Sharing the Flavor of Love — Food Trucks

Open Road — Week One by Team OKRA

Our journey began with Harriette Brown, co-founder of Detroit S.O.A.R. when we broke pita bread together in the heart of Dearborn, Michigan. During lunch, Harriette — also known as ‘Chef Bee’ — told us how she became inspired to feed people with nutritious food in her community after facing her own health issues. Tracing her problems back to improper nutrition and inadequate healthy food options in her neighborhood, she made it her mission to use food to change the lives of her family, neighborhood, and those living in food deserts in Detroit.

Even though Chef Bee began her mission by simply feeding people in her neighborhood, her culinary expertise and willingness to cater to specific dietary needs, gained her a social media following in other communities in Detroit. With this support, Chef expanded her operations to include catering within her church community, synagogues, several popular bars, food pop-up events, and even teaching a cooking essentials class. Realizing the greater demand for her style of cooking, which she calls ‘the flavor of love’, Chef gained the attention of the Detroit entrepreneur community, as well as a business partner, Jasmine Rostkowski — a University of Michigan, Dearborn graduate. Looking to satisfy both the demand for healthy and tasty food, and address Chef’s original mission of providing healthy food to those with limited options, Chef Bee and Jasmine decided that a food truck could have the capability and mobility to address both of those needs.

Chef Bee, Harriett Brown (on the left) with her business partner Jasmine Rostkowski (on the right)

Knowing that margins can be narrow in the food service industry, our main effort during the week was on better realizing what those margins might look like for Detroit S.O.A.R. As such, our collaboration with Detroit S.O.A.R. was two-fold: accurately assessing the costs of Chef Bee’s batch style cooking process and building a financial model exploring pricing, a break-even point, and strategies for growth. After several working sessions with Chef and Jasmine going over how their food is sourced, bought, and prepared in a commercial kitchen, we felt we had arrived at accurate costs for Detroit S.O.A.R.’s main offerings. Building the financial model was trickier, as there were many unknowns for Detroit S.O.A.R. and unique regulation challenges for operating a food truck in Detroit. Despite not having absolute certainty, we felt that the financial model demonstrated what Detroit S.O.A.R. knew to be true — that you could build a profitable business and help those with lesser means at the same time.

A working session with Chef Bee

We ended our week like we began it — over a substantial, healthy meal. This time Chef Bee invited us to her home for brunch, where she prepared many of the same offerings that Detroit S.O.A.R. is known for. During our ‘working brunch’, the team devoured Chef’s vegan wings, vegan mac and cheese, fresh salad, greens, and hibiscus lemonade, while discussing the costs and prices for each item. Our brunch ended with a two fold feeling of satisfaction: not only was the food delicious, but we felt confident that despite the challenges Detroit S.O.A.R. will face as it grows, Chef Bee and Jasmine have the grit to get the job done and have the support of the entrepreneurial community in Detroit.

Delicious food cooked by Chef Bee for Team OKRA working brunch

Team OKRA presenting their findings to Chef Bee at her house

Working brunch complete!