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2016’s 20 Under 40: Michael Urban, Harold’s Doughnuts

20 Under 40

Michael Urban
Founder/Owner, Harold’s Doughnuts
Age: 32

Job description:

I oversee all operations and the implementation of Harold’s strategic vision.


Washington, Missouri.

Years lived in Columbia:

11 (includes 4 years of undergraduate study at Mizzou).


Bachelor of Science, political science, MU.

Professional background:

I began a career in politics and government while I was a junior at the MU. During this time, I served as a congressional intern in Washington. Following this experience, I returned to Missouri, where I interned for the Speaker of the House and later served as the candidate’s political director during a statewide campaign. Following graduation, I began to work for John Hancock and Associates, a political consulting firm based in St. Louis. I then returned to Columbia in 2008 and started working for Pure Marketing and Media, as vice president of research. In 2011, I had the opportunity to join IdeaWorks, a software development company, as director of business development. It was through relationships developed in this role that I then accepted a position as director of platform management for MBS Textbook Exchange. In early 2014, I decided to pursue my dream of entrepreneurship and followed my vision of what would become Harold’s Doughnuts.


I have had several mentors that have provided guidance and insight throughout my professional career. The most influential individuals have been John Hancock and my wife, Karli.

What don’t people know about your job?

People may not know that I’m also Harold’s chief delivery officer.

What is the best thing about your job?

I have the opportunity to hire unique and talented individuals and help them develop into an energetic and successful Harold’s team.

A favorite recent project?

We are currently in the midst of planning our first Memory Maker experience at Harold’s. This gingerbread house decoration experience provides an opportunity for families to decorate their very own gingerbread house this holiday season. This experience will include cookies and hot chocolate, in addition to an opportunity to work side-by-side with our Doughnut Magician, Melissa Poelling. We are also excited to expand this opportunity to Columbia businesses, in an effort to raise money for a local charity. This “Houses for Charity” event will allow Columbia businesses to decorate their own gingerbread house, which will be entered into the competition. The business with the winning house will be determined by donations-as-votes. All proceeds from this event will be donated to a local charity. I believe this is a great opportunity for businesses to give back to the local community.

What was your New Year’s resolution in 2015? Did you accomplish it?

My New Year’s resolution was to be more mindful, and live in the moment instead of contemplating or worrying about the future. It’s still a work in progress!

What are your specific professional goals for 2016?

I believe Harold’s has even more growth potential. I would like to expand the menu, services and experiences available within our Harold’s store location. I am also excited to look towards opportunities for expansion — this includes expansion into local businesses and markets, as well as into other regions in the United States.

What about your day do you look forward to most? What motivates you?

Aside from drinking amazing Fretboard coffee and eating our delicious doughnuts? Every day, I look forward to the excitement and anticipation of fulfilling my business’s vision. More specifically, this includes solving business problems and charting a course for growth and success. Making business decisions is something I look forward to (and I don’t get all of them right!). I’m motivated to create a place where my employees can build a career and a place where the community can be comfortable enjoying great food and drinks.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?

I probably would’ve found myself working in personal finance, or I would have studied to become an architect.

Community involvement:

Currently much of my community involvement is based on the programs and outreach I have developed within Harold’s Doughnuts. This includes supporting local charities and hosting experiences for school-age children to come with their class to learn about creating a doughnut. I have also focused on the development of an ancillary organization that provides an opportunity to help individuals love their craft and find satisfaction out of their work. The pillars of this organization include workforce development training and connecting local employers with those in need of work. I have already initiated the development of a similar program, with the creation of a “Love Your Craft” experience within Harold’s Doughnuts. This opportunity has been utilized by some employees at Veterans United Home Loans. During their “Love Your Craft” experience, participants focused on building an awareness of the characteristics that exemplify a love of one’s craft, in an effort to forge better performing teams.

Accomplishment you’re most proud of?

Being in business for 17 months! I certainly haven’t done this alone, but I’m very proud to have taken a concept and turned it into a reality.

What do you do for fun?

I follow my favorite sports teams, including all things Mizzou, the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Rams.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Taking afternoon naps.

Greatest lesson learned?

When in doubt, it’s better to take a risk than remain in place. Even if a perceived “risky” choice doesn’t go as planned, you’ll learn more than you ever thought possible. People often overvalue familiarity and undervalue the opportunity that comes with risk taking.

Want more 2016 20 Under 40? Check out Jon Galloway’s Q&A.

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