Bailey Wilson, Bondi Bowls founder and CEOBuilding a thriving business through people, passion and purpose
Bailey Wilson is a first-time entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Bondi Bowls, a community-focused food truck business expanding rapidly with licensed trucks nationwide. With no job and few ways to spend her time at the pandemic's start, she started making açaí bowls — a treat she loved from her college days in California. After she opened a food truck to sell her açaí bowls, the business quickly expanded within days.
Tune in to hear how she leaned on a solid mission, a network of advisors, and a business model designed for expansion to build Bondi Bowls into a thriving venture.
Bailey Wilson is founder and CEO of Bondi Bowls, her first venture as an entrepreneur. The marketing major never intended to open her own business. An unexpected series of events set her on a path to sell her açaí bowls – and she was flooded with business from day three and beyond.
In this episode of The Entrepreneur’s Studio, Bailey shares her business model that’s designed for expansion, how her core values and mission contribute to their success and how to lean on expert counsel to thrive.
Below is an edited transcript of the conversation. In the episode, you’ll learn about:
Leaving your comfort zone behind
Chris Allen: Hey, Bailey, welcome to The Entrepreneur’s Studio. So glad to have you.
Bailey Wilson: Honored to be here. Thanks for having me.
Chris: All right. Well, I think it would be appropriate for us to hear a little bit about your business and it’s called Bondi Bowls (“Baan-di”). Did I pronounce it right?
Chris: Yeah, because when I walk down in Downtown Edmond, or see the truck, I probably have pronounced it incorrectly.
Bailey: We get a lot of Bondi (“Bon-dee”), but we accept it. As long as you’re saying it and you’re showing up, that’s all we care about.
Chris: Yeah. Well, where’d the name come from?
Bailey: So, the name came from Bondi Beach in Australia. I lived there for about two years and loved it. So, do you want me to get into my story and how that all started?
Chris: Tell me all about it.
Bailey: OK. So, I’m originally from here in Edmond, Oklahoma. I did my undergraduate studies out in California. I just wanted to test myself, challenge my faith, challenge myself as an individual. I loved my time out there and I was like, “You know what? I want to test myself again. Why don’t I move to Australia? To Sydney, Australia – and not knowing anyone, don’t have a job, nothing lined up, no place to live.”
Chris: And your parents were OK with this?
Bailey: Shockingly, yes. I am still shocked that they said, “OK, sure. Why not?”
Chris: “We’ll support you.”
Bailey: I didn’t necessarily tell them everything I was getting myself into. They thought I had a bit more secure housing than I did, things like that, but I just kept it on the down low.
Chris: OK. So, when you say you didn’t have housing, you show up in Sydney, you take transportation to the opera house and you’re like, “Well, where am I going to live?”
Bailey: Yeah. So, I had found housing before I went out there through a friend’s Facebook. And then two weeks before I went out, she messaged, “Hey, sorry. We can house you for a couple weeks, but actually we gave your spot to someone else.” And I was like, “Oh my gosh,” because I was a stranger and this other person was someone they knew and so they felt more comfortable with it, which makes sense.
So, they were willing to let me crash at their place until I got on my feet. But it was scary — “Oh no, am I making the wrong decision? Am I actually supposed to be moving to Australia?” But I decided to stick to it and leave that detail out to my parents.
Chris: So did you try and sell yourself when you got there? You’re like, “See, I’m amazing. I’m super fun and I’m bubbly. Yeah. You should choose me.”
Bailey: Exactly. Yeah. Keep the other person out. Keep me.
Chris: So, from Oklahoma all the way to Sydney, Australia. Talk to me a little bit about maybe your first entrepreneurial idea even before this business?
Bailey: Good question. I think I have always had an entrepreneurial mindset. I love creating things, starting things, but I don’t think I’ve ever come up with a good idea that’s worth pursuing. I am pretty creative. I love photography, so I always thought maybe I would do something like that on the side of going to a marketing job.
My mom used to own Subways and a nonprofit. And so, I always was really passionate about that and I could see myself doing something similar. I didn’t expect to have the platform and have Bondi at such a young age like I did but…yeah.
Chris: Well, what was your first job? Did you work for your mom?
Bailey: I worked for my mom. I was about 11 to 12 years old, working at Subway. She taught me work ethic, discipline, so many little things. So, I’m very grateful for that.
Chris: Yeah, that’s awesome. I will say one of the things that has been a theme here in the studio is the amount of female influence, of female entrepreneurs, has been really, really strong. Really remarkable. So, maybe take the work ethic thing. What’s a story where you realize your mom has got a ridiculously good work ethic, and how did that show up and how did you try to imitate that?
Bailey: Yeah. I think, both my parents have incredible work ethic. My mom, especially just watching her work at Subway, she was always cleaning the floors the hardest out of anyone in there.
Bailey: She was getting behind the toilet and really scrubbing it. Also her customer service. She always had a smile on her face and created relationships with each customer that walked in. There was no judgment. Her best friend was an 80-year-old man, Melvin, who would come in every day and get a Footlong Feast and a bag of Funyuns.
Chris: Oh my gosh. Every day?
Bailey: Yup. And those are the memories that I remember of her just being so intentional with her customers, but also making sure that she had the cleanest Subway as well as just taking care of her employees and taking care of the customers in big ways.
Chris: So, that makes a lot of sense as to why franchises were something that you had a little bit of experience in, and your parents had a little bit of experience and that’s really good.
So, you’re in Sydney, Australia. When was this and what’s the timing and how did you show back up in Oklahoma and start a business?
Bailey: Yeah, because that’s where Bondi started. I was living on Bondi Beach. I moved there in 2018. Fast forward to 2020. It’s March 23, 2020. And that’s the heat of COVID.
Chris: Big day.
