Starting a side hustle to get through COVID-19, owners of the now popular Port Kembla food truck, Donut Jam, never expected they would be expanding the business into a Shell Cove premises only two years later.
In Port Kembla’s industrial estate on a Saturday morning, people line up waiting to get the latest freshly made creation from Donut Jam.
Now patrons have the option to also get their coffee and donut fix at the Shell Cove marina, with a soft launch already keeping the donut-makers busy ahead of the official opening on 19 August.
Kerrie Rodrigues and her partner Volkan Guden started the business in 2021, just days before Illawarra residents went into lockdown.
“I was finishing my uni degree in psychology and my partner was finishing his thesis in mechatronics engineering,” Kerrie said.
“So we thought, let’s do something on the side to keep things going just because the times were a little bit uncertain with COVID.”
With Kerrie already making donuts at home, it made sense for her to stick to what she knew.
“We had all this planned and we were like, you know, we’re going to open and then all of a sudden we’re locked down, so we were kind of scared,” she said.
“We didn’t know where it was going to go – every other place was actually closed.
“I think it benefited us as we were a takeaway as well.
“I think that we always had intentions of going further with it because both of us really enjoyed it.
“We’ve enjoyed it so much that we haven’t even pursued our careers in psychology and engineering.”
She said it meant seven years of a degree for both of them got put on hold.
“We’re like, you know what, we enjoy doing this so much more than sitting in an office, so we’ll just keep sticking with it,” she said.
“When we started, we actually had people telling us, ‘Oh, you’re in the wrong location. You’re in an industrial area, you’re never going to make any money and people aren’t going to come to you. You need to be at least on the opposite side of the street, referring to King Street, so you have more exposure’.
“We always said that we were happy where we were and if our product was good enough that people would come.
“And it certainly turned out to be that way.”
And come they do – often all the way from Sydney after Sydney TikTokers featured their donuts in their videos.
While they had intentions of one day expanding, they hadn’t expected to be opening a second premises so soon in the space next door to Georgia Rose at the Shell Cove marina.
“A while ago we walked past and we noticed there was a donut place they had there and we’re like, ‘Oh, that is a great location for a donut place’,” she said.
Then, 12 months ago, the Waterfront Tavern owner contacted the couple, letting them know the location was available.
“We weren’t interested because we were trying to focus on Port Kembla and I had found out that I was pregnant,” she said.
However, a little persistence and the pair decided to take the risk, choosing to run two locations.
“Port Kembla is our OG – that’s what we call it,” she said, laughing.
“This one’s something different for us.”
They’ve created a certain experience at Port Kembla, with milk crates used as tables and seats beside the bright pink truck within an industrial space.
“We’re going to try and create the same kind of feel (at Shell Cove), but the environment is very different,” she said.
“We will have a lot more on the menu, because we are an actual shop, and we have a lot more space.”
Her process for coming up with creations like Strawberry Freddo and Pink Lava Baby is also unique.
“I just dream about it and then I wake up and I’m like, Freddo Frog,” she said, laughing.
“I think most of my greatest creations were during my pregnancy.”
Other favourites are the cheesecake range, including lemon curd, blueberry and passionfruit cheesecake donuts, plus everyone’s go-to, the classic Nutella.
“We make things to order as well – so if people want something, like a mix of a donut, we make it for them on the spot,” she said.
“The one that comes up with the craziest creations would actually be my eldest daughter.
“She’ll send me Snapchats in the morning of these crazy donuts that she comes up with and she does a really good job at mixing things together and making it work.”
The Shell Cove premises began operating this month, but will have its official opening on 19 August, with face painting and jumping castles. More details are available here.