FLINT, Michigan — Growing a successful business is full of trials and tribulations, and nobody knows that better than Iresha Dorsey and her fiance, Sunny, of Dumboes Elephant Ears & Funnel Cakes. With Sunny handling the overall business operations and Iresha cooking, the Flint couple founded Dumboes to bring to life her dreams of becoming a TV chef.
The logo, a blue elephant with purple text to symbolize honesty and royalty, sets the stage for Dumboes to be a "fun place to come and gorge on sweet fried treats." The eatery hosts an array of toppings like strawberries, peaches, cookies & cream, and even ice cream.
Business, however, has halted for Dumboes after multiple setbacks in getting their new building space up to code and authorized for use. From unanswered phone calls to building inspections to emailing the mayor, Dumboes has seen it all.
Yet, just as Iresha is finishing her degree in Culinary Arts, Dumboes is heading to the finish line. Flintside caught up with the couple to discuss taking the road less traveled with Dumboes, lessons learned, and plans for the future.
: Thank you for sitting down with me. Dumboes is a relatively new business but has quite a history. What's the origin story behind Dumboes?
I've been in love with cooking since I was a kid. I watched Emeril Lagasse and Food Network. My wildest dream was to be a top chef on TV. I've worked in healthcare for almost ten years, but my passion has always been cooking. My fiance Sunny came up with the idea. I was scared. He came home with paperwork and everything. We did a pop-up shop at a church, and he got the word out via Facebook.
People were coming from all over that had never heard of us. Sunny took the initiative and went to Chicken Express and talked to the owner. He said, "okay, we’ll give you a try," and the rest is history. It exceeded [all of our] expectations. We were there for about two years. I [stepped] outside my comfort zone, did it and loved it. It was what I always needed."
"I've been in love with cooking since I was a kid. I watched Emeril Lagasse and Food Network. My wildest dream was to be a top chef on TV." - Iresha Dorsey
: I’ve loved elephant ears since I was a kid. Of all things, why elephant ears and funnel cakes?
Elephant ears were his thing. Funnel cakes were mine. I knew funnel cakes, eaten and made them, but I never had an elephant ear until recently. The difference with us is, we wanted to make it affordable, and we’re open year-round. With Dumboes, we go from $5 on up. So you can feed your family for $20 and spend time at the park."
Flintside: You were at Chicken Express, but why did you decide to move? Going from the west side of the city to the south seems like a considerable risk.
If you put opportunity, something somewhere where it hasn’t been anything for decades, you’re going to get something new. It’s something for the people, and we feel like anyone can make it no matter in what part of Flint. Some people don’t want to ride to Miller Road or downtown. People have never heard of Dumboes but knock on our door when we’re here.”
Flintside: But trying to establish Dumboes in a new location came with many hurdles that halted everything. Can you talk a little about what happened?
We ran into so many hurdles that we never thought would be possible. When we did get this building, we started making calls for the permits to the City of Flint. The blueprints were the first part, as we needed architectural drawings for the next steps. We had to fill out an application and drop money into a dropbox, and they couldn’t find it.
Then the next thing we had to do was build a wall in the kitchen. Next, we got our plumbing done, and they said something was wrong with that. They weren’t answering phone calls down at the inspection department, so we had to fight with that. All this took months and months and months. The City of Flint Councilmen, along with our landlord and contractors, are the ones that helped.”
"The next thing we had to do was build a wall in the kitchen. We’ve had those feelings. Maybe we were in over our heads. Maybe we stepped out too soon."
Flintside: You have this vision, this idea in your mind, and all these roadblocks hit. Did you both ever lose confidence and faith?
We’ve had those feelings. Why did we have to go to City Council? Why did we have to get all these people involved? Maybe we were in over our heads. Maybe we stepped out too soon. We weren’t open for Back To The Bricks and that beat us up. We have bills, a nine-year-old son, and a family. But it’s a new day, and they’re answering the phones and responding. We’ve had meetings and have some final approvals waiting.”
Flintside: This sounds like an arduous process. What are the lessons learned and perhaps words of wisdom to those following in similar footsteps?
We read the story of how Little Caesars started, and it made us think that's where we're going to be. We're here for the long run. [We thought] maybe we should've done more research, but had we done all of that, we probably would never be here right now. There's probably nothing that anyone could tell us today. So don't give up no matter how hard it is, no matter how much money it takes if it's your dream. If we gave up, we wouldn't be almost open now."
Flintside: Closing this chapter and looking towards the opening of Dumboes, what's the plan for the future?
The plan is to franchise and have not just a Dumboes in Flint, but a Dumboes Grand Blanc, Saginaw, Detroit. Flint has so much great talent and influence. We learned that so many people realized their full potential and started moving on and doing things [because of COVID]. We feel like Dumboes could be one of those things that will help pivot that.
We want Dumboes to be the Big John's or Little Caesars in Flint — a part of Flint history.”
You can find Dumboes on Facebook, Instagram, and in their new location: 3725 S. Saginaw Flint, MI in the Great Lakes Plaza.