Bailey: Yes. Everything was starting to lock down. People were making big decisions. I’d actually just lost one of my two jobs at this time, and my dad had called me and I could tell by the tone of his voice that something was wrong. And the more we talked, he just broke down and was like, “I have found a six-centimeter tumor in my bladder. The doctors say it doesn’t look good. I’m going in for emergency surgery in the morning, but I wanted to tell you don’t feel obligated to come home,” but then I heard my mom and my sister crying in the background, and in that moment it hit me, I needed to be home for them and also for my dad.
So, I jumped on the next flight. I got home and thankfully his cancer or his tumor was a non-invasive cancer. So, with normal life expectancy, which was such a praise and an answer to so many prayers over those 24 hours as we waited. But now, I was back in Oklahoma. I was almost angry at God that he had brought me home because now I couldn’t go back to Australia. They had lockdown rules and restrictions and I wasn’t able to get back over there.
So now I am stuck here. It was the heat of COVID. No one was hiring. I was applying for every job you can imagine from sales and marketing to McDonald’s and Subway. I was not picky in the job, I work hard at anything that I do and I don’t care what it is, but no one was hiring.
Chris: Not even your mom?
Bailey: Not even my mom. So, it was crazy. And we say this is a God thing, but my mom sold both of her Subways right before COVID.
Chris: Oh my gosh.
Turning a passion into a business
Bailey: And so, if she had kept the Subways, we would talk about it all the time, I would’ve been the manager of Subway and we wouldn’t have had Bondi Bowls, because I would’ve taken that under my wing and just flourished with Subway.
So, I was making these açaí bowls for my dad because of their amazing health benefits. They have antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and I wanted to fuel him. And he loved it. He thought it tasted so good.
Chris: Had you cooked or made food like that before?
Chris: Or is this, you just started doing research and you’re like, “I’m going to make one for dad?”
Bailey: So, they’re really big in Australia. They’re pretty big in California where I did my undergrad as well. So I’d had them a lot but my dad was like anti-fruit and he does not eat that stuff. And so, when he visited me in Australia, he came out and I was eating an açaí bowl for breakfast. I couldn’t finish. So, I made him eat it, finish it for me. And he was like, “These are so good.” And so the whole time we were in Australia, he was eating it. He was like, “Where can we get an açaí bowl? I want an açaí bowl?” And so, he fell in love with it.
Chris: Oh my gosh. That’s like me with sushi.
Bailey: So, when I came home, I was like, all right. I want to fuel you with this. It’s good for you. So I researched the best açaí that has no sugar, no preservatives in the açaí.
It’s pure, straight from the Amazon. I was intentional about all of our ingredients and the products that go into it. I perfected my own granola. So, I worked really hard with my mom to make the best tasting granola you could ever have. Same with our almond butter and peanut butter. We made our own recipe and little things like that. And so I was doing that, perfecting it, making it for friends and family.
And my mom on a random Tuesday night, was scrolling through Facebook. And she saw that there were these food trucks in local neighborhoods. And she was like, “Bailey, get out of the house. Get a food truck and do this. Serve the community.” And so, she probably has a lot to do with this.
And once she said that, I was like: I could either say, “Cool. Good idea, mom,” or I could be like, “Let’s go and do this.” So, I chose the latter. That weekend, I bought a food truck spontaneously. And then after a month of working it out, getting the truck wrapped, all the little things that go into making a business, we were up and running. Day three, we blew up. I was having to hire employees. I thought it’d be something that I would just do on the weekends for friends and family. But it had grown exponentially. We had people driving hours to come try our product. We had grown drastically on social media, on Instagram. And so after day three, I knew we were onto something. We did 60 events throughout the month of July. I was working–
Chris: OK. Number one, how did you get a food truck? And then how are people hearing about you at this point?
Bailey: So the food truck–
Chris: I love compound questions by the way. I’m going to be like, here’s three questions. You’re going to have to remember them all.
Bailey: Perfect. Yeah. And I’ll go in order, too. First one: food truck.
Chris: All right.
Bailey: I found the food truck on Facebook Marketplace. I was looking on Used Vending and Facebook Marketplace, and I found a couple of them. And we went and toured all of them. This one was specifically in Tulsa. So I went out, and the guy, he worked for a church and his wife was having their first baby. He was wanting to transition out and he was selling the truck way over my asking budget but I still wanted to tour it because it was so cute. We toured it and we toured the other ones that were reasonable within my price, but I fell in love with this one in Tulsa.
And this guy said he had had people offer at the offering price, but he wanted to give it to someone who had the passion for a business and dedication towards their business, and that he just really saw that I would take this truck and blossom with it. And so I came home, I woke up the next morning and I texted him a lowball offer that was within my budget, and he immediately responded, “Deal.” And when we went and picked it up, he was like, “I have been praying and been hoping for the right person to take this truck and to take it to the next level.”
And little did he know that by selling it to a 24-year-old girl straight from Australia, that we would now have 17 food trucks across eight states. We now have two storefronts open and two kiosks in different sporting facilities. All because that guy waited to find the person who was passionate about their business rather than just selling it to the highest bid.
Chris: All right. So passion was your competitive advantage?
Bailey: I guess so, yeah.
Chris: OK. Well, that’s good. It’s probably served you well.
Bailey: It really has. I think, the drive and the passion and having a mission statement. So even before we bought the truck, my family and I sat down and we’re like, “What is going to be our mission statement? What is our verse? Where are we going? What are our values?” And because we established those at the very beginning, I do believe that’s why we have grown at the rate that we have in two and a half years, and we continue to grow and expand in big ways all across the United States.
Learning how to say ‘no’
Chris: That’s amazing. So passion is a competitive advantage. You told us about how you got the food truck on day three. How are people finding you and coming to your food truck from a long ways away?
