We all know waffles are delicious, but Texas based entrepreneur Mike Bradford found the perfect way to take waffles to a whole new level! He developed Wonderffle, a new brand of waffle makers that lets you stuff your favorite foods inside. The Stuffed Waffle Iron is a specialty stovetop waffle maker that comes in both cast aluminum and cast iron models. We tested it for ourselves and loved it! It’s functional, easy to use and let me make sweet potato filled spiced waffle that was out of this world.
It takes a lot to take go from an idea to a real life product foodies like us love. Lucky for us Wonderffle founder shared his journey & tips with us in the interview below. Check it out:
What is Wonderffle?
Wonderffle is a brand of waffle makers designed to cook waffles stuffed with your favorite foods inside of them. The Stuffed Waffle Iron is a specialty stovetop waffle maker that comes in both cast aluminum and cast iron models.
What sets your product apart from other products in the market?
- It’s the only waffle maker on the market made specifically to cook waffles stuffed with other foods.
- It has a large enough capacity to cook with just about any kind of food whether sweet, savory, breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
- It’s portable. You can cook on electric or gas cooktops, outdoor grills, or any open flame.
- It has a unique design that allows you to remove the cooked stuffed waffle without touching it with your bare hands.
- It’s designed with ease-of-use in mind: detachable parts, non-stick cooking surfaces, and heat-resistant handles allow you to cook, clean, and store with ease.
What makes a great waffle?
A great waffle is one that is crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. Its indentations are deep enough to hold gobs of maple syrup in place. But even the best waffle alone is kind of boring. We rarely eat just a waffle. It is most often accompanied by some other food like fruit, breakfast items, or even fried chicken. What makes Wonderffle great is that it gives you all of this in a whimsical, hand-held meal that you can eat on the go.
What’s your favorite type of waffle or dish to prepare using the wonderffle?
Overall, my favorite savory dish is a saag paneer in a naan-inspired stuffed waffle. In the Fall, my favorite sweet dish is a pumpkin spice waffle stuffed with brown sugar and cinnamon cream cheese.
I make many other crowd pleasers such as a sausage, egg, and cheese stuffed waffle; a bacon cheeseburger stuffed waffle; a collard greens and smoked neck bone stuffed waffle; a monte cristo stuffed waffle; a spicy fried chicken and coleslaw stuffed waffle; an apple pie stuffed waffle; and a red velvet waffle stuffed with roasted pecans and cream cheese glaze.
One dish on my bucket list is a fufu and eru stuffed waffle reminiscent of one of my favorite dishes when I lived in Cameroon. I think I could make the batter using cassava flour.
What challenges have you faced building this business?
At the onset, my biggest challenge was finding a manufacturer. I contacted dozens of North American manufacturers and found that their per-unit price was too high, they couldn’t handle the entire manufacturing process, or they require a larger minimum order quantity than I could afford. In one case, an American manufacturer explicitly told me that I’d have to get this product fabricated in China.
Due to intellectual property concerns and some nebulous fear of dealing with the Chinese government, I was reluctant to work directly with a Chinese manufacturer. After getting a glaring referral from a fellow entrepreneur for a US-based contract manufacturer, I paid upfront for the cost of tooling and 25% production. Unfortunately, the owner of this company is a total crook and never did the work. Through an out of court settlement, I was supposed to be repaid a large percentage of that back, but they are currently in breach of contract after failing to adhere to the terms of our settlement. After this debacle, I finally decided to work directly with Chinese manufacturers. My cast iron units are purchased through a Chinese American logistics partner.
Another ongoing challenge is cash flow. At the volumes I am able to purchase, my per-unit costs are high. Due to the recent tariffs on Chinese imports imposed by the Trump administration, about 25% of my landed cost is on duty fees alone.
I was slow to realize the effect those tariffs would have on my product cost. My inventory just arrived from the manufacturer late last month and I have already sold over half of it. But a large number of those sales were at wholesale price, so after getting hit with a customs bill, those margins have become wafer thin. As a result, I have no budget for marketing and promotions. The remainder of my revenue from sales will have to go to keeping the bills paid and purchasing more inventory. I hope soon to be able to do better than to tread water, but that’s where I am at present.
What advice would you give to others hoping to enter this space?
Mass production can be expensive. There are expenses related to design, prototyping, tooling, production, packaging, shipping, etc. Therefore, do as much for yourself as you can. Make an effort to learn how to design and prototype yourself. Your public library can be a good resource. Some offer classes on 3D design and 3D printing and hold events for makers.
You should consider hiring a patent attorney to help protect your intellectual property. While legal fees can add up, you can learn to do much of the patent application yourself. A reasonable lawyer will be willing to walk you through this process as a part of their service to you. You can save a large amount of money by writing most of your provisional patent application and filing it yourself. In the provisional phase, your lawyer can primarily serve in an advisory and revisionary capacity. Their expertise will come in most handily in writing broad claims for the non-provisional application, responding to USPTO actions and things like filing continuations-in-part. You can also save a great deal by drawing your own figures. Most likely, your lawyer would contract that work out anyway.
Remain paranoid. Paranoia is a great asset, especially early on. Be especially paranoid when paying for services. Ask more questions than you think necessary. Sometimes you can judge a person’s character by whether or not they become annoyed at your questions or use belittling language when answering what they may consider a “stupid” question.
Have suspicion even of the prospects of your own idea. Because of their appeal to a particular market segment, niche products may require time to find the precise target market. Just because a product excites you does not mean that it will excite the masses — even if it solves a real problem.
As much as possible, break work into small, iterative milestones and only pay for the minimum required to complete each one.
If a vendor does not already have one, consider having a contract drafted before agreeing to paying for their services. Set the terms for timeline and deliverable and include an arbitration clause in case a disagreement arises.
Be wary of anyone who makes unreasonable promises. For example, consider wisely if a manufacturer claims to be able to get work done in China during the month of February.
How can Black Foodies support & purchase your product? (Please include links to your social media accounts to follow & website + stores where they can purchase your product)
Wonderffle products can be purchased directly from wonderffle.com and Amazon.com. It ships free to domestic US addresses. No overhead above the shipping cost is charged when shipping to addresses outside of the domestic US.
You can also follow us on social media @wonderffle for periodic recipes and information on sales and promotions.
Bonus Question: What’s in the future for Wonderffle?
As far as the future for Wonderffle, I have plans to launch a new model per year for the next few years. At the same time, starting a food service operation is still a strong desire of mine. The old Burger Chef that later got absorbed into Carl’s Jr. restaurants started as a cooking equipment manufacturer before creating a chain of restaurants after their demo restaurant in Indianapolis took off. I could see myself starting a food service operation based on cookware I’ve created.