Joost Elling, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and an Entrepreneurial Studies minor, began his entrepreneurial journey when he was just 13 years old. Joost discovered the stroopwafel while visiting his grandmother in her native Netherlands and set out on a mission to share the taste, and experience, of the great cookie with others in the United States.
“My dad and I were visiting my grandmother and when we were spending time together, I couldn’t have a beer obviously, so I headed down to the market and could just smell this delicious cookie,” said Joost. “I was in a different country, I didn’t understand what people were saying, but I could still hang out and take in the experience with these fantastic cookies.”
The stroopwafels left such an impression that the young entrepreneur started exploring how to bring the experience and taste to the United States. The Dutch cookie is not widely available outside of the Netherlands and its production is largely controlled by a handful of companies, but Joost was determined to find a way to share his discovery.
“The import process introduced problems, the cookies just weren’t as fresh after sitting in a bag as they traveled over the ocean,” explained Joost. “I decided to play with the recipe but even finding it, in the beginning, was tough. I had to reverse engineer from the ingredients on the back of bags and then from there it was trial and error, trying to perfect it from the water down to the flour.”
Joost spent his high school years playing with and perfecting the recipe. That hard work and desire connected the young entrepreneur with a family friend business professor at Salisbury University who encouraged him to enter the Salisbury University Shore Hatchery competition.
“Shore Hatchery introduced me to the entrepreneurial way of doing things,” said Joost, who was a finalist at the competition despite his young age. “As part of my prize package, I was able to get mentored by the winners. I didn’t have a store or a website, but I got to watch them work and understand what it takes to set up and run a business while in college.”
Joost continued his encouraging start by coming to the University of Delaware and discovering Horn Entrepreneurship. Joost entered and placed at Hen Hatch 2016, creating meaningful relationships with Horn Entrepreneurship faculty and gaining access to knowledge and resources.
“Through entrepreneurship, I’ve seen how people in the community are there to support you while also encouraging a free moving way of progress,” said Joost. “Vince DiFelice has always pushed me to greater heights and I haven’t met similarly motivated students anywhere else on campus.”
The stroopwafel master continued his desire to share the experience of the cookie by spending the summer making the authentic artisan Dutch cookie on the boardwalk of Bethany Beach.
“Every night this past summer, I was on the boardwalk at Bethany Beach making them in the original style: hot and fresh, right off the iron,” said Joost. “I had the smell wafting down the boardwalk with a nice Southern breeze pushing it up to more people. Customers would come to the stand just because of the smell, so I tried to make it an experience that they would remember, by connecting it with the live music or with the waves.”
Joost added more into his cookie than just the taste, focusing on giving his customers more than just a great cookie. The cookie company founder credits the community around him for making it possible.
“Horn Entrepreneurship has introduced me to a community that really wants to work together to help each other,” said Joost. “People have contacted me to offer help and not for their own gain but out of genuine interest and care. There isn’t a more supportive community on campus.”
About Horn Entrepreneurship
Horn Entrepreneurship serves as the University of Delaware’s creative engine for entrepreneurship education and advancement. Built and actively supported by successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders, Horn Entrepreneurship empowers aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs as they pursue new ideas for a better world.