Bailey: We had people driving two and a half hours to come get a bowl. I studied marketing, so I think it does go back to marketing. I love social media and Instagram. So, I jumped on that platform and promoted as well as promoting on my personal account and just not being ashamed or fearful of my business, but instead grasping it and running with it.
I think, especially at the beginning, you can be fearful of what people will think or the judgements that might come. I remember telling my girlfriends, “Hey, I think I’m going to buy a food truck and do açaí bowls.” And they tilted their head and they’re like: “Of course, Bailey would do that. That’s such a Bailey thing,” but I took that as an opportunity. I was like, I’m going to go all in. I’m not going to give it 50%. I’m going to give it everything I have, but yeah. I think it was just social media and promoting. We make our bowls aesthetically-pleasing. Also, our truck wrap, the pink that we have, it’s this really pretty, pastel pink. And I was very specific about how I wanted the truck to look and the vibe we wanted to give off.
I remember I had my first booking on a Thursday and I went to pick my truck up that morning from the truck wrap guy because, like I said, we did this in a month, so everything was moving quickly and I couldn’t keep up already. I went to pick it up and it was a hot bubblegum pink, and I was like, “This is not the pink that I chose. This is not the pink that I sent you.”
And he was like, “Oh, it’s no big deal. Nobody will notice or care. It’s just a [shade of] pink.” And it was at that moment, I think as an entrepreneur and a business owner, I had to decide is it worth it or do I just say, “OK, yeah, fine, whatever.” And I had to say, “OK. No, I’m going to take all of next week off and you’re going to rewrap this to the color that I have sent you and specifically asked for.”
And I think that was a big step for me because I am a “yes girl" and I’m the type of person who avoids conflict, but in that moment it really tested me – like, “OK, is it worth it?” I need to make those hard decisions and make those judgment calls if I want to grow this into a brand and be something with potential. And this was a key piece that I learned in marketing, what your product looks like, what your truck looks like, how you market things. That was my first big-girl decision or step moving forward. Yeah.
Chris: Holding the boundary with the wrap guy. That’s really good.
Bailey: Yeah, exactly.
Prioritizing your mission, vision and values above all else
Chris: All right. What made you sit down and decide on vision, mission and values before you really started making major decisions?
Bailey: Yeah. I feel like that is something that I just learned from my parents, especially my mom. She does everything with purpose. She opened her Subway franchise location with the idea of getting to bless our local community and then getting to know the customers and getting to know that community. And that’s what spurred the nonprofit. Her mission and her objective were always for a nonprofit, but Subway was the way to get to that purpose. In the business school I went to, they hounded us on having a mission statement and Simon Sinek always talks about having your “why” when you go into things.
And so it was just something big that we thought of beforehand, what our mission is, so it’s encouraging God-honoring conversation while providing clean and healthy meals.
Chris: All right. Say that again.
Bailey: “Encouraging God-honoring conversation while providing clean and healthy meals.”
Chris: All right. That’s cool.
Bailey: So, well, we have three values. It’s faith, community and health. Those are our objectives, and that’s what we go after. And by having that, it keeps us on track. It keeps us moving forward. We just had our first Bondi retreat this weekend.
Chris: Wow. I did see that on social media.
Bailey: Yeah. We had 17 food truck owners from all over the US. We had people flying in from Portland to Oklahoma for us to have our first retreat. And it was just reminding them of the mission and just watching them, listening to the stories of the lives that they’ve touched in their communities, the things they’ve fundraised for local families in need, or given to the fire department, etc. Getting to bless their communities and listen to all these stories of lives being changed in Lubbock, lives that are being changed in Portland, in Flagstaff, in Tennessee — literally all over the United States, because we’re a brand on a mission and we know we have a bigger role than just selling clean and healthy products, and serving really good smoothie bowls.
Chris: I love that conversation is a part of it. So, do all of them have the exact pink food truck?
Bailey: We have two blue food tracks, but the rest are all pink.
Chris: So you made an exception.
Bailey: Yeah, I made an exception. It was because it was a boy that bought it and he was like, “Do I have to drive a pink food truck?” I was like, ”No, we can find another pastel.” Yeah.
Chris: That’s awesome. OK, so pastels.
Bailey: I’m literally, I’m just in it. I love getting to hire employees. When I hired a college girl and two high schoolers on day three, I just threw them in the truck. That first shift, our generator went out in the middle of making smoothie bowls, so then we had to shut down. Our air conditioning went out, so my dad had to go buy us a little makeshift air conditioning where it blocked the door. And so they were having to adjust with us. And instead of them complaining and being like, “I’m never working there again,” they dove into the fact that this was a small business and they fell in love with the process.
And they have taught me so many little things in customer service — but also, “Oh, Bailey, why do you have this shelf here? All of this should be over here. It makes more sense.” Some things like that have played a big role in our efficiency and how we’ve grown.
Chris: That’s awesome.
Bailey: I love bringing the people into it.
Chris: All right. Speaking of people, you’ve got a set of core values and typically it’s like most businesses will screen people on values when you’re trying to build a culture as you’re getting ready to hire them or as you’re working together. How have you incorporated the value system into the people who you choose to hire?
Bailey: So, at the storefront, which is the place I own, it’s mainly high school and college kids. For them, I just do a first interview and from that first conversation, see where their passions lie. And you learn a lot about them in that one 15-20 minute conversation. That plays a factor. And I’ve been so blessed that almost all of my employees are just so hardworking, love the brand, love our business, and they love serving people. We just get so many positive reviews on our customer service and engagement. And I will be walking around Sam’s or something like that and someone will stop me and say, “I had the greatest experience with Sam. She was so kind to me at the store,” and things like that. So that’s been really cool.
