Small-business owners, what are you doing to stand out from the crowd? Each week, we focus on an entrepreneur who has lessons to share that we think will resonate with other small-business owners.
Thomas DeGeest, the owner of mobile Belgian waffle shop Wafels & Dinges, answers our questions:
What are you doing to stand out from the crowd?
After traipsing around the U.S. as a management consultant for 10 years, I’ve seen my fair share of “Belgian waffles.” But I’m not sure anyone in the country served authentic Belgian waffles until I set up shop in my roving yellow Wafels & Dinges (“Dinges” means stuff, or toppings, in Belgian) truck. First, they’re not made from pancake batter. And while sometimes Belgians will sit down and make a proper meal of waffles, typically they don’t. It’s street food. So that’s what I’m doing: providing U.S. eaters an authentically Belgian experience – and earning a living as a business owner in the process.
What’s the best part about running your own business?
I have a destination for all of my energy and inspiration. After working for a big corporation for so long, it’s nice to be doing something fun.
What’s the biggest challenge of running your own business?
While I hired employees within four or five months of launching the business, it has been difficult for me to give up the reins. Though, I’ve now gotten to the point where I’ll at least take Sunday off.
Name: Thomas DeGeest
Business: Wafels and Dinges, a mobile Belgian-waffle shop.
Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Year founded: 2007
Number of employees: 4
Web address: wafelsanddinges.com
What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve overcome?
Controlling the quality of our products once they’ve left our possession. After allowing various coffee houses in New York and New Jersey to serve our Wafels & Dinges waffles, we quickly realized that in some instances our products’ quality was suffering. While partnering with others provides an excellent way to build brand awareness, it can also wreak havoc on a brand when you can’t control the results. We’re diligently working with our partners to ensure they keep our products’ quality up.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
Starting up a Wafels & Dinges Internet store. Between slinging waffles from my truck and running the online shop by myself, I spread myself too thin and eventually had to shut the online store down. It took too much time for the revenue it generated.
What’s the best business advice you can offer?
Do what you love.
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