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AS a 15-year-old living with Down syndrome, there was uncertainty about what Anthony Vrkic would do after he leaves school.
But that’s less of a worry these days for his parents Danijela and John Vrkic after they came across the American Donut Kitchen during a trip to Melbourne last year.
The couple believed they had the right recipe to start something similar for Anthony and not long after returning to Canberra they established Krofne, a for-profit business with an aim to sell a European yeast-styled doughnut.
The key was a four-generation-old recipe passed down by Danijela’s Croatian mum who migrated to Australia in the ‘70s when Danijela was two.
“The reason the recipe is more special than anything is because it’s giving us the opportunity to provide Anthony with employment,” Danijela said.
Danijela left her job in the public service in November to put all her efforts into Krofne, which began selling the doughnuts at the Old Bus Depot markets in October and has since moved into wholesale supply as well.
“When we were at the markets we thought: ‘We have the capacity to put another staff member on’,” Danijela said.
So Krofne hired 24-year-old Brent, who also lives with Down syndrome, to help serve alongside the Vrkic family, which consists of Anthony, his parents and his older two sisters.
“Brent absolutely loves it, it’s meaningful employment for him,” Danijela said.
“He listens to instructions and works just as fast as anybody else.”
It’s a long process making the Krofne doughnuts, taking about six hours to mix the dough, let it sit, roll it out, cut it and then leave it to rise.
“But it gives me great satisfaction to see the smile on these kids’ faces,” she said.
And it certainly gives Anthony a smile, who said he looked forward to going into the commercial kitchen (provided by Communities at Work) early on Sundays to help fill the doughnuts. He then goes to the markets where he sells the Krofne doughnuts.
Krofne currently offers three flavours, including Anthony’s favourite Nutella, as well as triple berry jam and a more traditional Croatian flavour, rosehip jam.
On top of loving the taste of the doughnuts, his mum said Anthony also enjoyed working because it brought meaning to his life.
“Anthony needs to be able to go buy a pair of jeans or shoes, with his own money, like anyone else can,” Danijela said.
“I think businesses are scared of employing these young adults because they may need additional assistance.
“What I would love to see is if each business in Canberra took on a person with a disability because it would make a huge difference.
“They have feelings and hormones and everything else like we do and want to be loved, accepted and feel useful.”
Danijela said she would also be going into Anthony’s school, Black Mountain School, on Wednesday mornings to teach students how to roll, cut and fry the Krofne donuts.
“I think it’s an absolutely fantastic opportunity for students to learn new skills,” she said.
Contact Danijela on 0409 846906 or email firstname.lastname@example.org