It’s not as strict of a screening, but to be a franchise owner, we are a bit strict in that. It’s normally an initial interview with Jacoby, who’s my chief sales officer, and his main role is working on expansion and growth. He does a first screening interview with them, and then after that, I do a screening interview with them. And then if we both think that it’s a good fit, they’ll come out and do an experience where they will be on the truck, see if it’s actually a lifestyle that they would be willing to commit to. After that, then they move forward to actually signing the contract and moving forward in that process, doing the startup and helping them find the truck and stuff.
Chris: So, it’s the mix between business fit and a culture fit with franchise?
Bailey: Yeah, yeah, for sure.
Gaining expertise from seasoned professionals
Chris: OK. Well, there’s always startup, build out, scale up, and I think your startup accelerated pretty fast and now you’re in build out mode faster than most, right? Couple years in. What made you pick the route of franchise versus chain and you owning all of the food trucks and the restaurants and managing it from a centralized business that way instead of decentralized through franchises?
Bailey: When I first started about a month in, a man approached me to grab coffee, and he was a bit older and I was a bit hesitant about bringing in a mentor of any sort.
Chris: So, a random guy asks you to go get coffee. You’re like, “What conversation is this going to be?”
Bailey: And then his daughter-in-law who had booked us came up to me and was like, “You need to Google this guy. He’s a big deal. And he would be a great resource and a mentor.” So I did. And he is, and he’s fantastic. And so I sat down with him about a month into starting, and I was telling him about my business. And he was asking these really great questions. And then he just sat back and he was like, “Wait, you started this.” He had thought I was a franchise of a business. And then when he found out that I had founded this and started this from scratch and only a month ago, he was like, “Bailey, you’re onto something. Let’s power through this. I think you have a lot of potential.”
And that relationship with my mentor, Pat, has been incredible. He has grown Bondi exponentially. He’s the one that brought in a lawyer to do the franchising process. But we chose franchising for multiple reasons, but one of them being the fact that families wanted to buy into the experience. And I had people reaching out who wanted to be a small business and they wanted to serve their local community. And that’s what I wanted.
On our website, when you Google us, it’s “nationally known, locally owned,” because our owners are all local to their community. They’re serving their people versus me coming in and serving the town of Lubbock. This just adds an extra small business and local feel that you get by being a franchise versus corporate just coming in and putting up locations left and right in different areas. He really encouraged me to go that route.
Also, I didn’t have the finances at this point to be putting in a lot of money and popping up left and right. After a lot of thought and talking with my mentors and my family, we didn’t want to bring investors in at that point. We wanted it to still be a small family-owned business where we were passionately running after things and I wanted to enjoy my work and not have to have a lot of business meetings or talks with investors, especially up front at the beginning. So that’s what started it. And just the fact that we already had people reaching out to open trucks. So, Fort Worth was our first franchise. I didn’t know the vendor at all. And now we’re like best friends. We went on a run on Sunday together, that kind of thing. But yeah, I think we chose to do franchising because of what my mentors had pushed me towards.
And it’s actually technically a license, not a franchise. Licensing is a lot cheaper. I’m licensing the right to all of the different things that we own as corporate. We own the trademarks and the patents and things like that. That’s what we’re licensing out, versus a franchise.
Chris: And you license out the recipes too?
Bailey: Yes. And then we sell–
Chris: Because you had to document all of that so you could actually license it.
Bailey: Correct. Yeah. So I have this really thick folder of just all the different little things, all the recipes, the know-how, where to buy your truck, how to buy these things so that you buy it once and you’re not buying a whole bunch of things and learning. We’ve already figured it all out. We know how to be efficient, we know how to be quick, we know how to serve the best product. We have the truck wrap file. You’re not having to pay for that or have someone design it. We have the website, the social media, the emails, all that stuff.
Another thing was my sister, she was in law school at the time, and so I was just also learning from her how to be a smart business because she was learning in class about businesses and about non-smart businesses and how to protect yourself as a business. She taught me a lot getting started, which was really fun.
Chris: Oh, well, I mean, that’s good. Probably trademarks.
Chris: Writing, copyright, all that stuff. OK, super cool. Well, one of the things that I think is interesting about a franchise or even licensing is it’s like, what are you selling? You’re selling a license that’s super clear, which is effectively a contract for intellectual property. And let’s take Chick-fil-A for example. Ultimately, it’s a closely-held franchise and they’ve definitely got a nationally-known brand and it’s really hard to get a store. It’s really hard to get a second store, but the intensive nature of the way that they run those franchises is pretty intense. So are you selling the brand in your mind? Are you selling the experience? What’s the primary thing you’re really selling? Because it may not be the product.
Bailey: I believe Bondi is three things. We’re a really good product, but we’re also a story. I think that the Bondi Bowl story and getting to use it in your community has been really impactful. Every single time you approach a truck, there’s going to be a frame out front with the story of Bondi. So, about my dad and our family and how we came together and started this business. And below it’s going to be the story of the local owners, of how they came about to do this business, what they love about it. And so you get to be really personable with our owners and with our brand and our business, but we create an experience. Our culture is one of the best, I would say. We just love each other. We’re a family, we serve each other and we serve our community really well. We also, another thing that makes us super unique to our competitors – one I touched on is that our ingredients are really clean and healthy. We don’t put any sugar or preservatives in that base. It is pure açaí. It costs us a bit more than our competitors that do have that, but we go the extra mile because we know how important that is. And then our granola and our nut butters, only us as corporate actually know the recipes for that. And we sell the granola and the nut butters to the franchise owners.
So, that’s another way that our corporate team is able to sustain ourselves and for me to be able to hire corporate employees is through royalty and through selling the granola and nut butters.
Chris: OK, got it. So you’re selling wholesale, right? That’s super cool. So, there’s an initial contract and they buy the licenses – is it a one-time cost or is it upfront and then royalties over time?
Bailey: Yeah. So, there’s just a startup cost. It’s pretty low. And then an ongoing monthly royalty.
