Pop Goes the Waffle of Pinellas County
Sara Fludd and her family relocated from Connecticut to St. Petersburg, Florida, in 2017 to chase after warmer weather and bigger dreams.
Pop Goes the Waffle is an innovative waffle company that is dedicated to providing exceptional waffles and waffle pops to the greater Tampa Bay Area. “Our specialties include waffle pops, which are waffles on a stick,” said Fludd, “we are probably more well known for our liege waffles, which is an authentic Belgian waffle. It’s from a dough instead of a batter, with Belgium pearl sugar and when we bake them they become perfectly sweet and you don’t need any syrup!”
Fludd started her business out of a passion for baking. “I’ve always been a baker; we’ve always done catering; and over the years we used to make waffles for my daughter on snow days and we just ended up with a lot of recipes,” Fludd recalls. “I used to joke like, ‘hey, I should start a restaurant that is just all waffles,’ and when we got here I was like ‘hey, that’s actually not a bad idea!’ Nobody was doing that so here we are.”
After getting her business up and running, Fludd decided that she needed some advice to help her move forward with her company, thus leading her to reach out to the Florida SBDC at Pinellas County Economic Development (PCED).
“I reached out because I knew that there would be resources at the SBDC to help me kind of get it all organized and to stop the analysis paralysis. And that’s exactly what happened,” she said. “Initially, the SBDC at Pinellas County helped me organize my thoughts. It helped open up doors for some resources that were available just for information about opening up a kitchen. I just can’t say enough about the resources. There are resources for everything with the SBDC at Pinellas County.”
Through assistance from Yolanda Cowart, procurement specialist at the Florida Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) and the Florida SBDC at PCED, Fludd continued to grow her business. “She just helped me kind of quarterly stay on track and to think forward,” Fludd said. “At that point we started thinking about growth. It is very helpful to have people that are knowledgeable about business practices to help you stay focused because entrepreneurs – when you’re wearing lots of different hats, it’s very easy to get off track. Ongoing, we still touch base frequently. We’re talking about scale now, we’re talking about SBA funding, we’re talking about grants that the city of St. Petersburg has. It’s just a never-ending source of information for my business.”
Fludd is currently working with the Florida SBDC at PCED, focusing on finding a bigger location for Pop Goes the Waffle. “We’re working on some funding so I have some working capital and so I can upgrade some equipment,” she said. “And we’re talking about programs and grants that the city may have and trainings that could continue to help me grow.”
Fludd has seen tremendous growth since she began working with the Florida SBDC at PCED and Florida PTAC at PCED. “My business has grown since I’ve been working with PTAC at Pinellas County,” she said. “It has grown from an idea on a piece of paper to an actual business that was able to survive a pandemic. We worked really hard and I’m very happy that we are still standing after that year we all had in 2020.”
As for many small businesses, Pop Goes the Waffle was deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Initially during the pandemic, about a year ago during March, that’s when everything shut down and we completely closed,” Fludd said. “We couldn’t take the food truck out; my coffee shops, the wholesale clients were closed. So, we went from having business to having no business for a couple months. And then we were slowly able to get back into doing food truck events.”
She continued to work with Cowart and the Florida SBDC at PCED during the pandemic. “I feel incredibly fortunate that she was the one that suggested we apply for an EIDL loan [Economic Injury Disaster Loan] through the SBA. That kept us afloat when there was no business. That probably is the thing that made a difference in us being able to sustain and not lose business and not potentially have to close during the pandemic.”
Moving forward, Fludd plans on using the Florida SBDC at PCED as a valuable resource. “I just want to say that the organization is such a phenomenal resource and it’s the breath in the depth of the resources. It’s truly a one-stop shop and I really can’t say enough good things about it.