Some college students schedule classes so they can sleep in as late as possible, but not Danny Klam. The University of Houston senior, who is double-majoring in entrepreneurship and marketing, often begins his day at 3 a.m., opening one of the three Simply Splendid Donuts and Ice Cream stores he owns. They all sell the same assortment of baked goods and sweet treats, and they also provide free Wi-Fi to customers. "One store has a drive-through, while another is more of an office park with more business customers," says Klam, 27.
The first shop opened in west Houston in 2004 with a simple concept in mind: doughnuts and ice cream. "Take the two worst things, health-wise, and combine them," says Klam, who co-owns the business with his cousin Rock. The chain employs a staff of 12. Last year, it grossed $750,000 and, this year, revenue is on track to top $1.2 million. "The hours are crazy," Klam says. "You just have to make time and get your priorities straight."
To learn more about running the business, Klam took courses at the University of Houston's Wolff Entrepreneurship Center, where he met Daniel Steppe, a serial entrepreneur who serves as the center's director. Steppe has become one of Klam's mentors. The best entrepreneurs, Steppe says, are "very market-oriented, open-minded, and inquisitive, and they reach out to people to find new ideas. At the same time, they are very critical and coldly analytical about risk and feasibility analysis, so that by the time they take a gamble, they know that they can manage it. And Danny has those characteristics."
In gratitude for the Wolff Center's advice and support, Klam recently endowed a scholarship there. As for Simply Splendid Donuts, Klam plans an ambitious expansion just as soon as he graduates. "We can compete with Dunkin' Donuts," he says, "and I see other local shops as something to acquire."