Chris: Monthly royalty. OK. Is it from the top line or is it bottom-line profit sharing?
Bailey: It’s top line.
Chris: Top line. OK.
Bailey: Top line. So, we go off that number. And since they are food trucks, they could just not be open all month and just be open for one day. Unlike storefronts that franchise, like Subway, you had to be open a certain amount of days or things like that to ensure that they’re getting the sales. So for us, we have a revenue threshold, so they have to do a certain amount within a year, and if they don’t, then they pay the difference of that revenue threshold, if that makes sense. So, I’m guaranteed a certain amount.
Chris: That’s super, super smart. I’d say the tagline of The Entrepreneur’s Studio is that success is no accident. And if anyone listening back hears the number of connected wins over and over and over again. And two and a half years is not a long time to get to where you are and have the amount of documentation along the way because there’s a lot of entrepreneurs who don’t document anything.
And it’s like choosing a strategy that’s the difference between your intellectual property that you may patent versus something that you keep as a trade secret and you sell wholesale. I have no idea how, it seems like you just talk through it and you’re like, “This just all happened, right?”
Chris: But there’s an ecosystem of surround sound for you. Who’s on your team? Who was on the team early and who stayed on the team to help you with some of these key successes?
Bailey: Honestly, a lot of this is that we don’t know what we’re doing. It is crazy how uneducated...
Chris: So, nevermind. Success is next. That’s good.
Bailey: No, but my mom, she does have a lot of knowledge. She has taught me a lot. And since she did do Subway, she offers the other perspective. I bought all of my bread and things like that from Subway. So we need to make sure that there’s something that they’re buying from the corporate office to make it worth it, things like that.
So, she did teach me a lot. My mentors have taught me a lot, but honestly, it’s crazy how the Lord just opened the right doors and closed doors and closed opportunities and put the right people in our path to teach us those things because I studied business marketing, but this is my first time actively doing business. I worked cafe jobs up until this moment.
So, yeah. I think my parents are very wise counsel. I have a lot of successful business friends and family friends that have helped me along the way in decision making. My uncle owns businesses out in California, so he’s been wise counsel as well. But to answer your question, I think, it really is just a lot of work, working really, really hard and moving forward, but I think the Lord has just given us wisdom on little things. Looking back, we’re like, “Oh my gosh, I’m so glad we didn’t just share the granola recipe and have everyone make it from their house,” and things like that, because it does allow us to have something special that stays within the Bondi brand.
Chris: Because that’s the hardest part, right – brand continuity? Because there’s corporate support, but let’s talk about some of the challenges or even pieces of failure where you’ve thought, “OK, we’re trying to sell an experience and a brand is a part of that experience. Our brand is sort of known, but not widely. It’s not a household name yet.” What are some of the challenges or failures or lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Bailey: Yeah. We’ve had a lot of failures. I think that comes with any business… that you’re constantly learning but there is just this support system that keeps me going even through the really difficult times. I think that the hardest part and some of the failures that have come along the way have been with me being a “yes” person.
And I touched on that at the beginning, how standing firm in my, “No, I want this color pink for my truck,” was really hard for me, but really important for my growth as a businesswoman. But sometimes I’m interviewing future owners and I want to say yes, but my gut is telling me, “No — this isn’t the best opportunity for them or for you.” And sometimes I don’t lean into it like I should, and I make the wrong decisions on those things.
I think my lowest low so far in this process has been a week where I had two trucks approach me, “Hey, we’re selling, we’re done.” And it was crushing. This business was supposed to bless people. It was supposed to give your family X, Y, and Z. Why are you selling? I felt like a failure. And then on top of it, I was in the process of actually revoking a contract from an owner who wasn’t living up to the brand standards. Quality control was not a priority for their truck. They were not showing events, things like that, that were hurting the brand. And since we weren’t the Chick-fil-A and I couldn’t say, well, the one down the street might be better, it was one of those things where this could actually be destructive to my growth and to the brand and to the business.
And so with all three of those happening in one week, it was so hard to get out of bed. I was just like, I’m done. Obviously this isn’t working how I thought it was going to work. This isn’t making the impact I thought it was going to be making. I just want to throw it all in. And my mentors obviously helped me and my mother and my family, but also I just have to say, there’s a bigger purpose and I still need to go out there and start moving forward. The right people are going to come in and take over and it’ll all work out. But that week was just so hard. If I have failed, I have messed up. And my mentor had to grab me and say, “Bailey, this is business. People sell all the time. You just don’t see it. You have no idea how many people have probably owned X, Y, and Z businesses right down the street. This is normal. You’re just now in the thick of it and it doesn’t feel normal, but this is going to happen to you for the rest of your time with Bondi. There are people coming in and coming out, and you’re going to have to adjust to that.”
So, yeah. Just seeking wise counsel and people who have been through something that I’ve been through helped me get over that. But I think about it often. If I didn’t have that mentor who shook me and said, “It’s OK, this is normal.” I probably would’ve been throwing the towel in and just saying, “It’s not worth it. I’ll just do my own food truck. I’m done with all this other stuff. Let’s move on.” So yeah, that was probably a hard one. Also, I’m a lot of people’s first jobs, and that comes with a lot of challenges of teaching them work ethic and allowing them to learn and allowing them to mess up sometimes.
There have been times orders have been misplaced, the wrong thing has been shipped to the wrong truck. Little things like that cost me a lot of money at the corporate office, but having to be OK with the learning process of being these kids’ first jobs and allowing mistakes to happen and not getting super frustrated. But using them as teaching moments as well as teaching them work ethic, having to go in and physically scrub the floors so that they can see how to scrub floors–
Chris: That made an impression on you. Your mom scrubbed floors and scrubbed the toilets too.
Bailey: Exactly. They have to see it and say, “See that the person in charge is doing it just as much as they are.”
