Baltimore Waffle Company, founded by Craig Grabowski, was one of five finalists in Ford's Five Pitches in Five Blocks competition, where entrepreneurs have five city streets to tell how their company would benefit from a 2019 Ford Transit Connect. In the contest, each founder had the opportunity to put their story-telling skills to the test to talk about their business.
Baltimore Waffle Company makes Belgian Liege-style sugar waffles at farmers markets and large events in the Baltimore area. They use a unique recipe for the waffles that Grabowski developed himself, and are made to order for their customers. Numerous toppings are offered, ranging from mixed berries and honey to Nutella and bacon. Grabowski currently operates out of an old minivan.
How did you get your business in motion?
Ha, trial and error! We had the idea, we created the product...and then we had to figure out how to scale-up the operation into something where we could cook waffles in a parking lot--without electricity. So, we had to get a little creative. I found some authentic, antique, Belgian waffle irons and figured out how to cook waffles over an open flame. Since we are a pop-up waffle shop we needed to bring our kitchen to the people. So I packed up a three-burner propane camp stove, a tent, folding tables, a couple buckets of waffle batter, and those cast-iron waffle makers into minivan and off we went to the farmers markets.
What are your biggest roadblocks to success?
Time is the biggest roadblock, and transportation is a close second. I still work a day job during the week, so all of the waffle work is relegated to "off-hours," after work, and on the weekends. Shopping for ingredients, whipping up waffle batter, scheduling events--all that stuff has to get done after work, dinner, dishes, homework, baths--all of that. Since my minivan pulls double-duty as both a waffle wagon and a family truckster, we are constantly packing and unpacking it, all week long.
How important is mobility to your business?
Mobility is everything to my business. Since I don't have a brick and mortar shop, I have to haul the traveling waffle lab all over town. It's low rent under the tent, and I'll go wherever my van takes me. I spend about 15 hours in and out of my van every weekend so I'm 100 percent on the go.
What does the "road to success" look like for you?
The road has some twists and turns. For me to really be successful, I need to get to the point where I can step back, turn over the day-to day operation of the waffle stand to my assistant/waffle apprentice in-training, and spend some time on the strategy side of the business. In order to grow it's got to be done wisely. I'd like to expand into new markets, work with more restaurants and retail locations, and continue to spread the waffle word.
What drives you?
FAMILY! I want to make them proud. I want to show my kids what it's like to build something from the ground up and teach them that good things come from working hard. Ultimately, I'd like to create something that I can pass down to them and see where they can take it. My extended waffle family is also a huge motivation. The friends that I've made at the waffle stand over the past seven years have really become an integral part of my success. I refer to them as my waffle faithful and they have given me nothing but unconditional support from day one. I'd like to pay that back someday.