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