Rip Pruisken ’10 is a fan of taking risks. Calculated ones. He turned down a job offer with McKinsey to make stroopwafels, wafer-and-caramel cookie-like treats that he grew up eating in Amsterdam. Now it’s paying off: he and Rip van Wafels cofounder Marco De Leon ’12 started distributing their snacks at Starbucks stores in 2015, the same year they were in Forbes’s 30 Under 30.

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Courtesy Rip Van Wafels
Rip Pruisken '10, right, and Marco De Leon '12.
It all started in Pruisken’s dorm room at Brown, where as a junior he began playing around with a waffle iron and selling wafels on the College Green. “I just had this feeling in my gut, like, I’m going to go for it. All my friends thought I was an idiot,” he recalls. “It was really scary, to be honest.” 

There were indicators of success, however. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign and a first-place finish in Brown’s start-up competition, he and De Leon had $30,000 of capital. They pooled that with $200,000 they raised from their families and invested it in a co-packing facility to scale production and start selling to local colleges.

“Most food innovation happens within categories that Americans are already familiar with,” Pruisken says: granola bars, cookies, or juices, for example. Rip van Wafel is different. Unless you’re Dutch, you’ve likely never had a wafel.

Thanks to a Brown connection, they approached a Bay Area tech company to allow them to feature wafels in its break room. Soon their product was a feature in the break rooms of Google, Yelp, Uber, and Facebook. This success helped them raise $900,000, which allowed them to approach Starbucks. Today, they’re featured in more than 7,500 coffee shops.

“I think this can be the next American staple,” Pruisken says.