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Tony Hawk on investing in Holey Grail Donuts

September 25, 2022, 11:00 AM UTC
Tony Hawk attends the DIOR Men's Spring 2023 Fashion Show.
Skateboarding legend Tony Hawk.
David Crotty—Patrick McMullan/Getty Images

Holey Grail Donuts started as a “Sunday ritual” for siblings Nile and Hana Dreiling, who would serve up hand-fried taro donuts from a little red trailer in Kauai, Hawaii. This ritual quickly developed a cult following, which has led to hour-long waits starting as early as 6:30 a.m. to get a taste of the doughnuts showcasing more than 60 Hawaiian flavors made from local ingredients, such as organic taro, coconut oil, and cacao.

Among the cult following is pro skater Tony Hawk, an entrepreneur in his own right as owner of the skateboard brand Birdhouse. Hawk joined as an investor in Holey Grail as part of the company’s recently completed Series A round, which raised $9 million that will be put forth to expand to mainland locations in Los Angeles.

Hawk recently shared more with Fortune about his decision to invest in the company.

  • Startup: Holey Grail Donuts
  • Location: Hanalei, Hawaii
  • Year founded: 2018
  • Valuation: Declined to disclose
  • Investment level: Series A
  • Number of employees: 36
  • Other major investors: Craig Shapiro at Collaborative Fund, Lee Fixel, Tony Conrad at True Ventures, James Freeman (Blue Bottle), Ligaya Tichy (Yelp, Airbnb) Christopher Kostow (Michelin-star chef), Hass Hassan (Whole Foods), Stephan Jenkins (Third Eye Blind), Yves Behar (Designer, Fuseproject), and Matt Mullenweg (WordPress)
Holey Grail operates shops in Hanalei and Honolulu, in addition to a popular food truck in Waikiki.
Courtesy of Holey Grail Donuts

Why he invested, in his own words

I’m always on the lookout for good eats, and I’m especially excited when I see someone doing a creative take on a food I know and love. When I discovered Holey Grail Donuts, I was immediately intrigued. It represents everything I look for in the foods I love: great taste, first and foremost, but made with better quality ingredients than your average donuts. They are actively reinventing many aspects of the donut industry with a genuine approach to sourcing and production similar to some of my favorite coffee shops and restaurants.

For me to get excited enough to invest in a food business, the starting point is that the product tastes great. I’m also mindful about what I put in my body, so the combination of tasting something delicious, and knowing it’s actually made with high-quality ingredients that I don’t have to feel guilty about eating, is the perfect combo. Holey Grail Donuts are made fresh for every order, so they’re warm and crispy, without being overly oily or greasy.

They’re also made with taro, an ancient root crop grown throughout the tropics that’s rich in vitamins and antioxidants. And you can’t find Holey Grail donut flavors anywhere else; they rotate their menu weekly using seasonal ingredients, so you’ll almost always try something new and different upon each visit. I still love a classic donut, but using local ingredients that are in season to create donut flavors like North Shore (local tangelo, turmeric, black pepper) and Lydgate Farms (local vanilla bean glaze garnished with cacao nibs and acerola cherry) is an experience worth seeking out.

Lastly, as an investor, I’m ultimately looking for businesses that can grow and be successful. Location-specific food businesses can be tricky, since some of the best places are ones that reflect and support the communities they’re in. Holey Grail has a mission-focused approach to growth that, combined with their exceptional donuts and team, I believe will lead them to success. They plan to stay true to their roots on Kauai by sourcing certain ingredients like their taro from Hawaii farmers, and by building their supply chain for local produce and ingredients wherever they go. This approach ensures the donuts and experience will always stay fresh and interesting. And I’m proud to be along for the ride.

This is an installment of Why I Invested, a series featuring famous investors from all different backgrounds and industries, revealing what inspired them to invest their own money in a new business.