The Story Behind Wonderffle
My name is Mike Bradford. I'm an engineer, culinary enthusiast, and world traveler. I earned a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from the University of Oklahoma and worked as a welding engineer at a General Motors assembly plant before launching a career as a software developer at companies of sizes varying from startups to Fortune 500 enterprises.
For years, I had dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur -- I just always thought I'd start a software company. I conceived the idea for The Wonderffle Stuffed Waffle Iron one afternoon in September 2014 while I was having lunch with coworkers at 24 Diner on Austin's famous 6th Street. One of my colleagues had ordered a plate of chicken and waffles (a dish that seems to have exploded in popularity recently) and I was struck by how large the portions of chicken and waffles were. It got me thinking about waffles in general. I realized that there's no easy way to eat them on the go -- not with the things we typically eat with waffles. It would just be a big mess trying to eat a waffle with syrup or fruit (or fried chicken) while in your car or walking around. So I searched for some type of product like those sandwich makers you see in the stores but only for waffles. Finding none, I decided to finally make use of that Mechanical Engineering degree I had earned many years prior and started designing one myself.
My initial intention was not to sell the cooking device, but rather to start a stuffed waffle food service business. I wasn't the cook of the family, so I was considering asking my older brother, who had years of professional cooking experience, to partner with me in starting a food establishment. However, before we could seriously talk about the idea he passed away suddenly. Distraught, I actually abandoned the project for about 5 months.
Then one day I saw an advertisement by a major food retailer for a breakfast sandwich comprising sausage, egg and cheese between two waffles and realized that the world was ready for a better way to eat deluxe waffles on the go. Reenergized, I built the first prototype of The Stuffed Waffle Iron in November 2015 and began cooking stuffed waffles for friends and family who encouraged me to get this product out commercially.
Still excited about the idea of starting a stuffed waffle-themed food service business, I entered a 1000-attendee food truck competition about 7 months after producing my first prototype.
I rented a food truck from a local business, staffed it with a group of high school students from the culinary arts class my friend taught, and drove an hour away to Killeen, Texas. The whole event turned out to be a disaster. Neither the food truck nor my rudimentary prototypes could handle any sort of customer rush. Once again, I seriously considered abandoning the whole idea.
But a few months later I got word of a casting call for a business show starring Steve Harvey. My appearance on Steve Harvey's Funderdome aired in June 2017. I pitched The Stuffed Waffle Iron to a studio audience who voted to fund my product to the amount of $50,000 over a competitor's product.
I used the seed money to pay for a pilot run of 500 units of a cast iron model in the spring of 2018. The following year I released the cast aluminum model which has been the top seller of the two.
It means the world to me to see people enjoying cooking with my product. I love seeing people share their creations on social media where they present food combinations that I had never imagined before. I especially enjoy seeing dishes created by trained chefs.
Which goes to say that I am most proud when I see my customers apply my product in their commercial food service. Knowing that they are generating revenue from my creation confirms that I'm in some way contributing to a larger economy.
As such, my greatest joy would be to be able to use sales from my invention to provide for my family. As the sole financial provider for a family of six, I'm not yet at the position where I can comfortably leave my job in software development to work full time at Wonderffle. But as I meet the aforementioned goals, I can see that possibility becoming a reality.