On Veteran’s Day, we honor United States veterans and those who are actively serving our country in the military. One of those former servicemen is Kamal Grant, owner of Sublime Doughnuts in Atlanta, Georgia.
Upon graduating high school, Grant joined the Navy and was stationed in San Diego on the USS John Young. Grant used his enlistment in the Navy as an opportunity to pursue his dream as a world class baker and business owner.
“Being in the U.S. Navy taught me discipline and the value of organization. Coming in as a teenager straight out of high school, I realized the importance of structure and that a chain of command isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, organization and structure helps to keep the whole team focused, productive and motivated, and is critical in running a business and preparing your business for the future,” Grant says. “Not to mention, I learned the significance of dressing and looking your best, which is important when it comes to how people treat and respect you.”
Serving as a baker on the USS John Young, Grant quickly gained the praise of his shipmates because of the delicious cinnamon rolls he baked. He learned how to listen to what people liked or disliked and made sure to incorporate those learnings into his formulas.
The Navy not only gave Grant an opportunity to bake (and on a large scale), but his travels around the world exposed him to international culinary treats that combined flavors and textures that he had not been accustomed to in the U.S.
“While overseas, I experienced a lot of different cultures and learned new techniques. I realized it’s not just about the flavors, it’s about textures and other elements that make a baked treat memorable. My international travels with the Navy taught me how to be a good baker and pastry chef, and inspired many of my recipes today by allowing me to better understand different aspects of what made products good,” Grant says.
“For example, when we were in Singapore, we watched local bakers make ice cream sandwiches using bread instead of cookies like we do in America. That gave me the idea for our doughnut ice cream sandwiches at Sublime Doughnuts. I realized using sweet bread, like doughnuts, for ice cream sandwiches is just as delicious while also being something new for our customers to experience.”
After his time in the Navy, Grant’s love for baking led him to the Culinary Institute of America. He studied at the Institute from 2002 until 2004 where he focused on high end desserts, plate presentations, classical techniques, and the flavors and textures of award-winning chefs.
In 2008, a quick stop to purchase doughnuts one day in Atlanta led him to notice a for-lease sign for an empty shop. Grant knew it was his time to act, and not long after he opened Sublime Doughnuts. Over a decade later, Grant’s business has flourished into one of the most inventive doughnut shops in the country and one that can be credited with leading the gourmet doughnut trend that is currently sweeping the nation.
Grant offers advice for his fellow veterans who are looking to rejoin civilian life and even start their own businesses.
“If you’re a veteran looking to start a business, or any aspiring entrepreneur, my advice is to just do it. Don’t hesitate – go out there and put a business plan together. Once you have a solid business plan in place and you’re on the right track, start looking into business loans and working with your bank,” Grants says.
“While starting a business can be intimidating, there are a lot of resources and special benefits out there for veteran entrepreneurs, so it’s a matter of finding what’s right for your business and your short and long-term goals. When creating a business plan, make sure to do your research and talk with your banker. I worked closely with my bank, Chase for Business, to familiarize myself with special veteran benefits, and take advantage of waived fees and discounts. My banker helped make the process easy so I could focus on what I love – baking.”
Grant credits his SBA business loan for veterans and banking with Chase for Business for helping him secure the financing he needed to start and grow his business – and turn his dream of a doughnut shop into a reality.