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“We can see the growth that we've had and analyze what’s working and what’s not working as we go.”​​​​

Kevin Cavanagh spent the early part of his career managing other people’s companies. Over the years he ran a hardware store, oversaw a farm cooperative and led the staff at a grain elevator.

When he became a business owner himself, it may come as no surprise that he bought a food–related company. Choosing LivePlan as his business planning software was also a no–brainer for this experienced businessman. “It’s so simple. And I like the fact that LivePlan makes you think through all aspects of your business. I don't care who you are, you’re not perfect at every single area of your business. So you’re going to let something slide unless you're forced to look at it. I like LivePlan because it takes you through step by step.”

What is most unusual about this food company is its name. Cavanagh is the proud owner of Bearscat Bakehouse, a Bismarck, North Dakota doughnut shop. He first found the phrase, “bearscat” in an old cowboy dictionary; a phrase that actually meant “doughnuts.” Then he discovered that North Dakota native, Louis L’Amour, used the term in many of his novels. It took two years to talk his wife and co–owner into adopting the name.

Bearscat Bakery​
Bearscat's menu board, featuring a variety of baked doughnut treats and coffee offerings.

“I thought it was hilarious, ” Cavanagh says. “It’s very memorable. I have people tell me, ‘You can’t name food after poo,’ but it fits us because we try to be a little bit silly. We expect people to have a good time. It's proven to be an extremely good move because we've had people pull off the interstate from Wisconsin and say, ‘I heard about this place. I've got to try it.’”

​​​​​“I thought it was hilarious,” Cavanagh says of his unusual business name. “It's very memorable.”​

People may initially be attracted to the shop because of the name, but the doughnuts keep them coming back. Offerings include “the Elvis,” a banana cream–filled doughnut finished off with peanut butter, bacon and chocolate; “the Kramer, ” which has a caramel center and is topped with chocolate and pretzels; “Pina colada, ” a pineapple, cream–filled pastry dusted with coconut; and “Muddy Buddies, ” chocolate doughnuts with peanut butter and powdered sugar on top.

And of course, there’s the doughnut named for the shop. If you’re in the mood for something that looks more along the lines of what you’d find in a field of grazing cattle, look no further than the company’s own “scat” doughnut.

Bearscat Bakery​
Owner Kevin Cavanagh looks over a tray of freshly baked doughnuts.​

Cavanagh's foray into this sweet but slightly off–color world began in 2006, when he was 32. A corporate merger left him unemployed and looking for new opportunities. He was tired of leaving the make–or–break business decisions to someone else and decided it was time to strike out on his own

A friend who wanted to co–invest in a business with Cavanagh was actually the one who suggested buying The Donut Hole, an existing Bismarck enterprise. “I was like, ‘Hey, that's something fun that people enjoy buying,’ ” he says. “Of all the businesses I've run, it's been the best because people are happy to buy doughnuts. I don't have to deal with the unhappy customers like you do in a lot of businesses.”

He bought out his business partner in 2009 and went about making the business his own. In 2014 he opened a second Bearscat Bakehouse at the Bismarck State College Aquatic Center. This summer he plans to add an ice cream truck to his operation. He’s also working to expand a side business making Tom and Jerry Batter, a sweet topping for holiday hot toddies.

A corporate merger left him unemployed and looking for new opportunities. He was tired of leaving the make–or–break business decisions to someone else, and decided it was time to strike out on his own.​​​​​

When Cavanagh bought the doughnut business he was working on his bachelor’s degree. He stayed in school long enough to earn an MBA and start a doctoral degree. “My wife started teasing me one day. She asked if I needed a doctoral degree in order to make doughnuts. I said, ‘Well, no. I don’t.’ She goes, ‘Well, why are you doing this?’ I said, ‘I just like school.’ She goes, ‘Well, if you like it so much, why don’t you teach it?’”

It seemed like a good idea, so he started teaching classes part–time at a local college. In 2011, a friend at Bismarck State College told him about a full–time position in the school’s business administration department. He applied and was offered the job.

Bearscat Bakery​
People may initially be attracted to the shop because of the name, but the doughnuts keep them coming back.

“The business owner/instructor combination is a good one. I can talk pretty real–world stuff with my students. I say, ‘Well, I did this at the doughnut shop and this is what happened.’ Doughnuts are a fun subject to talk about, so they relate well to it.”

Cavanagh says he usually stops in at Bearscat first thing in the morning to check in with his manager, then heads to school for a full day of teaching. He’s at the doughnut shop on Saturdays and in the summer. That’s when he tackles big projects like remodeling and expanding the product line.

Cavanagh needs a convenient way to plan his new ventures and keep on top of his finances. LivePlan is his solution for both.

With such a busy schedule, Cavanagh needs a convenient way to plan his new ventures and keep on top of finances. LivePlan is his solution for both. He tried other online business planning software programs but found they couldn’t deliver what he needed.

LivePlan, on the other hand, helped him get organized each time he expanded his business. When he needed financing, it helped him put together all the documents he needed for the bank. He uses it frequently to monitor Bearscat’s financial situation. “We track our sales daily, obviously, and then we track where we're at compared to last year and years before that. We can see the growth that we've had and analyze what’s working and what’s not working as we go.”

Bearscat Bakery​
“We try to be a little bit silly. We expect people to have a good time, ” Kevin says of his business.

Cavanagh also uses LivePlan with his students. “Before LivePlan I had students that would lose their document, tell me it got deleted, all these other excuses.” Since LivePlan is cloud–based, students can’t say, “My dog ate my homework.”

LivePlan helped him get organized each time he expanded his business. When he needed financing, it helped him put together all the documents he needed for the bank.

Entrepreneurship is Cavanagh’s main area of focus as a teacher, and he has plenty of advice for people starting new businesses. “The biggest thing I tell people is they need to have a plan. So many people come in and they don’t really have a plan for what they're going to do and when they're going to do it.” He credits much of his long–term success in business with “having a plan in place and continuing to modify that plan, not just leave it stagnant as a one–time deal.

Whatever type of business you’re planning, it’s essential to find people who can share advice and wisdom. “I always tell people to network. You have to find friends. Talk to people. Don’t be scared and don’t keep your idea top–secret from everyone. That’s a great way to lose money. My message to my students is ‘talk to people, ask questions’.” Those questions could be the thing that makes or breaks a money–making venture.


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