130 years Celebrating Together

A Sweet Success

Few experiences are as uniquely Puerto Rican as leaving the mall after a day of shopping and becoming mesmerized by the sweet aroma of sugar and cinnamon.

Gaby Mini Donas is a local institution that for nearly 30 years has been satisfying the palate- and the hearts- of Puerto Ricans with its iconic donuts, made right in front of you. 
 
Its successful trajectory spanning almost three decades is due not only to its signature product, but also to the business acumen of its founder, Francisco Gabriel "Gaby" Correa Arias and his wife, Ingrid Rosario.
 

"There is fanaticism, people have a special affection. We are currently recruiting people who weren't even born when we started, and the first thing they tell us is, 'my parents used to buy your donuts' or 'they met buying donuts at Gaby Mini Donas'," explained Gaby, talking about how the love for his product transcends generations. "They are stories that ultimately connect with people."

And it all started with an entrepreneurial catalog.

An instant hit

In December 1994, Gaby was flipping through the pages of the Entrepreneur catalog, looking for business ideas, and saw an ad in the back of the magazine that read: 'Buy a donut machine. Sell them at activities and shopping malls. Count the money.'

Gaby didn't think much about it. He simply ordered the machine, read the instructions and began production on his dinner table.

"They're the only instructions I've ever read in full in my life, I think. But there we did the test batch using a VHS video that came as part of the equipment, and that's how it all started"

-- Gabriel "Gaby” Correa Arias

With the equipment ready and a simple recipe for donuts dipped in powdered sugar or cinnamon, Gaby and Ingrid made their debut at the Ciudad Deportiva Roberto Clemente Park for a Christmas activity that lasted throughout the month of December. From the very first day it was a success.

Within a week, Gaby quit his job in sales and dedicated himself to the donuts full time.

"During the event, the same customers were the ones who told me to try to open in one of the big department stores. And so, I went to the Walmart in Isabela and they gave me the opportunity to try it out for a month, and 28 years have passed since then," said the entrepreneur.

Every day, Gaby would go from Carolina to Isabela to run the donut cart, a process he repeated for three months as he assembled a work team from scratch.

Within eight months, he opened a second location at the Walmart at Plaza Escorial in Carolina. Within a one-year period, between 1996 and 1997, Gaby, Ingrid and their small team opened a total of 11 stores.

Overcoming obstacles

The company's growth skyrocketed, and over the years, Gaby Mini Donas grew into 38 locations throughout the island. They also opened a store in the state of Florida. But the economy was changing, and changes in the island's population had an impact on their business.

"We had to close several units because there was simply no population, there was no reason to be open. Now we have 19 stores, and we sell more than before," explained the businessman, who says that having more does not mean you are more successful.

And there was no shortage of atmospheric challenges. Hurricane Georges in 1998 and then Maria in 2017 affected the operation, but in turn strengthened the entrepreneurial spirit and sense of community. Thanks to their preparation, the use of paper and pencil to conduct transactions, and messages written on the door with marker, their employees were able to communicate and operate. Ingrid explained that for many people, Gaby Mini Donas became a space of normalcy within all the chaos.

"People wanted to get back to normal and eating that donut or drinking a coffee was like a need to feel good," explained Ingrid, who serves as the company's Human Resources Director.

"Thanks to the fact that Popular set up special hubs at some branches and central offices so that business owners could carry out transactions and payroll, among other services, during the Maria crisis, the employees of Gaby Mini Donas never missed a paycheck."

--

During the COVID-19 pandemic, they remained closed for 40 days, but decided to open, taking all the necessary protective measures knowing that the little donut snack gave people a certain sense of normalcy.

Investing in his employees

Throughout his 28 years as a leader of a successful company, Gaby has never referred to himself as the boss, but rather as the captain of the ship, and colleague. He fervently believes that employees are his greatest asset.

"If you don't understand that your greatest asset is the person who is working with you, then you will have problems," Gaby stresses.

According to Ingrid, who also chairs the State Committee of Employment Service Employers, Gaby Mini Donas is the first employment opportunity for many people, and they always look for their employees' experience to be a positive one.

"This generation needs the opportunity to get things done and make decisions," the entrepreneur says proudly.

In addition to paying above minimum wage, for Gaby, investing in his employees is investing in his community.

Gaby Mini Donas has more than 140 employees, and carries out initiatives such as flexible hours, gift cards during Back-to-School time for parents and college students, and donations tailored to the need of the employee and their families.

Progressing with Popular

From the start, Gaby has entrusted his business to Banco Popular. For the entrepreneur, the bank's accessibility and diversity of resources has helped his business progress.

From direct deposit for his employees to ATH technology and collection systems, Popular has been a constant in the business. Additionally, Gaby Mini Donas received financing for his company's headquarters in Carolina. The entrepreneur praises the integration of technology that allows him to not have to physically go to a branch to complete his transactions.

"The bank's support has always been there," Gaby confirmed.

And it is alongside Popular that Gaby Mini Donas will continue to operate.

In the short term, the company is looking to continue growing internally, because "when things are at their best is when you have to make the most adjustments," says Gaby.

"You have to stay on top of trends. I never thought I was going to sell ice cream. I never thought I was going to sell nachos, or that I was going to sell donuts with ice cream in the same cup. But they were things that came up along the way"

-- laughed Gaby

In the end, Gaby's greatest motivation are the people he works with and his customers' stories: those who used to go with their grandparents and now take their children; the lovers who met among donuts; the friend that bought 30 packs of donuts to take to the funeral as a last wish for the deceased.

That passion and loyalty is what makes Gaby Mini Donas an entity of progress.

As part of our 130th anniversary celebrations, we present the Stories of Progress, which are portraits of commercial customers that show how Popular puts people at the center of progress.