Lil' Orbits History - Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Ed Anderson working on the very first mini donut machine
Ed Anderson working on the first SS1200

Lil' Orbits has been turning donuts into dollars since 1974. The brainchild of eccentric entrepreneur Ed Anderson, the Lil' Orbits donut maker has been helping people all over the world become financially independent. In the early 70's, "Edo" set to work creating the first prototype mini donut machine in his garage workshop. He has seen a machine making mini donuts at a fair, operated by a gentleman that built all his own parts and was not selling his equipment to the general public. Edo came up with plans to improve on the design and although there were many bumps in the road to success, the inventor was not going to give up. During one attempt, Edo unknowingly used solder that melts at the necessary temperature to cook donuts. After only a few dozen donuts were produced the machine melted, and Edo returned to the garage to perfect a new way to fry doughnuts.

In 1975, the first Lil' Orbits mall location was opened. Called Little O'Nuts, the freestanding mall kiosk was operated by Ed, his wife Pat, and their son Charlie. When customers began asking about the name, confusing the kiosk with a nearby hot peanut vendor, the name was changed and Lil Orbits was born. The indoor doughnut operation wasn't open long before the clothing and dry cleaning stores began to complain that their textiles smelled suspiciously like donuts. That same year, Lil' Orbits opened their first three permanent donut store locations in Minnesota. One was located in the concourse of the Minneapolis IDS Tower.

Those initial indoor locations were so successful that Ed, Pat and Charlie decided to try to take their invention on the road. A retired postal van was renovated and turned into the very first Lil' Orbits concession truck. The mobile donut concession stand was such a success that after several events it was sold to an independent operator, who reported incredible profits. This initial success gave the Andersons the idea to being selling machines to like-minded entrepreneurs, setting them up with their own high-profit business.

In the beginning, Lil' Orbits manufactured machines for a division of American Specialty Foods called Donut Man. A few of these original 'Donut Man' machines are still in operation today. In 1987, the companies split and eventually Donut Man went out of business. With a new manufacturing plant and sales staff, Lil' Orbits developed new machines and spent several years perfecting a recipe for donut mix. During this period of time, the SS2400 and greaseless Bake-Um machines were produced. The very first 'Donuts-to-Dollars' booklet was also produced, and it still being printed today.

Orbie the duck
Orbie the duck

During the late 80's, Lil' Orbits began to turn their focus to the worldwide market. In 1987, the first international distributorships were awarded in Germany and Belgium. The overwhelming success of these operations gave rise to many more distributorships in various countries all over the world. In fact, you can purchase and operate a machine in over 110 countries worldwide, and that number is still growing! We receive questions all the time about Orbie the duck, and why we operate under a different name outside of the United States and Canada. The reason is that there are no ways to translate 'lil' into other languages. We adopted a completely new name that is easy to pronounce in any language. As for Orbie, he is modeled after the floating duck carnival games.. which reminded is a lot of little donuts floating through our machines.

Over the years a lot of changes have occurred in the world and at Lil' Orbits, but we still remain dedicated to our original goals -- business tradition and sharing. As our President Charlie Anderson puts it:

"Lil' Orbits is a taste tradition, and a tradition of entrepreneurship, all started long ago by an inventor and his family, with an idea for making mini-donuts and a plan for putting like-minded folks into business. It's also in the best keeping of American business tradition, where a good idea can spread across the country, and now around the world, to delivery financial success.

We're proud of what we have accomplished for our business, but even more proud of what Lil' Orbits has meant to folks who wanted to have their own business. We've helped them realize the financial independence that can result from their efforts. That's what life is all about: sharing. It's very rewarding."

Lil' Orbits truly is a family business, now owned by Ed's son Charlie Anderson. His children, Jessica and John work in IT and Service respectively.