Not only was Pop Goes The Waffle owner Sara Fludd accepted into the 2021 Stacy’s Chips Rise Project, but her food truck is also doing so well she decided to open a brick-and-mortar store on Tangerine Avenue in Gulfport.
By KARIN DAVIS-THOMPSON, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — Sara Fludd said she has always loved waffles – it was a special breakfast treat for her family. So, after several attempts at starting a business without the success she’d hoped for, she decided to turn to what she loved, and Pop Goes the Waffle was born.
“There were a lot of early [business] attempts,” Fludd shared. “I tried it all — yard signs, custom candy bars, dessert catering, I even had a coffee company.”
Even though none of those worked the way she thought they would, the entrepreneurial bug just wouldn’t leave. And, with her daughter getting ready to head to college, she and her husband began to think about the next steps.
They decided that putting a unique spin on their favorite breakfast food might be the business idea they were looking for.
“We started in 2017, first with a lot of product testing,” Fludd stated. “We tried the recipes out on family and friends and came up with a menu.”
The duo started with a food tent, attending events on the weekends to introduce their products, then they purchased a food truck.
As the business continued to grow and local coffee shops started lining up to sell their sweet and savory waffles on a stick at their stores, Fludd knew she was on to something and wanted to take the business to the next level.
Last year, she remembered hearing about a business incubator program with Stacy’s Chips. Stacy’s is the maker of pita chips in a variety of flavors. The company’s annual Rise Project provides mentoring and financial support for a selected group of women-owned businesses.
“I saw information about it [in 2020] and thought it sounded like a great program,” Fludd said. “I filed it away and figured I would apply the next year.”
A friend saw the information before the 2021 deadline and mentioned it to her, encouraging her to apply. When a few weeks passed, and she hadn’t applied, her friend brought it up again. She always felt pressed for time with a full-time job, but she finally submitted her information and waited.
“A few months passed, and when I ran across the confirmation email, it reminded me that I hadn’t heard anything,” the 52-year-old said. “I deleted the email. I figured if no one had contacted me by now, I must not have been selected.”
Then, just days later, Stacy’s responded, congratulating her on becoming a cohort in the 2021 Stacy’s Chips Rise Project.
“I was floored,” she said. “It was truly a surprise.”
As one of the 10 women entrepreneurs chosen for the 12-week program, Fludd will be assigned mentors from Pepsi or Frito Lay for weekly meetings on her goals and what she wants to focus on for continued success and to take her business to the next level. She said she is grateful for the chance to look at data trends, consumer buying habits and determine how that information impacts what she does next in her own business.
“It’s really exciting to be able to meet with them and have a chance to see this data firsthand. It’s information I would not be able to have access to otherwise,” she said.
Fludd will also receive $10,000 for a project of her choice to increase sales. She has chosen to use the funds for a world-class website that she believes will help her build a better online e-commerce business.
“I want everyone in the nation to be able to get our waffles,” she said.
A side benefit of the program is the chance to continue networking with the women who are a part of this year’s group. They will have the option of continuing their relationship and supporting each other long after the program has ended.
“Past groups are still in touch with each other,” said the mom of one. “We have already been able to talk and help each other brainstorm.”
Fludd is excited about this current opportunity for her business and the next phase that she and her husband Roderick have already set in motion.
“We are opening a brick-and-mortar store,” she exclaimed. “There will be a little café area, and with more space, I am excited about the chance to expand the menu and flavor options.”
Until the opening, you can find out when the Pop Goes the Waffle food truck will be near you by going to their website at www.popgoesthewaffle.com, and don’t forget to follow, like, and share them on Facebook and Instagram.