Starting a business can be a risky and tedious endeavor. Yet six Bowie High School seniors have taken on the challenge with a donated school bus, the support of school officials and assorted contributions from local businesses.
If all goes according to plan, business seniors Sophia Morales, Veronica Rodriguez, Andres Valdez, Joseph Gutierrez, Sergio Marrufo, and Sisco Gonzalez, all age 17, will soon be selling healthy food options out of the Oso Good Food Truck to raise money for college scholarships.
The student-run food truck business, slated to hit the streets in January, is a partnership with Bowie’s International Business Academy in partnership with EPISD, El Paso Custom Food Trucks, Bowie Garden Resources, and now Whole Foods Market. The six seniors enrolled in the International Business Academy at Bowie produced the business plan.
Recently, upon the opening of their first El Paso store, Whole Foods Market donated the remaining $17,500 of $35,000 needed for the students to purchase equipment to launch their truck business. A portion of the grant came from 5 percent of opening day sales.
Bowie’s community garden is a school-based garden introduced in September of 2014 to promote healthier eating habits and teach students to grow and cultivate their own food. The garden produces a wide selection of fruits, vegetables and herbs, which will be used to prepare the food items they plan to sell from the truck.
“Since we started the Bowie garden, the idea of a food truck has always been an idea,” Morales said. “We want to give back to the community.”
The ingredients will be produced in the school garden, as well as donated by Whole Foods, which will then be prepared and sold by EPISD high school culinary academy students.
At the start of the school year, EPISD donated the bus to Bowie for the project. The young entrepreneurs created a business plan to raise $35,000 by the end of November to refurbish the school bus with stoves, refrigerators, countertops and cooking utensils, as well as pay for paint, food-handlers permits and inspection fees. The students also received donations from Casa Ford, First Light Credit Union, the Hunt Family Foundation, Mata’s Produce, and Rosales & Rosales Law Firm.
“We reach out to companies and describe our business plan to them,” Rodriguez said.
The Oso Good Food Truck will benefit current and future Bowie magnet students who will receive hands-on business experience in the school’s business academy. The students say their primary goal is to use profits to grant scholarship funds to Bowie students who wish to attend college. Students will be able to apply for the scholarship funds which will be awarded by school officials.
Along with its donation, Whole Foods Market has formed a unique partnership with the school’s students and teachers. As partners, Whole Foods will provide counsel on menu development, mentorship on best business practices for food distribution, advice on construction design for the truck’s interior and exterior, and product support to supplement ingredients needed to complete the truck’s menu.
“Our partnership with Whole Foods Market is ideal because we share the same core values,” said Victor Martel, Bowie High School Magnet Coordinator. “We are both out to promote health and healthy living, and both equally driven to serve the community.”
Because most of the menu ingredients are home grown or distributed through the Whole Foods Market partnership, the cost to produce and prepare the food will be minimal. The Bowie garden grows eggplants, cherry tomatoes, basil, chili peppers, cantaloupe, and other fruits and vegetables depending on the season. The students’ business plan roughly estimates prices will be about $6 per lunch item.
“By partnering with the (EPISD) culinary program, they can help us out with providing students for cooking and preparing meals,” Gutierrez said.
EPISD donated the school bus at the beginning of the school year to the Bowie business academy for the project. “It is in pretty good shape,” Gutierrez said, “Dr. Warmack, (Bowie’s head Principal) and EPISD will help with appointing maintenance for the bus as well.”
While the students successfully secured donors, other challenges lie ahead.
“We’re the first school to ever try something like this,” Gutierrez said. “Right now we are looking for a bus driver, and a plan to pay them as well; ideally someone from the school itself would drive the bus.”
The goal date was set for November, and now with the donation from Whole Foods Market, the students’ business plan to reach their $35,000 goal is reached.
Where the truck will ultimately set up shop is still uncertain, although a possible location is the parking lot of the new Whole Foods Market El Paso store, at 100 Pitt St.
“We are so excited to partner with Bowie High School students on the launch of their “Oso Good Food truck,” said Victoria Gonzalez, Regional Marketing and Community Relations for Whole Foods Market in a press release.”We’re inspired by the students’ vision, their incredible garden, and their passion for business. We couldn’t be more proud to support them in bringing delicious food to the local community as young entrepreneurs.”