Why Happy Employees Are Your Key to Successful Branding You can't build a strong brand image without a team of people behind it. Here's the story of a little doughnut shop doing big things when it comes to branding.

By Melanie Spring

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The following is the second in the series "Live Your Brand" in which branding expert Melanie Spring takes us along on her three-week road trip across the country to meet innovative entrepreneurs whose experiences offer lessons learned to businesses big and small.

Next time you're in Pittsburgh, make your way over to the Strip District. This once gritty factory area is now filled with eclectic shops, ethnic food stores and the smell of freshly made doughnuts. Follow your nose and walk through a massive, ancient door into a tiny shop and you will feel like Lucy as she walked through the wardrobe into Narnia. Peace, Love & Little Donuts is an extraordinary tiny world set up to make you smile.

Ron Razete, a serial entrepreneur, started Peace, Love & Little Donuts in a street cart. Shortly after, he found a storefront. Although the Strip District space is small, his fryer vent fills the streets with the irresistible smell of freshly made doughnuts. If you're passing by, you can't help but notice.

But the success of Peace, Love & Little Donuts goes beyond offering a tasty product. It boils down to creating a brand that embodies happiness. Here are three steps you can take to get your business there too:

1. The space your customers and employees are in matters.
You know right from the get-go Peace, Love & Little Donuts is not an ordinary doughnut shop. Beyond its fun doughnut flavors including maple and bacon, crushed Oreos, blueberries and M&M's, the shop itself is a joy to be in. You'll find a psychedelic décor, tie-dye staff shirts, 70's music playing loud and the tagline "Feed Your Inner Hippie" on display.

2. Don't compromise the quality of your product.
All day every day, Peace, Love & Little Donuts is making fresh doughnuts. Their doughnuts are small, which also sets them apart from other doughnut shops. You'll never find regular-size doughnuts in the place, nor will you find a day-old doughnut section.

While the shop gets orders by the hundred from area businesses, they have had on occasion, to turn down big orders that can't be made and delivered on the same day because they don't want to compromise the quality of their product.

3. Make employees happy and they'll do the same for customers.
Hiring is not easy for any business, especially if most of your employees are hourly part-timers. Peace, Love & Little Donuts hires students from local colleges and universities seasonally. While the college student workforce isn't known to be the most reliable, the company goes out of the way to show employees they respect them. After all, a happy employee leads to a happy customer.

And the same goes for managers. Ron Razete's success is built on being a great mentor to his managers. His plan was to focus on franchising and building the business so he had to trust his managers to run the day-to-day. Eddie, his full-time weekday manager, is a perfect example of this. He changed his career path because he was inspired by the passion he saw in Ron.

By allowing Eddie to take pride in his work, Ron now has a growing business with happy, inspired employees. Eddie's advice: "Make your business a place others will enjoy coming to. The people -- employees and customers -- are the business. Happiness brings them back."

Wavy Line
Melanie Spring

Chief Inspiration Officer of Sisarina

As the Chief Inspiration Officer of Sisarina, a D.C.-based branding firm, Spring built her business with a strong content marketing strategy. With an innate sense for social media, connecting with her customers, and building a culture around her brand, she teaches businesses and non-profits how to rock their brand. She also recently toured the U.S. on the Live Your Brand Tour collecting stories from businesses living their brand.

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