When something appears simple, it’s understandable, it works.  Simplicity can allow for deeper views where one can appreciate details and craftsmanship.  Conversely when something is overly complicated or intricate, one can get lost in details.  Too much all at once for the brain to process makes us shut down and move on.  

Can something be simultaneously complicated and simple and still work?  Could a business model based on simplicity but doctored to be overly complicated be a success?  My recent experience say yes, these dueling entities can be two sides of the very same coin.  

I discovered @pvdonuts on Instagram.  Immediately I became obsessed with every post.  Within days I convinced my family to travel to Providence, RI to find out if the Instagram hype was worth the drive…and the calories (I’ll save you some reading, the answer is yes).

We arrived before they opened...already a line of people vying to get in.  Impatiently we waited our turn.  Fifteen mins later we were rewarded with a spot at the front.  Squeezing into the main door we were finally able to spy the selection.  Immediately I was hit with a panic attack. I had not properly prepared myself for decision making.  SO. MANY. CHOICES!  In the end, as is my way, I made NO choices at all and conceded that ordering two boxes of everything was the way to go.  This emotional rookie move proved I was not yet ready for the high stakes game of Glam Donuts.  It cost me a bloody fortune but I was delighted to be going home with the lot of it.  No a single chance to regret the one donut that got away.  

At home, my husband and I sat at our kitchen counter half expecting angels to sing to us as we opened the box.  Each donut drenched in a complexity of gold dust particles, pistachios pieces, unknown crumbles and drizzles of varying colors and flavors.  In that moment I desperately wished for a Russell Stovers placard accompanying each selection as I had no idea what the hell anything was.  Oh well, no matter.  On to the taste test!

Our jobs: quality control inspection officer and donut sample manager.  

Our mission: cut small portions of each donut, eat it, then describe textures and flavors.  

A ½ hour of sampling and small sugar high later concluded:  

  1. The donuts were delicious!  

  2. The experience would indeed be calorie laden!

  3. It was definitely worth the Drive!  

  4. These donuts at their core, were simple.

Simple!?!? With the dustings and the drizzlings? Yes.  

Successful businesses begin with the basics.  To put simply, if you're a company that can do one thing right, you then have an amazing foundation from which to springboard other ideas from. When a company starts with one good idea, executes it well, they can then embellish said idea with amazing, beautiful and sometimes crazy combinations to liven up the boring. Take one of these components away and the foundation starts to crack.  A classic by itself, awesome, but people will clamor for more or walk away bored.  Give people only the flash with no substance, they’ll see through your ruse soon enough and go elsewhere.  

Example 1: Louis Vuitton

LV has always made great bags.  Well made, classics that became a bit staid.  After years of same ol' same ol' along comes visionary Marc Jacobs breathing life back into label.  With the release of bags collaborating with artist Takashi Murakami, the same sedate logo bags change color and become desirable again, catapulting the iconic brand into the stratosphere.    

Example 2: Burberry

Steady, stodgy, practical beige trench coats with the iconic plaid linings were de rigueur for decades in Great Britain.  The 21st century saw changes in leadership that helped usher in a new wave of customers.  Classic simple trenches with check patterns were transformed into high fashion.  By varying colors of the classic check and freshening up designs, Burberry instantly became fresh and new while still maintaining its base of quality, durability and heritage.  

At the heart of it all @pvdonuts makes 3 types of donut: cake, filled and brioche.  If someone wanted to open a storefront selling only a great recipe for a cake, filled and brioche donut with no embellishments, I suspect they’d do reasonably well for a time.  However @pvdonuts has stumbled on a very simple formula for success.  Be simple at your core and complex on the surface.  What this storefront donut shop in RI does better than most is dazzle you with the accessories while still delivering the greatness of the foundation (they also Instagram the hell out of the place).  To quote the movie Hitch “This is where you live, this is home.” This is where you create Instagrammable moments.  You’ve now turned something simple into WOW!  Now even mere donuts become superstars!