Meet 29 year old Irene, founder of Taiwanese egg waffle business, Dhan Waffle. She started trading at Maltby Street Market in 2015 and after a year’s hiatus in her home country, Taiwan, she’s BACK for our InKERBator Weekender at Southbank over Easter as a special guest. We went to visit her at her current Selfridges pop-up for a chat and some peanut brittle and matcha custard smothered waffles. Interview below and the story behind her street food business.
When did you set up Dhan Waffle?
I first started in 2015 December in Maltby Street Market. I fell in love with the market and decided to go back with a video showing what Dhan Waffle was and the next weekend the market manager told me he’d give me a spot.
Why egg waffles?
The machine can fit in my suitcase. It’s low cost; I can run this business by myself and it has the potential to grow as a franchise. No one was doing it in London.
What were you doing before you started your street food business?
I started my first business ( a cafe in Taiwan ) when I was 21. I borrowed money from the bank and found investors by uploading a video to tell people what I wanted to do. I ran it for four years, and In the third year before I turned 25, I flew to London for a Working Holiday Visa in 2014 while the cafe still ran in Taiwan and got a job as an assistant manager in a cafe (whilst still running my business back home). After a year, I went back to Taiwan and sold my business. I used the money from that to pay the debt to the bank – and then set out to start my waffle business.
Why did you decide to start a street food business?
I studied restaurant and hospitality management in the University. I was always passionate about combining food and creativity. The lifestyle of being free to express my thoughts through the food and the challenges faced as an entrepreneur lured me. After working as an assistant manager in a cafe in London for 3 months I left; I realised I didn’t want to be hired by anyone. So I want to find something more flexible and free – a business I can run by myself that doesn’t have to hire people. I want to go traveling easily and not worry about paying the rent for the store. So street food seemed to suit me the best.
How did you launch your business?
I built by own food cart in a car park, because I was moving around by that time. My friend let me store my stuff at his storage room so I could go there everyday and build it at the car park. I don’t have any background as a carpenter so it took me two months to build. I met people opening their escape room nearby who let me use their tools, and would ask anyone parking to get involved. I got so much help from people I met through the journey. I shared my story of building the cart in a Facebook group and many people from the Taiwanese community came to support.
Hardest thing you’ve learnt along the way?
Finding the right person to grow and manage the business with me.
Best thing about being a street food trader?
It brings me to many places to explore more cultures and I’ve met many wonderful people who’ve become very good friends and they make me feel like London is my home.
One piece of advice you’d give a new food business starting out?
Don’t forget to smile, it brings you luck.
Biggest food inspiration?
Family and people I’ve met through traveling.
Favourite restaurant(s) in London?
Lahpet, The Cheese Bar, Bao. I love the people who run the business,they are all very kind and talented.
Plans for the future?
A bit about your dish at the inKERBator Weekender?
Dhan Waffle is not just a food, It’s a box of happiness. You start this experience by watching how we make our waffles though the unique machine. And you can choose our homemade toppings – whatever you feel like – on each of your egg shape waffle. Our mind blowing egg waffle is served in an egg carton and we also have a rabbit shaped waffle. It’s perfect for Easter.
Join us (and Irene) at the Southbank from Thursday 18 – Monday 22 April: