After waking up at 4 a.m., Rachel Burnett and her husband Tom Nguyen drive seven minutes to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post in Noblesville where they open up shop for their business, Mochi Joy Donuts.
As Nguyen ignites the fryers in the VFW’s commercial kitchen, Burnett cracks dozens of eggs needed for the batter. Once they’re out of the fryer, she glazes hundreds of the pillowy soft donuts.
Before opening doors to customers at 7:30 a.m., Burnett turns on her Spotify playlist of nearly 70 upbeat pop songs. She then sets up their front table with signage displaying their 16 flavors of the day, stickers, business cards, and a fan’s cross-stitched depiction of their logo — a rainbow-sprinkle mochi donut jumping for joy.
“It’s 15-hour days to make this happen, just the two of us,” Burnett said. “It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s the most fulfilled I’ve ever been. It’s worth it … It’s for the fans.”
discovering the joy of mochi
Burnett tried her first mochi donut in 2016 at Fill Bakeshop in Costa Mesa, California, while she and Nguyen were living in the Golden State. As self-professed foodies who love seeking out new restaurants to try, she and Nguyen considered opening their own mochi donut business. Ultimately, the idea didn’t pan out, Burnett said, because mochi donut shops are “everywhere” in California.
After packing up their belongings into their Corolla, driving across the country, and moving to Noblesville to be closer to Burnett’s family in 2019, Burnett and Nguyen revisited their idea of joining the food industry.
“We originally wanted to do fish tacos, so we played around with that and had my dad be a taste tester,” Burnett said. “[Tom] made this mochi donut and said, ‘What if we had this with our fish tacos as a dessert?’ My dad said, ‘Well, why don’t you just do that?’ The whole idea came back around full circle.”
Burnett and Nguyen would fall asleep brainstorming names for their donut shop, she said. None of their ideas seemed like a good fit until one day, Nguyen was eating a Pejoy — a chocolate cream-filled biscuit stick — which inspired the name “Mochi Joy.”
Their business became an LLC in November 2021. Because Burnett and Nguyen weren’t sure how the community would receive mochi donuts, they didn’t want to invest in a retail space yet. After calling around to multiple commercial kitchens, Burnett said, the “stars aligned” when the commercial kitchen at the VFW became available for them to sell their mochi donuts out of.
Mochi Joy Donuts serves nearly 100 customers a day out of the VFW as Indiana’s first mochi donut shop since its grand opening on March 24, 2022. While Nguyen was “selling donuts like concert tickets,” Burnett said, she was working behind the scenes. She cleaned up dishes at the end of the day and updated their website with the next day’s flavors — all while she balanced her career as an audiologist working from home.
“I was putting in really long hours,” Burnett said. “Eventually, I [thought,] ‘What would happen if I put all my time toward this and didn’t try to split my brain between two different things?’ That’s when I joined him full time.”
On April 26, 2022, Burnett joined Nguyen as co-founder of Mochi Joy Donuts. Burnett applies her customer service skills from working in telehealth to her new role as a businesswoman, she said. She has also learned how to be flexible rather than have everything planned out ahead of time.
“It’s a different potential than I ever thought I could reach,” Burnett said. “I have a doctorate, but being a business owner is a whole different animal. In the very beginning, Tom was the one that was doing a lot of the creative thinking, but now that I’ve been in it so long, I like to say that I think like him. Being able to see things in a different light, I think, is where I’ve grown the most, and being a little more risk-taking.”
partnering with helm coffee
In April 2022, Jill Potter, founder of Helm Coffee Roasters, reached out to Burnett and Nguyen over Instagram to form a partnership as small local business owners. They met at Amberson Coffee & Grocer in Indianapolis to try Potter’s coffee, learn about her dedication to LGBTQ+ inclusivity, and understand her mission of spreading the love of great coffee through kindness and connection.
“[Jill] is very authentic, and it’s just easy to talk to her,” Burnett said. “We’re on hugging terms. It’s a very good friendship with good people. I feel like that’s all of our friendships and partnerships that we have going on — they are people that we’d be friends with.”
Initially, Burnett and Nguyen served Helm Coffee’s Summit Blend coffee alongside their mochi donuts at the VFW. At the end of June 2022, Mochi Joy and Helm Coffee announced their Snapchill Coffee collaboration. The canned Columbian coffee blend has a bold, smooth flavor, Potter said, with chocolate and caramel undertones that don’t overpower the mochi donuts’ Hawaiian roll-like sweetness.
Through Helm Coffee, Potter said, she wants to inspire others to be “at the helm of their lives” by being authentically themselves, pursuing their passions, and being curious. She believes this starts with a connected community, kindness, and joy — all of which Burnett and Nguyen are accomplishing with Mochi Joy Donuts.
“They are incredibly kind, incredibly joyous, and are providing a high-quality product that makes someone’s day,” Potter said. “I think both of them are incredibly brave. They are collectively pursuing Mochi Joy, and I think it’s incredibly inspirational. They are at the helm of their lives, and they’re going for it.”
spreading joy in the community
The response Burnett has seen from the community has been unexpected, she said, as customers have traveled from South Bend and Bloomington for a box of mochi donuts. Visitors from Ohio and Illinois have even stopped by while passing through Indiana because they heard of Mochi Joy Donuts through word-of-mouth or Nguyen’s social media marketing.
On Saturdays, Burnett and Nguyen host pop-ups to support other small local businesses. Most recently, Burnett and Nguyen sold a four-pack of their mochi donuts alongside brown sugar boba tea candles from The Paper Flame, an Indianapolis-based, hand-poured candle business passionate about reducing waste and sustainability.
To make their business more accessible to the community, Burnett said, she and Nguyen are searching for a permanent retail space so they can hire employees and “crank out donuts, so everyone can have a taste.”
“Everyone that comes in is really nice — they’re all rooting for us,” Burnett said. “What we really like about Noblesville is it still has that small-town feel. Even in Indiana in general, the foodie community is really, really, supportive … It’s been a great experience to find our people.”
To learn more about Rachel Burnett and Mochi Joy Donuts, visit Mochi Joy Donuts’ website or social media pages @mochijoydonuts.
Nicole Thomas is a writer and digital marketer who loves cozying up with a book and cup of coffee. When she’s not reading or writing, you can usually find her crocheting another sweater or cardigan for her wardrobe. You can find her on LinkedIn or Twitter.
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