Sinnidra Taylor was recently recognized by Washington, DC-based Dine Diaspora as one of its 2022 Black Women in Food, citing her work as a culinary entrepreneur and community builder. Taylor is a former special education teacher who started her business Crazy Waffle Bar in 2018. Just before the pandemic hit, she started working on Codey’s, a commercial kitchen to help her business and other pop-ups and startups. For more information on his waffles, go to crazywafflebar.com, and for more on Codey’s, check out codeysnola.com.
Gambit: How did you create the Crazy Waffle Bar?
Sinnidra Taylor: I saw something while I was online. I google this image and what it was was a bubble waffle. It is also called a Hong Kong-style waffle. At the time, they weren’t selling much in the United States. Then I was on a trip to London, where there is a Chinatown. I made it a point to try a bubble waffle and fell in love with it.
They are not available in the United States unless you can find one in a city with a Chinatown. I loved it so much I wanted more people to experience it. I ended up finding a maker and bought a bubble waffle maker. I popped up and won about $1,000, and I said, “Oh my god, that’s my business.” So after the school year ended in May, I quit my job and have been selling waffles full time ever since.
The thing about a waffle bar is you can have it your way. In Europe they have waffles which are served with ice cream. This is how a bubble waffle is served. The waffle is rolled up in the shape of an ice cream cone. Customer can dress it according to the trimmings we have. We had signature waffles, like red velvet with white chocolate.
Gambit: How did you decide to open a commercial kitchen?
taylor: In developing my business, I encountered many obstacles. I thought it would be simple – a small cart or a kiosk. But when you look at what it takes to scale a food business, even if it’s just a waffle bar, there are a lot of hurdles. You need an affordable commercial kitchen space. It’s one thing if you have a good clientele and can afford kitchen space, but if you’re growing and trying to get a clientele, it’s hard, especially if you don’t have a storefront to make your product available. That’s what the pop-ups were able to do for me. I became a food entrepreneur by using a pop-up to introduce myself to the market and test my product.
It’s hard to get a permit to host a pop-up, even though I had a professional license, unless you’re part of a festival. There is no pop-up license. You have to be part of a festival or a food truck. There is no license that a pop-up provider can obtain. But the city says you need a license to be able to track your sales. There are also health issues, but the main reason is to collect sales tax. Hope they find something pop-up friendly.
Opening Codey’s would allow me and other food business entrepreneurs to have some sort of license to operate. It would also allow us to participate in festivals and train employees. If you work in a pop-up or at your home, it is difficult to train employees. Once (a business) registers in this kitchen, they have a culinary house and they are official businesses, which opens up other business opportunities and allows them to grow.
Only certain businesses are protected by craft (industry) laws, such as bakers and people who keep things. Technically, I’m a baker, but I also serve oatmeal, eggs, and bacon with my waffles. I could only serve waffles, it’s not really fun. In the United States, it’s breakfast food. In the South, there’s chicken and waffles. You really need a kitchen for that.
Wakin’ Bakin’ is not a picky brunch spot.
Gambit: How’s the opening of Codey’s going?
taylor: I bought a building during the Covid, but it requires a significant amount of work. So it takes time to do it. So we are renting a building that was already a commissary due to the urgency of obtaining a professional license during the crackdown. The goal was to wait and slowly work on the building. When the crackdown (from the city) came in November, we had to find accommodation quickly. So we rent a commissary. He doesn’t have all the equipment we need, but he has enough to get started with some businesses, like bakers and food trucks. After the festival season, we hope to be able to install a hood system and bring in more food entrepreneurs. Most food trucks need cold, dry prep and storage space.
I literally take calls every day regarding the kitchen space. So I have no doubt that we will be fully booked once we open. We have a scheduling system, and it’s open 24 hours a day. The goal is to rent it within six hours. So that’s four time slots a day with four contractors in space. Every day, 16 companies can touch this kitchen.
Codey is also committed to learning. Other stewards will say you need a business license and insurance. With ours, you need those things, but we’ll refer you to a Business Case Manager who will help you get those things. This year we started running classes, so business owners who needed an LLC or EIN could get it in real time. At the end of the course, your application is complete.
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