Chris: All right. What were your three values again?
Bailey: It was faith, community and health.
Chris: Faith, community and health. OK. Got it. Yeah, because if you think about it, it’s like if they’re going to scrub the floors, they have to share in those core values. There’s got to be one of those values driving them to do that, to work hard, to do something that doesn’t seem directly connected. But if it’s faith, connection and health, if it’s those things, it’s like, OK, some of them are going to be motivated by connections. Some of them are going to be motivated by the people who they’re serving, some of them are going to get motivated by their teammates, right? And so there’s connection everywhere. I think that’s really powerful how you are driving culture and teaching people that this is the first job that they’ve ever had. I think that’s pretty cool, I’d say entry to the workforce is getting somebody like you who’s value centric and showing them the way.
Modeling servant leadership
Bailey: I remember when I was living in Australia, I worked at a cafe, and at the cafe, the managers were never really helping us on the floor. And it was a really, really busy cafe, and it drove me crazy. I was like, “Why is this manager not popping out of the office, helping us when it’s a rush, and then popping back in and finishing what they need to do?” And so in that moment at 20, I was like, “I will never be that manager who spends more time in my office than out here on the floor.” I know I have things to do, but I also want to be out on the floor. And so, I have lived with that motto since I started Bondi.
I mean, I’m always on the truck. I’m never not working the truck and at the store when I’m there, but I always, every three to four hours, take 10 to 15 minutes to be on the floor and help out the people working at the store. And I didn’t realize the impact it was making until one day our trash can out front smelled. And so I had them bring it back and I was like, “We need to clean out this trash can. I don’t think it’s been cleaned out for a while.”
So, they take the trash out to the dumpster, they come back in, and I’m already physically inside of this huge box, and I’m deep cleaning it with a rag. And one of my employees commented and said, “We have the best boss – she’s in the dumpster so that we don’t have to be.” And in that moment it hit me that I had learned servant leadership by learning what not to do. And now I get to teach these high school and college kids servant leadership by doing it. And in that moment, I was like, I cannot wait for this individual to be the CEO of a company, to be a doctor or a firefighter or whatever it is, and be like, “I learned servant leadership from my foundation at Bondi Bowls because of how Bailey led and always popped out and took those times.”
And so, for me, that was just so humbling because they’re always watching and I need to be intentional with my work and intentional with what I say and what I do around them. And so, I think it wouldn’t have hit me if he wouldn’t have made that comment that they were watching and this was making an impact.
Using small steps to make a big impact
Chris: We’ll see. I think that’s really the pace at which you’ve started up the story and how you’ve grown. I think it’s really interesting for you to come to a place of legacy matters, for you to have the ability to say “I care so much about connection, and all of these things mean so much to me that I want to leave a legacy with the people who I interact with.” What are some of the next chapters that you want to see happen in your story that can provide an even stronger legacy?
Bailey: Yeah, I mean, for Bondi specifically, I want it to be all over the United States. I would say that’s our goal. I read S. Truett Cathy’s book, “Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People,” and he spoke on how having 5-10 year goals and plans for your business is wise and needed in some capacity, but also waking up every day and working hard will take you way farther than those five-year plans and just continuing to push growth. And I think that’s what we’ve seen as a business is that, yes, I have these plans. I have this dream to be in Huntington Beach, California that I would love to make a reality. I have these dreams to be global one day. I have these dreams that we will literally be in all states in the United States. I have these big-picture visions.
And the best way to achieve those I’ve noticed is by waking up every day and working hard at the small things that I have right now, because in return, you have no idea how many franchise requests we get in our email from people just experiencing it or seeing it on social media. And that’s just because we’re doing what we’re doing and we’re not stopping. We’re not letting go. We’re not refocusing to expand in these big ways. We’re doing what we’re doing really, really well. And the opportunities are honestly coming to us because we haven’t swayed from our mission, from our vision, from our marketing strategies, those types of things. We’re always adapting and being like, “We’re OK with the idea of change, but we’re staying true to our core.” And that in itself is what has put us into eight states after two and a half years.
Chris: Well, strategy is a lot about what you say yes to, but it’s a lot more about what you say no to. And I think it’s almost like you just naturally discovered how to be so strategic because it’s like, I’m going to say yes, and I have to have this certain color of pink and that’s the wrap that’s going to go on all these except the two blues. It’s amazing how you’ve come to say no to the right things. What are some of the things that you wish you’d said yes to?
Bailey: Ooh, that’s a good question. Honestly, I don’t think I have any regrets in that way. I’ve always, yeah, I wouldn’t say...
Chris: See as a “yes” person, you’re like, “I say yes to pretty much everything but–”
Bailey: Like I say, I can’t think of a time.
Chris: Yeah. It’s like there’s not a lot of nos.
Bailey: There aren’t a lot of nos.
Chris: Yeah. Which is good. And I think that you’re going to get better at saying no. I mean, I think that’s a pretty valuable word, being able to say no to the wrong things and saying yes to the right things. I know you’ve talked a lot about faith. Talk about faith and giving back. What does Bondi Bowls do to really give back in tangible and even some maybe less-tangible ways?
Bailey: Yeah. That’s actually a great question. So, Bondi in this past year, in 2022, just won Philanthropic Business of the Year, which was such an honor being such a small business and being recognized in that capacity in our community. The way that we do that is honestly by giving of our finances and our product and our time. We are constantly finding ways to give back to local foster care and adoption agencies. That is something that’s really passionate for me and my extended family. We have cousins who are adopted. My uncle is adopted, and so our passion and our love for that industry and agency is really important.
So, constantly giving back in that concern. Also, koalas. The koala sanctuary in Australia, there was a really big wildfire in 2020 that almost put the koalas into extinction in that area. And so there’s a lot of rehabilitation. So I do give a lot of money in that regard. And almost all of our trucks sponsor koalas as well.
