Most successful businesses start as a good idea. A couple of students found themselves able to turn one such idea into a great experience that they are trying to use to benefit the community.
Parked indefinitely in front of the Student Center, the newly dubbed “Sexy Green Truck” offers a rare treat for college students – healthy food. The lines of students consistently cluttering the sidewalks and waiting for service speak volumes about the reception of the new concept of organic food vending. Not only does the truck cater to an underserved constituency, but those behind the idea are also looking to spread their success around and help to buffer the local economy as well.
The Green Truck was originally just another truck in the middle of the block that served the same old cheesesteaks and chicken fingers, struggling for customers in the homogenous world of street vending.
“When I started this business last year, I was doing the same as the other guys, so my competition was real hard,” said Ruzhvi Gurra, the original owner of the truck. “To tell the truth, I was actually planning to sell the truck.”
Benjamin Schneible, a sophomore business major and president of Students for Responsible Business, took note of the state of Gurra’s business as an opportunity.
“It was a failing business,” Schneible said. “It was the slowest on the block, so we thought of some small things we could do over the weekend and feasibly do with three people to help.”
Assessing the risk as not very high, Schneible tried to ease Gurra into the idea by opening up some talk about organic foods.
“I came to the truck a lot and would just ask him things like, ‘What do you think about organic foods?’” he said.
Gurra agreed that he thinks people are sick and tired of fatty foods.
“Ben stopped and asked me what I thought about green food and all that stuff, so I said, ‘Alright, let’s try it,’” Gurra said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
Schneible got fellow member of Students for Responsible Business, Arne Morin, a sophomore entrepreneur major, involved in the idea of completely revamping the truck into a lean, mean, green vending machine. At first she said she was unsure, but she figured it was worth a try.
The three worked to do a complete overhaul on the truck, from the menu to the paint job and the name.
“We got a plan together, talked about it a lot and just did it,” Schneible said.
The menu – consisting mostly of greens and healthy foods – was a combination of the three’s experiences.
“It’s great working with Ben because he’s got some connections, like he’s friends with a chef who helped us with the menu,” Morin said.
And while Gurra may not be a chef, he knows what he’s doing.
“I have a guy that delivers tabouli salad from Maine to New Jersey that is really good,” he said.
He teems with pride seeing that the truck, which just opened during Spring Fling ’08, is already becoming a sort of recognizable landmark for students.
“Everybody is saying, ‘Hey it’s the Green Truck, we were looking for this,’” Gurra said. “People are calling each other and saying, ‘Hey, I’m at the Green Truck.’ ”
Although a lot of the menu is vegetarian friendly, the truck still offers meats such as bacon and chicken.
Schneible said the most important part of this endeavor is the possibility to help the surrounding economy.
“What we want students to know is that if they have a good idea that they can pursue it and do things like this. That’s what one of the main points of Students for Responsible Business is about,” he said.
He told of his plans to connect the local vendors in Temple with local produce growers.
“We were thinking about maybe calling up local produce suppliers and encouraging vendors around here to use them, maybe giving them a sticker to put on their trucks to show they are doing it or something,” Schneible said.
Gurra said that business owners often buy supplies from as far as California.
“Then the money goes to California,” he said. “This way, we can make sure the money stays here and maybe is used to help local business grow – everybody is involved.”
“You look around Temple’s community, there are no supermarkets, there’s no fresh produce,” Morin said. “We are able to supply healthy food so the students don’t have to eat overpriced fried stuff. Our mission as SRB puts the profit motive below our attempts to help the community.”
The truck will be open all summer, and there may possibly be some expansions coming into the business.
“We’ve got some investors that might be willing to put up capital for maybe a new truck. We’ve tossed around ideas for maybe a prep kitchen or even some alterations to the truck itself,” Morin said. “We’ll see.”
No matter what the future holds for the Green Truck and those running it, the important idea is that they are trying to get everyone involved to help as many people as possible.
“We’ve got all these people backing us,” Gurra said. “Everyone’s so excited.”
John A. Dailey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.