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The LAist Interview: Phil Holland

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Local entrepreneur Phil Holland has made a deep impact on Southern California. A real estate developer, he also founded a local institution, the Yum Yum Donuts chain (who can resist the chain's icon featuring a donut with the ability to lick its own lips, let alone a donut with lips?), and developed entrepreneurial education programs for aspiring independent entrepreneurs. These programs are distributed via free online courses at My Own, classes and publications. Holland's dedication has resulted in thousands of empowered independent business owners in Los Angeles and elsewhere who, thanks to Holland’s vision and wisdom, autonomously own and manage many types of businesses.

The content of My Own Business courses is derived from Holland’s decades of experience as a real estate developer and founder/owner of Yum Yum Donuts, the aforementioned treasured Los Angeles confectionery purveyor.

1. Age and Occupation:

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I'm 78 and chairman of My Own Business, Inc., a nonprofit providing a free Internet based course to help people start successful businesses.

2. How long have you lived in Los Angeles?

My parents came to L.A. from New York when I was 2 (to get out of the awful winters) and I've lived in and around LA ever since.

3. The course that evolved into the My Own Business, Inc. non-profit venture began after the 1992 uprisings. Which factors in particular compelled you to take action by offering courses in entrepreneurship in the most impacted communities?

I had previously published a book The Entrepreneurs Guide which was based on my credential as the world's number one authority on making mistakes in my own businesses. And I felt that many of the efforts to Rebuild L.A. were hampered by bureaucratic nonsense. So in typical entrepreneurial spirit of doing it my way I converted the text into a course and started going to Compton at night to conduct free "How To Start a Business" classes. I would pass out flyers that announced Free Class!. More and more people came until they were arriving in busses from Simi Valley. Everyone was so grateful --it was a huge turn-on-- and I knew I was onto something that should be proliferated.

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4. Please describe the condition of the regional doughnut market when you opened your first Yum Yum Donut Shop. How has it changed? For instance, why did Krispy Kreme find such success in LA during the pre-Atkins craze? And are you a fan of the classic glazed Krispy Kreme, or do you think they're overrated?

When I started the first Yum Yum Donut shop in 1970 at Avenue 26 and North Figueroa, I was just a flea on the back of the competing giant, Winchell Donuts. That original Yum Yum store, (and all the others) still operate today, essentially the same as it did in 1970, following the same principals of specializing in donuts, manufacturing the very best ingredients and having operators who share in the success of their individual stores.

I sold my interest in Yum Yum in 1989 and my former partner Frank Watase and his son Lincoln have continued to expand the mix plant and store operations. And as you may know, Yum Yum Donuts recently acquired the Winchell chain: a development that makes me very proud and is also great news for Winchell operators to be associated with Yum Yum.

I think Krispy Kremes initial success in LA was due in large measure to the huge outpouring of nostalgia from people in LA who were either raised or had visited Southern states in earlier years. For many years KK not only dominated the business in the South but became an integral part of Southern culture. I think their future success in LA is going to depend on their success in generating a large wholesale business, i.e., sales through supermarkets and other retailers. But in no way are they going to make an impact on the Yum Yum customer base here or anywhere else.