In 2017 I attempted to launch a community bike ride that raised money for a different philanthropic cause each month of the year in Boulder, Colorado by asking riders to bring a $20.00 contribution. Only a dozen riders showed up for the first ride and the following month, one rider showed. Attendance was poor.
I’d only just moved to town and didn’t know many people in the area. I was new to the scene. Aside from the unique model of the ride, I needed something attractive to increase attendance. After all, the idea was to donate hundreds of dollars each month, not a $20.00 bill.
Reaching into my memories traveling as a professional cyclist years before, I pondered treats I could have at the event to lure riders from local clubs to attend.
“What if I made Liège wafels to pair with our pre-ride coffee?”
Belgian heritage in cycling runs strong. Their Spring Classics are a unique series of long one-day routes similar to the charitable rides I was trying to host. I recall stuffing my own jersey pockets with these snacks as a great alternative to the monotony of energy bars.
Liège wafels were the perfect ride snack because they were novel enough to the States with deep roots in cycling and offered a delectable source of natural energy.
My roommate and I made our first batch of Liège wafels for the next ride. We played with the recipe and made a number of small changes based on the 18th Century recipe. With each ride, we saw more attendance and donated more money to local organizations. By the 5th month, there were over 60 riders coming to ride for a cause beyond their own training goals - we called it the Supertraining ride and served Liège wafels at every event.
Some of the riders asked if they could buy our wafels, and they reordered, too! We offered Liège wafels on a pay-what-you-want basis because we continued to iterate on the recipe, packaging them hot-off-the-press in parchment paper and delivering them around town.
Interested in our fans’ reception of our plant-based versions based on the traditional, we put together blind tests and got feedback on these handmade “A” and “B” batches.
Customers either couldn’t tell the difference or preferred the vegan versions made with flaxseed instead of eggs.
At this point the Original Liège Vafels recipe was final. Unlike the traditional Liège wafel, these Vafels wafels were developed with 40% less fat so they would digest without sitting in the stomach like a rock. I wanted Vafels to fuel you to move, not leave you lethargic and sleepy.
With a little cajoling, local coffee shops and outdoor gear shops began stocking our vegan Liège Vafels. By 2018 we were ready to move out of our at-home kitchen and started making batches of 250 Vafels vs the small at-home batches of only 25 at a time.