Years in St. Pete
Chief Waffle Officer Pop Goes the Waffle, LLC
What do you do?
We make a variety of unique waffles for local markets, festivals, special events, weddings and corporate celebrations. Our menu is divided into three categories: waffles on a stick (like cheese pizza, sausage biscuit, red velvet, churro, and waffle dog); authentic liege waffles made with Belgian pearl sugar and topped with mouthwatering options (like pumpkin pie, Nutella banana, caramel apple crisp, and strawberries and cream); and Can't Believe These are Waffles (like Mexican omelets, shrimp and grits, falafel, and biscuits and gravy).
Why do you do it?
I grew up baking with both of my grandmothers, starting with patting out biscuit dough as a toddler. I’m the person who always sneaks weekend baking projects into the office on Monday mornings – friends often place orders for my cakes and pies. Once I even baked 1680 caramel cupcakes for a fundraiser! Baking is a lifelong love, but waffles have always been my favorite. They were my go-to order for every childhood vacation breakfast. As I raised my own family, I made waffles on special occasions – with the most exciting being the first snow day of the year. I love being creative with food and I delight in seeing people enjoy my food. What better way to do that than with waffles? This particular business model allows me to achieve this without the constraints and overhead of a brick-and-mortar location. I am also a bit addicted to entrepreneurship – I often whiteboard business concepts with my friends for fun. The process of taking a wild idea and transforming it into a tangible product that people can appreciate is exhilarating.
What was your Catalyst? (How did you get started?)
My catalysts were moving to St. Pete from Connecticut in 2017 after our only child, Rachel, left for college; and my husband Roderick who has supported numerous business ventures over the past 25 years. As I settled into my new city, I explored all the local markets and realized there was an opportunity to create something solid. We are South Carolina natives and have lived in several states on the East and West Coast, but St. Pete by far has the strongest hold on nurturing small, local businesses. It truly is a citywide incubator and I hope the #shoplocal vibe never dies.
What’s a common misconception or unknown aspect of what you do?
Although American waffles are called “Belgian waffles,” this type of waffle does not exist in Belgium. Here’s a bit of waffleology: There are two types of waffles you can buy in Belgium: Liege – made from yeasted dough and studded with pearl sugar. Brussels – made from yeasted batter. Brussels waffles were introduced to Americans at the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens, N.Y. The Belgian waffles served at your local diner are based on the Brussels recipe using baking powder instead of yeast.
What’s the most challenging part of your Hustle?
Currently, it's getting enough “whisper quiet” generator power to operate two or more commercial irons at once. To power multiple irons I need a 10,000-15,000 watt generator (and two linebackers on staff to move it from place to place). Because of power limitations, I am limited to doing one type of waffle at each event, when I’d like to offer more variety at one time.
What’s the most valuable piece of business advice/insight that’s helped you?
A dear friend gave me the “You’re a Badass” desk calendar last year, and one of the early dates read: “The moment you have the audacity to start believing in the not yet seen, your reality will begin to shift.” That’s when I really started to build my business and brand in real life, not just in my head. I’m a very process-oriented, Type-A personality – I always want to have all the solutions and everything placed perfectly before I begin. With launching a business, it just doesn’t work that way. So, I started believing in my end goal: to sell my waffles to the masses. I bought equipment and signed a kitchen lease before I even had a location to vend from. I took a huge leap of faith, but it is all coming together faster and bigger than I ever dreamed it would.
2019 is going to be amazing. My brother-in-law is moving from South Carolina to assist with expansion. We are going mobile with a food truck by spring, which broadens wedding and event capabilities and allows us to book multiple events in a day. We also have wholesale products in development and hope to partner with local coffee shops – what goes better with coffee than a great waffle? Beyond that, we want to explore larger-scale concession opportunities with regional teams, so I will be tracking down those leads and tempting them with pizza waffle pops.