Bailey: So if they do sponsor one, they have a picture of a really cute koala on their window, that’s the koala that they are sponsoring in Australia.
Chris: So, right when someone walks up, they’ve got a frame of the story.
Bailey: There’s a lot going on.
Chris: And then they have a koala.
Bailey: They have a koala, an A-frame and a venue.
Chris: OK. Super good.
Bailey: And that’s all of it. And then we also always, I think, something that makes us unique is that always taking orders outside of our truck, which allows for that conversation that we had talked about at the beginning in our mission statement of encouraging God-honoring conversation. We’re outside, we’re discussing, we’re talking, we’re doing life with our customers. Instead of opening up the window, “What would you like to order? OK. Thank you.” Then slamming the window shut.
Chris: You have people standing outside the truck? Wow.
Bailey: Yeah. They’re physically out there. In just about every weather. There was one time where I was outside of a boutique fitness class and there was ice on the ground and I was like, you know what? It’s not worth it for us to stand out there, so we’ll go through the window, but most of the time we’re outside engaging with the customers, asking about their day while they wait on their orders. Those types of things. Because I think that’s really important in creating that community and that culture where you just love going to a pink food truck for that reason. But yeah, we give back through schools, speaking opportunities and just getting to inspire future leaders as well as give back to any of their non-profits that they’re fundraising for. Our schools do a lot of fundraisers and things like that, so getting to be a part of that and giving back to the community.
Chris: That’s awesome. Tell us a story of one of the most memorable things that have happened conversationally outside of a food truck.
Bailey: Ooh, that’s a good question. I actually have two, one at the store and one at the food truck. So the food truck I had, they both are on the same theme. A woman came up to me and she had read the story and she came over almost in tears, just saying, "Thank you for having your story out there. It’s very inspiring. My husband’s going through the same thing, and this was really encouraging for me and my family.”
And we get a lot of those, and a lot of the truck owners will speak about that too. People will comment on just getting to read that story and walk away with a different conversation. And that’s what it’s all about. That’s how we’re encouraging those conversations. I want people to experience Bondi, whether it’s reading the story or just experiencing the environment and the culture that we’ve provided and walking away and having a positive conversation with their friends.
Whether it be like, “This was the cutest food truck. I’m so glad we chose to do this.” Or if it’s, “Did you read that story? It touched my life and now I want to do X, Y, and Z.” That’s how we do it. And when she brought that up to me and I got to vividly experience that the story was touching their lives, that was so humbling. And thankfully, my dad had noninvasive cancer and we went through treatments for about six months and had to do certain things. And he was unstable at times, but he was OK. And I know that that’s not the story for everyone. So my sympathy and my empathy is just, it rocks me some of the stories that I hear of people’s lives that don’t have the same outcome as us, because it’s very real when you’re in it.
Chris: It seems like you were like, “Hey dad, I need you to get well, so you can help me with this stuff. “And you put him to work. He said “Yes ma’am.”
Bailey: Oh, yeah. He definitely works for Bondi. He’s also an emergency room (ER) doctor, so I was feeding him this when he was going through cancer treatment. COVID was happening, and he’s a 60-year-old ER doctor. So again, this was March of 2020. We had no idea what we were dealing with, so we wanted to keep him as healthy as we could. But I think he selfishly or secretly loves the title “Bondi Bowls Dad” more than he does ER doctor.
Chris: Please tell me he shows up on social media as Bondi Bowls Dad.
Bailey: I should probably talk about him more. I don’t. He’s very shy. He’s very much the opposite of me and my mother. We’re the loud ones. He is very quiet. He’s behind the scenes. He comes to Bondi every day, gets a Brent bowl. So our sizes are small, medium and Brent bowls, because that’s my dad. He gets a Brent bowl every single day, comes in, says hi to all my employees, fixes something that they need fixing, takes the trash out for them, and then goes on with his day. So, that’s the kind of man he is, and I’m so honored to have him be part of the team.
Chris: What’s your favorite thing about your dad?
Bailey: Ooh. Oh, there’s so many things. I think my favorite thing about him is his humility. He walks around and you would have no idea the type of man he is or the lives he’s changed or the things he does out of the kindness of his heart. He serves people so beautifully. Both of my parents do, and he does everything ethically. And I think that’s something that I’ve learned in business is that not very many businesses make ethical choices. There are a lot of big decisions in business that can be done unethically, and I’ve had to face those opportunities or those challenges, and present them to my parents, and my dad is always the ethical one. We’re always going this route.
And that has just been really inspiring because just watching him do that in his life and seeing the compounding blessings that come with that, and just the lives that he’s, again, changed through that and the way that he served. But it comes from his humility of just walking around, always looking for ways to serve with humility.
Chris: Well, that’s Bondi Bowl Dad. What’s your favorite thing about Bondi Bowl Mom?
Bailey: Oh my goodness. OK. My mom is my wise counsel. She is so wise and discerning. She has a strong work ethic, but she loves people greatly, and she is so discerning that sometimes a decision that would make logical sense is sometimes not always the right decision.
And she has such an in-tune, gut feeling to make the right decision, even when it looks like it would be catastrophic or be the wrong idea. She leans in into those and has given me such wise counsel over these two and a half years. She’s definitely the first person I call every single day.
So, we’ve talked already three times today, which has been really cool for our relationship because we weren’t that close, especially when I moved to California and then Australia. We talked maybe once or twice a month, sent a text message here and there, but we didn’t talk consistently, and now we talk every single day.
Chris: I think one of the things that has been really awesome to hear about your story is just the people who are around you, right?
Chris: And all of the lessons that you’ve learned. I mean, just all of the learning from failure, growth through hardship, and then growth through engaging people and things like that. It’s really powerful to see your vision, your mission, your values show up externally for what’s been installed in you internally, right? Yeah. So it’s really powerful. What is going to happen if one day you’re like, it’s time to graduate from Bondi Bowls?
