There's a place in Chicago, down by the Merchandise Mart, called The Doughnut Vault.
Just like Krispy Kreme, Dunkin Donuts, and even 7-Eleven, they make doughnuts. But the Doughnut Vault has something those other places don't have: A line that stretches around the corner.
There are a few more things that make this place unusual. The Doughnut Vault does not have opening hours. They open when they're ready to open (9:30-ish), and close when they run out of doughnuts (this usually happens while people are still in line). Their prices are also pretty steep: $2 - $3 a donut. And they won't let you walk away with more than a half-dozen, so forget bringing them back to the office. More than a few people have compared it to Seinfeld's Soup Nazi. Here's a screenshot of their tweets @doughnutvault.
I stood in line for a half hour last Saturday morning before the tweets of their diminishing supply made me give up. I was a little bummed that I didn't get to see the inside of the shop. And also disappointed that I didn't get to find out what a pistachio or chestnut doughnut tastes like. Still hungry, I ended up walking two blocks and buying an apple fritter at 7-Eleven where I was the only customer in the store. But I don't blame The Doughnut Vault at all. Next time I'm in Chicago, I'll just be sure to get in line around 8:30, and bring something to read. I still had an interesting experience with them. And I still want to get into their club.
There are Doughnut Vault-level agencies out there. You know who they are. And there's a good chance you're standing in line right now, portfolio in hand, waiting to get in. Lots of people will give up and settle for a job at a Dunkin-caliber shop. And that's fine. There's some great work/donuts coming out of those places.
But if you want to get a Doughnut Vault-level job, you're going to have to have a Doughnut Vault-level book. You're going to have to offer more than the chocolate long john campaign (those are delicious, but we've all seen them). You're going to have to figure out how to make the work in your book as remarkable and satisfying as a pistachio or chestnut doughnut.
With graduation coming up at portfolio programs around the country, I've seen a lot of student portfolios in the last couple of weeks. And I can tell you those books are out there. They're just as rare as a blockbuster line for a donut shop. But they're out there.