Miranda Scott ’18 launched The Waffle Cookie just last summer, and she’s already learning the ups and downs of running a business. Scott recently participated in the annual “Real” Elevator Pitch competition, where college students present their ideas to investors during elevator rides up the second-tallest building in St. Louis, Mo. Twenty finalists were invited to pitch to 20 judges on December 6. They had 40 seconds — for each of the 10 rides — to earn the judges’ favor. It was organized by Saint Louis University’s John Cook School of Business.
Scott and her best friend, Serena Bian (a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania), decided to start a social enterprise during the summer break after their first year. The friends, who met at the Cranbrook Schools near Detroit, felt the weight of the city, even though they were in a suburb. “So we wanted to have our social impact benefit Detroit,” Scott said.
“We both love food, we love sweets, and I have a particular liking for breakfast foods, so we experimented and came up with the waffle cookie,” Scott said. Slightly softer than a cookie, the confection is made with a waffle iron and comes in a variety of flavors, from white chocolate chip macadamia nut to lemon.
They began by selling at farmers’ markets and two retail stores. But when the academic year started, they decided that they only had the bandwidth to sell online — they make all the orders themselves.
For every 10 cookies sold, they donate a meal through Forgotten Harvest, a nonprofit that “rescues” surplus food and donates it to emergency food providers in the metro Detroit area. Between the launch of their online store in October 2015 and the beginning of the holiday break in December, they sold nearly 1,000 cookies, and they donated 94 meals. (During the summer, they sold approximately 450 cookies and donated money to a different nonprofit.)
To get the business off the ground, Scott and Bian raised $3,000 through a crowdfunding campaign. Also, a Colgate parent has invested in The Waffle Cookie. Scott joined Colgate’s Thought Into Action (TIA) Entrepreneurship Institute this year — that is how she learned about the “Real” Elevator Pitch Competition. TIA leaders told students that, if any of them were finalists, the institute would pay for the trip to St. Louis.
On December 5, Scott went to the monthly TIA meeting and practiced her pitch on her peers. The ’Gate student then hopped on a plane for the Gateway City. (Bian couldn’t join her because she was on a Wharton Business School panel that day talking about The Waffle Cookie.)
The next morning, Scott met her competitors and stepped into her first elevator. “You couldn’t even shake [the judges’] hands,” because time was so limited, she said. The two judges scribbled notes as Scott delivered her pitch and handed out cookies. “I was nervous at first, but after the first one, I realized that it was super fun,” Scott said. “By the time they were over, I wanted to do ten more.”
The Waffle Cookie may not have won the cash prize, but Scott was mainly in it for the experience, like “learning what other young social entrepreneurs are doing,” she said. And while networking afterward with the judges, Scott received advice from successful businesspeople — one of whom offered her an internship.
During winter break, Scott and Bian plan to tour a facility in Detroit that would bake and ship their products so they could spend their time on market research and sales strategies. The two would like to open a storefront in Detroit after graduation: not only looking for sweet success, they also hope to make a positive impact on their community.