In the latest instalment of Amazing Food & Drink, we sat down with Michael Henderson, owner and founder of Born and Raised Waffles. Across the episode we talk career breaks, the local food scene and transforming a hobby into a business. Check it out!
Born and Raised was established in 2015, presenting a real career break for Michael after previously heading up two businesses. Seeking to give his mind a break from business, he fell deeper and deeper into baking: his long-time hobby. After getting inspiration from George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, Henderson purchased a 40 year-old horse trailer, using his skills in metalwork to transform it into a food truck. “It took five weeks from start to finish,” shares the entrepreneur.
Looking back to that influential episode of Amazing Spaces, Michael recalls a cheesemaker who transformed a horse trailer into a business: “I did a bit of digging around and got in touch with the guy. He was very kind to come back. He helped out, and we emailed a few different companies. We converted the trailer, and it all came together really quickly.”
What is it like to run a gourmet waffle truck? According to Michael, whilst he has loved the experience, it hasn’t been without its challenges. “It wouldn’t feel like work for me. However, it’s also been the most work I’ve had in my life,” he says, “and in a lot of cases, people don’t see some of the hard work that’s been going on behind the scenes. You’ve got the emails, the ‘on-the-day’ prep. Our dough is made through a special process, and that alone takes 12 hours.”
Like many traders in Belfast’s artisan food scene, Michael and the team at Born and Raised Waffles source and prioritise local produce when possible. “Buying local and supporting local business is really important to me. On this island, we have amazing products – you won’t taste butter better anywhere else in the world,” says the waffle connoisseur.
Moving onto the question of challenges and obstacles, Michael highlight’s Northern Ireland’s limitations around regular trading. “In many cases, you see food trucks on the side of the road. We don’t want to be there – we want to be in the middle of things, around tourism, the city centres and local towns. It’s a challenge for us to find a place to trade. This is essential to building our brand and keeping our name out there.”
Who are the typical customers of Born & Raised Waffles? Michael suggests that whilst the business began with small weddings and other events, it quickly expanded to music festivals and large events bookings. Despite this growth, much of the company’s customers continue to come in the form of private bookings. “We’ve even made a few appearances on film sets. Game of Thrones was one example – it’s a bit random to have someone asking you for a salted caramel waffle when they have a space spattered with blood,” laughs Michael. “Liam Neeson hired us last year. He was a total gentleman – we could’ve sat and talked all night.”
According to Michael, providing five-star service comes as a combination of several factors. “A lot of it is about your customer service. You can have a bad day, but how do you come back from that? They are your customer, so treat them with value. Don’t cut corners with the product – we use real butter with no exceptions,” he advises. “Even our drinks are locally sourced, including coffee.”
The impact of tourism upon Michael’s business has been significant: “We have people connected with us from all around the world. We did a wedding recently, and a Greek guest was delighted to see a waffle truck and immediately bought one. A lot of events we do, we see a lot of tourists and that has a really big impact”. The impact of social media has also been significant, with Born & Raised attracting a raft of positive reviews.
What advice does Michael have for anyone considering an entrepreneurial path? “Think long and hard and research your product,” he insists. “Never cut corners. We have tried and tested our products, using local ingredients. Be consistent – and that’s something that’s really important to remember with food,” he adds.
The whole interview with Michael can be accessed here, or via Amazing Food & Drink’s official YouTube channel. You can also follow Born and Raised Waffles on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or online.
For more delicious discussion around Northern Ireland’s bustling independent food scene, follow Amazing Food & Drink. Amazing Food & Drink is a brand of ProfileTree, Northern Ireland’s leading content marketing agency. To discover what video marketing can do for your business, get in touch with the team today.