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  • Writer's pictureNielsen Studios Inc

American Faces #65 - The Mini-donut man?

Updated: Oct 7, 2021

I thought this American Faces 65 featuring Daniel Wohlfert was going to be a simple story about a guy who owns a mini-donut business in my hometown of Rogers, MN. I was wrong.

My interest was piqued when I met Daniel at our NorthRidge Fellowship church block party and I saw the Combat War Veteran (Iraq) sticker on the truck towing his snazzy The MinneDonut Company trailer.

But I discovered that was really just the sugar on the mini-donut story.

I learned Daniel’s early life was impossibly difficult. His mom died of Leukemia when he was seven and left him in the care of an alcoholic, abusive father. At 18 he left and found a new home in the Air Force as a C-5 Loadmaster. Then Daniel experienced war. On his first mission to the Middle East he saw battle for the first time. Peering through the cargo compartment window as a lookout for the rocket-propelled grenades that would kill him and his crew left Daniel with the effects of PTSD.

And then Daniel and his crew were tasked with escorting home the remains of eight Special Operations soldiers. Staring at those caskets in his cargo hold, Daniel realized those young men were soldiers just like him, and alive just a few hours prior, until experiencing the battle that took their lives. That’s hard stuff to get your head around, and can change you.

But all that wasn’t Daniel’s only story.

After leaving the Air Force, Daniel’s path took a number of turns. He worked in the veterinary pharmaceutical industry where he did well until a corporate restructuring left him jobless for 10 months. He found a job with a company providing precise measurement for product safety and quality, but realized it wasn’t the place for him. It was at that job, however, where he discovered Lil’ Orbits, a Minnesota company making high-quality mini-donut machines.

Which brings us back to the mini-donut trailer, where I met him.

I learned that Daniel started The MinneDonut Company in 2017 as a side hustle and a means to create more financial stability for his family. His mini-donut business has grown steadily since then. I think it’s a winner – because dough, sugar and grease, formed into a little magical ring, is sure to attract 99% of humanity, just by its smell.

But that is still not the whole story, really.

What amazes me about Daniel’s story is that it’s not about a boy who almost gave up on life at seven. And it’s not about a young man who stared the horrors of war in the face. It’s not even about a man who discovered the magical money-making powers of mini-donuts, when he could have just given up.

This is a story of a man who refuses to be defined by his past, or any particular part of his story. He keeps moving, he looks for open doors and he steps through them.

So, in closing, here’s my bit of wisdom: I first judged Daniel as simply the “MinneDonut Company guy” who also served in the military. But Daniel Wohlfert’s story, like the previous 64 American Faces stories I’ve done, has taught me that human beings are fascinating and walk very interesting paths, with all kinds of twists and turns. Some of those paths are similar to our own, but most we can hardly imagine. Take time to listen to someone’s story. It’s worth the time. It might just change your life!

Check out his MinneDonut Company:

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