To find out where the Hong Kong egg waffles will bubble up next, visit nedzas.com or www.facebook.com/nedzaswaffles
Earlier this year, Joe Nedza took a missed opportunity and turned it into a business opportunity.
Nedza, a 2011 graduate of North Hall High School is the owner of Nedza’s Waffles, a business selling bubble waffles as a pop-up shop around Athens.
During a March 2016 trip to New York City, the University of Georgia business management student saw a crowd gathered around a bubble waffle vendor and wondered what the commotion was. He stood in line for more than an hour hoping to get his hands on the waffles, which are made of spherical pods, and are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
Unfortunately, when Nedza made it to the front of the line the New York City waffle vendor sold out, leaving Nedza curious about the popular food.
After coming home to Georgia, Nedza kept thinking about the missed opportunity, so he started looking for places to get bubble waffles locally. After having no luck, he decided to make his own. He purchased a bubble waffle maker from overseas — since they’re not available in the United States — and went on to perfecting his batter recipe.
Nedza had never baked before and started with recipes he found on the internet. After several months of experimenting, tweaking and testing the product with friends, Nedza was satisfied and set out to sell the delicacy.
“They’re excellent, the texture is really good, they have perfected it,” Jennie Clayton, Nedza’s mother, said of the finished waffles.
The waffles are also called Hong Kong egg waffles, according to Henry Harris, Nedza’s business partner.
“It kind of looks like bubble wrap and it’s got the crisp outside but the soft waffle inside,” he said. “It’s really hard to describe. It’s not a standard waffle by any means, though.”
Nedza opted for a pop-up shop, selling the waffles at festivals, farmers markets, schools and inside other businesses.
Since he started the business with cash out of pocket, he opted for a pop-up shop because he couldn’t afford a food truck or store front.
“When I started everyone sort of believed it was some hobby I’d get tired of,” he said.
But so far it’s not. Nedza’s Waffles won $5,000 last week as part of the Idea Accelerator program at UGA. The eight-week program exposes entrepreneurs methods of testing ideas, interacting with customers, setting up business models and pitching the idea to others.
At the end of the program each entrepreneur pitches their ideas to a panel of four judges who select the recipient of the $5,000 which is to be used to grow the business.
That means Nedza’s Waffles will be expanding. Nedza said he plans to use the $5,000 to put together a second “waffle in a box kit” to ship to another college campus and do exactly what he and his partner is doing at UGA. He was unsure exactly which college will be the next campus to get a Nedza’s Waffles.
“Essentially what I want to do is empower kids to make money and also have fun doing it,” said Nedza, who currently employs eight.
Nedza and Harris, a freshman at UGA, met at one of the Accelerator Program meetings. Harris decided not to pursue the program with a different idea and Nedza asked him to join his team.
“At first, I thought it was cool, but strange, because I’d never heard of anyone doing that,” Harris said of the bubble waffle business. “I didn’t know what it was but definitely thought it was cool and interesting.”
Harris handles business operations, making sure the business is properly stocked and that they have the right employees doing their best.
Clayton said she was surprised to hear he wanted to start a waffle business, but after she thought about it she said it made sense.
His father, grandfather and several uncles are entrepreneurs and operate their own successful businesses. In addition his grandmother was a food stylist for food photo shoots and his uncle is a chef.
“Everybody that influenced my kid were entrepreneurs so I guess it kind of makes sense that he’s heading in that direction,” she said.
Nedza’s Waffles serves waffles with ice cream and a variety of toppings as well as savory dishes, such as waffles with fried chicken and pizza waffles with cheese, pepperoni and sauce.
“His toppings are a hit,” Clayton said. “He’s chosen the ones that everybody wants a little bit of.”
Over the summer Nedza sold his first bubble waffle at a swim meet. His brother was a swim coach and Nedza asked if he could set up shop during the competition.
The waffles went over well; Nedza sold out of them the first day.
“After that it was kind of clear that I can keep doing this,” he said of making a go of the business.
Lately the waffle makers have been doing about two events per week, Nedza said. That’s mainly because he’s in school taking 15 credits this semester.
After graduation, Nedza hopes the business will do five or more events per week.