- Rip Pruisken, 29; Marco De Leon, 27
When Rip Pruisken and Marco De Leon started testing recipes for their Amsterdam-style stroopwafels (thin waffles with sweet flavoring), they were students living in Brown University's dorm and often blew out the power in the building with their industrial press. Pruisken kept the machine--made of two 15-pound cast-iron plates--in his room so the co-founders could tinker with the ingredients and sample them with friends. "The irons are really hot, so I've lost a lot of the sensation in my fingertips," says Pruisken, who grew up eating stroopwafels in Amsterdam. "I guess that's a good thing when I hold a hot cup of coffee."
Now, the co-founders are making their Rip Van Wafels in a proper facility and have raised $3.8 million from private investors to grow their Brooklyn-based company. And thanks to a key deal with Starbucks in 2016, Rip Van's revenue jumped 76 percent by the next year. The company's waffles come in eight flavors, including chocolate brownie, vanilla, and strawberry. What's more, the products are low in sugar and made from natural ingredients--two factors that Pruisken and De Leon value. The co-founders plan on expanding to other packaged food projects in the next two years. --Emily Canal