By Lisa Cipriano
Waffles aren’t just for breakfast anymore. One young, Chaldean entrepreneur has taken them to the next level as a sweet or savory comfort food that can be enjoyed any time of day.
The Waffle Way started in the summer of 2018 with one commercial waffle iron, some toppings and 23-year-old Rana Gulli’s creativity, drive and desire to help a friend.
“I just ordered it to see what I could do with it. I did one event for free for a friend and ended up getting a lot of referrals from it,” explained Gulli. “It kind of blew up from that one event,” she added.
The business-minded young woman from West Bloomfield quickly came up with a name for her business and even prepared a stack of business cards ahead of that first event.
“I had a table, used that one machine and bought some toppings like sprinkles, cereals, nuts, berries and chocolate. I just thought how I would like it and everyone really seemed to like it too,” Gulli said.
Word spread about Gulli’s deliciously customized and decadent creations with the help of those business cards and the broad outreach and multimedia capabilities of social media.
“There happened to be a lot of influential people there, bloggers and people with a lot of Instagram followers. They were posting about it, promoting it and it just took off from there. I ended up getting really busy from it,” she explained.
Now, Gulli also advertises The Waffle Way on her own through Instagram and, of course, the supportive network of the Chaldean community has done its part to help keep her catering business busy.
“Obviously, Chaldeans all know each other. Friends and family have really helped through word of mouth. Sharing about me on social media, speaking highly of my business and letting me advertise through their companies has really helped. I’m really shocked at how much business and inquiries I’ve gotten from just the help of the community,” she said.
Gulli got so busy with bookings for weddings, birthday and graduation parties that she needed to take it to the next level and find a commercial kitchen space to give herself a little more room to make bigger batches of batter and food prep. Her cousin, Sam Gulli, came to the rescue by offering her a space to work in his kitchen at Mr. Kabob Xpress in Troy.
She also took her unique waffle creations up a notch by taking the traditionally sweet breakfast food and developing them into savory creations that can be enjoyed as a brunch, lunch or dinner meal.
“They’re very versatile. I came up with a corndog batter with a hot dog inside,” she said. “We also have a garlicy pizza dough that we put a cheese stick inside with marinara sauce, pepperoni and mushrooms if you like. We also make chicken and waffles! You can do a lot with them.”
The next, natural step for Gulli in paving her waffle way was to invest in her own storefront to have a permanent place where customers can come, sit, relax and enjoy her delicious sweet and savory creations as well as a variety of other comfort foods and beverages.
“I want it to be an enjoyable, comfortable place to go, like a lounge, where you can even come and study. I’m also going to offer milkshakes, lattes, ice cream and different types of desserts. We’re even going to have Arabic desserts like baklava,” explained Gulli. “Once the storefront is up, the sky’s the limit,” she added.
In fact, she’s already purchased a storefront location in the Rainbow Plaza at 131 S. Telegraph Road in Pontiac. But first, there’s plenty of work to be done which only motivates Gulli to succeed.
“I’m renovating the entire place, new floors and everything. It needs a lot of cosmetic work. So, it’s going to take a few months before we’re up and running there,” she said.
Gulli is no stranger to entrepreneurialism and the restaurant business, in fact, you could say it’s in her DNA.
“My uncle, Walid Gulli, owns Mr. Kabob and Café Kabob with my cousins. I worked there for years and it taught me a lot of what I know. I learned so much about how to work with food from watching how they do things,” she explained. “I have a good foundation from that and am very grateful for it. Now, I’ve just taken all of that and made it my own.”
The young entrepreneur has supplemented her experience with knowledge by taking food safety and preparation classes as well.
Starting with one waffle iron, toppings, a dream and some business cards, Gulli now employs 11 people. But, she needs much more help with her new storefront opening soon.
“I’m looking for fun, motivated people to help me prep and serve. We make it like a presentation. I want to put the word out that I really need people to help me take The Waffle Way to the next level and make this dream come true,” she said.
Gulli, who attributes her drive to and work ethic to being 100 percent Chaldean, is not content with having one storefront location. She has big plans for the future that include making The Waffle Way a household name.
“I want to be on billboards, franchise across the country and be in every big city and every mall. Again, the sky is the limit,” she concluded.
You can follow Gulli and The Waffle Way on various social media platforms including Instagram.
If you’re interested in having The Waffle Way cater your event or to become part of Gulli’s team and dream, contact Rana Gulli at: 248-219-2765.