Vaughan Dugan / Dugan Holdings & Kapow Noodle Bar
Vaughan Dugan isn’t one to care about titles, but he’s held several—CEO, founder, restaurateur, serial entrepreneur, marketer, designer, and dishwasher, to name a few. Dugan’s storied past begins in Newport, Rhode Island where he launched his first business.
His mother received an unexpected knock at the door from a neighbor who wanted to know if it was her son who was mowing the lawn across the street. It was. “Ma’am. Your son is going places. He has his friends mowing lawns all across the neighborhood.” Naturally skilled in building teams, 10-year-old Dugan expanded his sole-proprietorship to employ four of his friends. And this was in elementary school. It’s no surprise then that Dugan went on to study business at Florida Atlantic University.
If you visited the Kinkos near FAU back in the ‘90s, and someone was hogging the only Apple computer there, it was probably Vaughan. He was busy designing and printing fliers for local music venues and tourist attractions. This operation would soon outgrow his two-bedroom apartment. Stellar Concepts & Design Inc., as the company went on to be called, was a five million dollar business just 18 months later. Vaughan’s addiction to building brands had begun.
In 2006, Dugan founded Pizza Fusion. Yes, that Pizza Fusion. The brand was a trailblazer in the food industry and set the standard for environmentally friendly restaurants. The pizzas were delivered in hybrid cars, the food containers were compostable, and the tables were made from reclaimed wood. These weren’t gimmicks intended to sell more pies. Pizza Fusion’s dedication to the planet was just a natural extension of Dugan’s own personal values.
Pizza Fusion’s unheard of sustainability initiatives brought the brand widespread media attention. Soon Dugan found himself alongside executives from national players such as Starbucks, Patagonia and Whole Foods. Eventually, he stepped away from Pizza Fusion to pursue other ventures. He would return a few years later to take the company public.
After leaving Pizza Fusion, he began working with Rodney Mayo and Scott Freilich, two of the most well-known names in the South Florida restaurant scene—and long-time friends from Dugan’s college years. Together they created Kapow Noodle Bar.
Dugan is quick to share the insights he’s learned over the years, and apply to them to his new businesses. “People don’t want to chew on a mission statement,” he says about his days at Pizza Fusion. “They want good food.”
That’s what Dugan’s team at Kapow provides. It’s working, too. The company does around four million dollars in sales and opened a second location. As for the eco-friendly practices, Dugan continues to implement them. Kapow uses recycled bags, recycled plastic silverware, and recycled aluminum containers.
So yes, Vaughan Dugan is a restaurateur—among other things. But his expertise extends far beyond the four walls of his restaurants. He recently raised $1.5 million dollars in funding for Kula Crate, a crowdfunding platform that hopes to help teachers offset out-of-pocket costs. His e-commerce company Dugan & Dame sells organic olive oils, vinegars, hand-crafted spices,
tonics, bitters, and teas.
After years of acquiring and growing businesses, meeting with investors, raising capital, running day-to-day operations, and building teams, Dugan has found his calling: building compelling brand stories, then turning those stories into reality.
As he puts it, “I don’t want to work in the business. I want to work on the business.”
That’s exactly what he’s doing today. He regularly advises entrepreneurs on how to bootstrap their startups and is often approached by business leaders. He’s currently working on a book for aspiring brand-builders. Soon author will be added to his list of titles.
Of course, Dugan’s most important positions are father and husband. He and his wife Angela—who he met at Pizza Fusion—have a three-year-old son appropriately named Bassil.
Jason Hill / Client Focused Advisors
Roland Kidwell / Adams Center for Entrepreneurship at FAU