Wired Waffles falls short in celebrity funding pitch

  • Wed Oct 10th, 2012 2:59pm

By Kurt Batdorf HBJ Editor

MARYSVILLE — The owner of Wired Waffles knew how he fared with the five celebrity investors on ABC’s “Shark Tank” before the rest of the nation go to see him pitch for his business on the ABC show.

Roger Sullivan, president of the Marysville company that invented the caffeine-infused waffle, was one of some 33,000 entrepreneurs to audition for a spot on the show, said Richard Boas, director of sales for Wired Waffles. Each episode features four products whose backers make a pitch to the panel for an equity stake in the venture.

“If you get a deal, it’s a huge shot in the arm,” Boas said.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Wired Waffles lost to other entrepreneurs pitching a line of dresses made of pillowcases, a unique spatula and vitamin oral sprays.

“I’m not knocking the show for not getting a deal,” Sullivan said.

He said he was noticing a “Shark Tank” effect during the show’s broadcast Oct. 12, when he received a lot of encouraging calls and emails.

“We got lots of exposure,” he said. “We got exposure for seven minutes in front of 10 million viewers. Besides, we didn’t need the money.”

Sullivan said he hadn’t heard of “Shark Tank” until friends and relatives told him he ought to audition for a chance to get on the show to get some exposure for Wired Waffles. He checked the show’s website and hit the link for an audition.

“It was a pretty long time before I heard back,” Sullivan said.

During the show’s taping at a studio in California, Sullivan didn’t meet the other entrepreneurs he’s competing against. Viewers will see about 10 minutes of Sullivan’s “elevator pitch to break the ice.” He describes the genesis of Wired Waffles, justifies his valuation of the business and tells what percentage of it he would give up for a specific investment amount.

Roger and Amy Sullivan owned a couple of espresso stands and saw the need for a breakfast food that was more than a cookie but less than a muffin “that’s basically a piece of cake you can eat for breakfast,” he said. First, a Travel Channel show about sweetened Liege-style Belgian waffles got their attention. Another show about the uses of pharmaceutical-grade caffeine made Wired Waffles a reality.

The Sullivans developed a recipe and brought Wired Waffles to market in September 2011. Later that year, Boas approached the Sullivans after church one day and offered them his sales and marketing expertise, even though Roger Sullivan said the start-up business couldn’t offer him a salary. He said Boas just wanted to be part of Wired Waffles.

“It’s the most exhilarating, exciting thing I’ve done in business,” Boas said.

The most common complaint was that the waffle was too dry, but Boas said the Sullivans didn’t want to add fat to the recipe, which would retain moisture lost to cooking and freezing but could turn it into something with the texture of a Costco muffin.

Fat adds calories, too. A surprising number of Wired Waffle eaters are athletes who probably wouldn’t appreciate seeing the calories jump from 200 to 210 per serving to 350 or 400, Boas said.

So the Sullivans and their New Jersey-based commercial baker hired a consultant to study the recipe and cooking method. To get a moister Wired Waffle, Boas said the recipe got more leavening, more time for the yeast to work and an enzyme called Cakesoft.

When Roger Sullivan made his pitch on “Shark Tank,” Wired Waffles’ recipe was at “version 2.0,” Boas said. It’s now in its third iteration with sugar, cinnamon and chocolate chip varieties and a new bacon-maple flavor developed in conjunction with the bacon lovers at J&D Bacon Salt of Seattle, who proclaim, “Everything should taste like bacon.”

Sales have improved since Boas came on board, said Roger Sullivan, a commercial diver who spends up to six weeks at a time working in the Gulf of California. In Sullivan’s long absences, Boas has been instrumental in signing contracts with national distributors and brokers where Sullivan said he’d been happy to seal deals with just a handshake.

“It’s been an incredible blessing ever since” Boas started, Sullivan said. “He does the things I can’t do as the ADD absentee owner.”

If Sullivan doesn’t win on “Shark Tank,” Boas isn’t worried.

“I think the J&D Foods deal will have a bigger impact than the show,” he said.

Kurt Batdorf: 425-339-3102; kbatdorf@heraldnet.com.

Get wired

Order Wired Waffles and Wired Wyatt’s caffeinated maple-flavored syrup online at wiredwaffles.com or buy Wired Waffles locally at Snoho Mojo, 313 Second St., Snohomish; Pioneer Square Espresso &76 Gas Station, 719 91st Ave. NE, Lake Stevens; Norm’s Market, 10027 Lundeen Parkway, Lake Stevens; and Rx Expresso, 101 128th St. SE, Everett.