“The biggest challenge was staying motivated. There were times when I was put down a lot, but the next day I would tell myself that I was just going to do it.” These are the words of Julie Sanduski, a soon to be graduate of Tufts University in Medford, MA.
By reviewing Julie’s project in more detail, we can better understand how challenging it can be to stay motivated.
Julie, an Innovation and Design Thinking major, spoke after she successfully defended her thesis which featured her very own food business idea – Blue’s Food Truck – a student-run food truck on Tufts campus. It’s an idea that blossomed some two years ago when she was a Sophomore, and it’s one she hopes to see to its completion with the end goal being its establishment at Tufts this Fall.
It started in a passing conversation with friend and colleague, Ryan Johnson, where the pair used their shared passion for food to bond over the business’ concept – a space where students could cook while gaining real-world business and management experience. It was an idea that was full of challenges from its birth, but as any entrepreneur would agree, this is just part of the fun.
“We recognized that there was a lack of diverse, affordable food on Tufts campus, and we sought to explore avenues of food services that could fit the task,” Julie said.
“The idea came to us amid the mobile food service trend hitting Boston, and the timing was just right. We ran the concept of a food truck passed friends, professors, staff and fellow students, and with the support of the Tufts community we embarked on making this dream a reality.”
But from its birth, the development of Blue’s Food Truck was a challenging task. Julie, along with her co-founders Ryan Johnson and Chris Wingard, are all students at Tufts University, thus have to balance the business on top of their other classes. And as is the case with most students, and entrepreneurs in general, motivation is a key factor.
“For sure, motivation was an issue,” Julie said. “It’s all about being able to stay on top of your time and pushing yourself as you are trying to keep on top of your other classes too. This experience though has taught me that you really can do anything that you set your mind to.”
Julie’s major, which she created herself, is a combination of Entrepreneurship, Design, and Computer Science. Having experience in all these areas meant she was able to design her own website, brand her product to create a “farm to field feel” as well as create her own financial plans.
The name for her business derives from the Tufts colors which are blue and brown. She coded the website herself, designed the logo herself, as well as submitted what she hopes to be a steady financial plan for the business’ first five years.
This would include start-up costs of $100k, half of which would come from loans, 35% from Tufts Student Resources, and 15 percent through Crowdfunding. However, to run a pilot scheme, only $33k would be needed which would include $10k per month to rent a food truck.
Julie can’t quite estimate the amount of hours she has spent on the project in the last two years, but it has been significant. In her eyes, it has all been worth it as she hopes to launch this Fall.
She said: “It was an ambition of mine to start a business by the end of my four years here and I just love the idea of a student-run, sustainable food truck. I’ve been cooking since I was 11-years-old and have always dreamed of opening my own restaurant.
“A lot of research went into the business before we ever even spoke to Tufts administrators. We surveyed students to discover what their current meal plans are, how often they would frequent the truck and how much they would be willing to spend. We found that there is demand for this kind of service at least one day per week at lunch and dinner times.”
Julie added: “We also spoke to a similar service which is operating at Dartmouth College and we are very thankful for the advice they gave us.”
Julie and her co-founders are also thankful for the 12 staff which have given their time to the project to date.
“This was definitely a collaborative effort,” she said. “I definitely don’t take full credit. The help we have had has been amazing. It was great to be able to experience how to motivate others, and as co-founders to be able to make a tangible impact. I think another lesson I have learned from this is the importance of kindness in business.”
Still, one cannot deny the fact that in any entrepreneurial venture, the entrepreneurs are the driving force that makes things happen. In order to do this, they need to be highly motivated, and as Julie realized, that ain’t easy.
Hopes remain strong that Blue’s Food Truck will be up and running at Tufts University this Fall, and although Julie will soon move on to exciting adventures as a Product Manager at Microsoft in Seattle, she is keen to see her project through until the end.