Nightlight Donuts

by Libby Tidwell | June 4, 2019

Waco may not be known for its nightlife, but Eric and Jackson Wren are getting people to stay up late for their donuts.

Nightlight Donuts is the brainchild of the twin brothers who graduated from Baylor in 2014. The business launched less than a year ago, but the idea has been in the works since the two left Baylor.

On Jackson’s first day of business school, he was commuting between Waco and Austin when he got stuck in traffic for several hours late at night on Interstate 35.

“I had pulled off [the road] as far as I could, and it was late at night and all the donut places were closed,” Jackson said. “I was like, ‘I want a donut so bad.’ I just wished there was a donut place open.”

The idea of opening a late-night donut place stuck with him while he was earning his MBA. Jackson even wrote a business plan for the concept, stashing it away on his computer.

Not long after this, Eric and Jackson moved to New York together, where they became more inspired to begin Nightlight.

“So when we moved to New York, we saw that donuts were huge there,” Eric said.

The brothers lived near a twenty-four-hour croissant donut shop that they frequented. Their love of the donut shop only confirmed their idea to bring late night donuts to Waco, and the Wren brothers started contemplating their move back to Texas to start a donut truck.

There was only one problem. They didn’t know how to make donuts.

Before they left New York, they knew they needed to find a teacher. After posting an ad on Craigslist, a baker who had owned a donut tricycle in Paris reached out, offering to teach them how to make croissant donuts.

“He was like, ‘I’ll basically work with you for a set amount of time and sell you my knowledge.’” Eric regularly commuted from Manhattan to Brooklyn, where the baker taught him everything about donuts. “The first batches I made were disgusting.” But they finally developed their method, just in time for Jackson to start law school back at Baylor in May of 2018.

Once Eric and Jackson returned to Waco, they found investors for their new company. They used the investment to purchase equipment and a custom donut trailer from a vendor in Portland, Oregon. Currently, Nightlight leases a kitchen space and sells out of their trailer, but the venture has been so successful that they are already making plans for a brick and mortar location, with hopes to be open by the summer of 2019. Without paying a dime for advertising, the company has hit key demographics, such as Baylor students and Waco-area families. With a brick and mortar strategically placed, they think their audience can grow to include travelers stopping off of I-35.

The Wren brothers want to do more than keep Waco residents up late for donuts. The long-term goal is to franchise Nightlight in college towns and big cities across the country. The two have been asking, “Should we just try to go to New York City after this? Should we try to operate in Texas first?” Eric and Jackson aren’t sure what the future holds for Nightlight Donuts. No matter what, they are are excited to see what’s in store.

“It’s so funny,” Eric said. “I never would have thought that I would have gone to Baylor to get my education and own a donut place. It’s so ironic. Sometimes I laugh and I’m thinking ‘I’m working, but . . .’”

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