Croatian style donuts that create a difference in the community are now available in Canberra thanks to Danijela and the team at Krofne!
You may have come across this small but highly influential donut business at the Old Bus Depot Markets or at the Fyshwick Fresh Food Markets, serving up mouth-watering flavours from Nutella to Salted Caramel to Strawberry Glaze. Loosely translated as ‘donut’ from the Croatian language, Krofne donuts are baked fresh daily from a recipe that has been passed down four generations, landing in the hands of owner, Danijela Vrkic.
But this little Canberran treasure offers so much more than balls of doughy heaven. Krofne is a family-owned and operated business that employs young people with special needs and disabilities across Canberra. For Danijela, Krofne only has one motto:
“We always say, we don’t employ people to bake donuts, we bake donuts to employ people.”
Originally, Krofne started out as a way to secure employment opportunities for Danijela’s son, Anthony, who lives with Down Syndrome. Being in his last year of high school, Danijela says she and her husband were simply concerned for Anthony’s future, so she started baking donuts.
“I started bringing donuts into work, testing whether it would be a product people would actually enjoy and they were walking out the door. So, I thought ‘wow’, let’s just see how far we can do this and then we got our first stint at the Old Bus Depot Markets and that will actually be two years in October.”
Since then, the business has blossomed into a hub of opportunity, employing young people living with Down Syndrome to sell the donuts across multiple locations in Canberra. Danijela says that creating these opportunities for young people living with disabilities by small businesses such as hers is vital in the ACT.
“[They] are so capable and people don’t actually see that…like the only difference with them is that they reach their milestone at a later stage [in life]. There are things that they obviously need assistance with but if I didn’t employ one of them I would have to employ a person without a disability regardless, so I’m thinking why not give them the opportunity.”
While Danijela admits that things can get challenging at times, as is the case with any small business, she says she wouldn’t have it any other way and is grateful to the community for offering so much support.
“We are so lucky here in Canberra, we really are… the support that my son gets, the support that I get…the community has just been phenomenal. I can’t even express it.”
Providing employment opportunities for people living with disabilities is how Krofne differentiates itself from other, similar donut businesses in Canberra. That and the fact that Danijela is always trying to improve and innovate her family’s recipe, including introducing a vegan range of donuts that will get any vegan lover lining up for a taste.
“My daughter is actually vegan and we were trying to help her out. She’s like, ‘mum, I can’t eat any of this’ and I said alright, let’s see what I can do.”
After months of research and testing as well as talking to bakers and providers all over Australia, Danijela finally managed to develop not only one, but multiple vegan donuts. She also finds inspiration from her customers, who tell her what flavours they want to see in the donuts.
“Last weekend there were some people that came to the pop-up and I said what would you like to see in the [vegan donuts] and [a woman] said custard! I thought how am I going to do this? I have spent most of this week trying to find something that is suitable for vegan donuts that’s a vegan custard and I found it! I was so excited…. Vegan custard donuts from now on!”
With a growing business also comes the demand for expansion, and Danijela says she has been thinking about taking Krofne outside of Canberra to New South Wales and Victoria. However, she wants to manage the sites here first, before she can even think about crossing the border, given the baking team only consist of her and her husband (when she hauls him in).
But regardless of where Krofne will be in the future, Danijela assures that the first priority will always be ‘baking donuts to employ people’.
“We’d like to get Canberra down pat first and then it will always remain a social enterprise so we’ll always employ people with disability, [particularly] with Down Syndrome and other disabilities.”
Anyone interested in getting in touch regarding employment opportunities should contact Danijela directly via firstname.lastname@example.org.
To get your hands on these magnificent little gems creating a difference in Canberra, you can visit the permanent stalls at the Niche Markets in Fyshwick on Saturdays and the Old Bus Depot Markets on Sundays. Krofne also travels around Canberra with pop-up stalls at the Hand Made Markets, in Gungahlin, and soon-to-be Queanbeyan and Belconnen.
Krofne also provides catering services for business and social functions.