Bailey: No. Never.
Chris: Wow. OK.
Bailey: No. I actually get that question a lot like, “OK. When are you going to sell it? Or what’s the price you’re going to sell it for? When’s that day coming?” And it was interesting when I signed some of the first franchises or licenses, that was their big question, “Well, is it always going to be you? Or when you sell, what does this contract look like?”
They’re like, “We’re OK signing this contract with you but if it’s a different owner, it might look different.” And I was just like, “I can’t believe you’re even asking that. I would never sell.” Yeah. I think that this is my baby, and so it’ll always be a part of me. I can’t picture myself going that route, but I do see myself getting to free up my time more so that I can do other adventures and go down different paths. Or I would love to do a nonprofit or some mission-focused business as well that is grounded in that. So, I do see that there’ll probably be other things added to my plate, but I don’t think I would ever remove Bondi.
Chris: OK. Well, you heard it here first. Super good. Well, I have some rapid-fire questions for you. Are you ready?
Chris: Did you bring back a temporary accent from Australia?
Bailey: Ooh, I fake it, but no.
Chris: Are you going to do an impression right now?
Bailey: I give it a try every time. Well, it’s embarrassing because one of our franchise owners is an Australian. He came from Australia, has the accent, and he and his family just got back from Australia on Tuesday or something like that. And so, I can’t do it in front of him. That’s so embarrassing.
Chris: OK. Did anybody get you with drop bears?
Bailey: No. They got me though, with the kookaburra birds that come and peck your head. Yeah, those scared me. I always walked around with a stick for a while.
Chris: See, I don’t understand. I ran a software company where all of the developers and other executive team members were Australian. And man, the amount of jokes that those guys played on me.
Bailey: Oh, they’re so funny.
Chris: Yeah. It’s amazing. All right. Well, what’s your biggest passion outside of work?
Bailey: Oh my gosh. I think serving kids. I love volunteering with little kids.
Chris: Aww. That’s awesome. OK. Well, what’s a Bondi Bowl combo that you tried and it didn’t work?
Bailey: Oh my gosh. So many. We were trying to incorporate a lot of weird spices into it, and that is a no. Do not mix fruit and spices. Oh, I thought of another passion.
Chris: OK. What’s the passion?
Bailey: I love wakeboarding.
Chris: Favorite lake?
Bailey: My parents grew up on a small lake in Oklahoma, and so we would always go there every morning.
Chris: All right. What’s a guilty pleasure in your life?
Bailey: Guilty pleasure. I don’t really do anything outside of Bondi. It’s a problem. I’m trying to picture what I do outside of Bondi. I mean, I watch a lot of Netflix, but I feel like that’s a lame one.
Chris: Why is that lame?
Bailey: I feel like there’s so many other things that would be funny.
Chris: What about a band?
Bailey: Oh, see. I don’t really listen to music. I don’t know any artists.
Chris: Oh my gosh!
Bailey: When I drive in my car, there’s no music playing. I sit in silence. It’s weird.
Chris: This is amazing.
Bailey: I know. It’s a weird thing about me.
Chris: I know. All right. Well, who would play you in a movie?
Bailey: I love the girl from “The Blind Side,” the mom.
Chris: Oh yeah. Sandra Bullock?
Bailey: Yeah. I think she’s fun. I would like her to play me, but–
Chris: There you go.
Bailey: I feel like it would have to be someone younger. I don’t know if they’re playing a 24 year old, but it’d be Sandra.
Chris: Yeah. I mean, it’s amazing. Well, what’s your favorite non-healthy food?
Bailey: I eat a lot of pizza. I eat a lot of Hideaway Pizza.
Chris: Hideaway Pizza.
Bailey: That’d be my guilty pleasure too, I guess.
Chris: OK. There you go. What’s one new interest or hobby that you’d like to explore?
Bailey: I started running.
Bailey: Yes. I’m going to run the OKC Marathon. Started two weeks ago.
Chris: No way.
Bailey: Yep. Couch potato to marathon. That’s what I’m doing.
Chris: OK. So you go full throttle with what you do?
Bailey: Yeah. Yeah.
Chris: I picked up on that during our conversation. OK. Well, that’s super good. Who is another entrepreneur who inspires you?
Bailey: There’s a lot. I would say I love the owners of Cousins Maine Lobster. I looked up to them so much, especially when I got started that I actually DMed them consistently to get a phone call with them.
And I got a 30-minute phone call at the very beginning of starting Bondi, and it was just so impactful. I learned so much, and I asked them rapid-fire questions like, “Why do you have one social media account? Why do you do this? Why do you do that?” And I learned a lot. And it played a foundation into Bondi in a lot of big ways.
Chris: So, you’re a persistent one.
Bailey: I am.
Chris: And this is the silence in the car, you’re working on your persistence?
Bailey: Exactly. I guess that’s what it is. I’m game planning.
Chris: Oh, that’s super good. Well, what’s next for you and what’s next with Bondi Bowls?
Bailey: Like I said, I really want to be in Huntington Beach with Bondi Bowls. We’ll see if that ever actually happens. And then for me, I think I’m slowly starting to get a life outside of Bondi. So, I think, just diving into that, running the marathon. Yeah. I think those are my next steps.
Chris: Do you listen to music when you’re running the marathon?
Bailey: No, I don’t actually. We’ve been training, we did seven miles on Saturday, not a single song.
Chris: Wow. Not like a book on tape?
Chris: No audio?
Bailey: So, I was really passionate about running a marathon, and then I just pitched it to some of my friends and they’re like, “Yeah.” And so we talk the whole time. And if I run by myself, I just run in silence.
Chris: OK. I’m clearly not a runner, so I don’t know. I have to listen to music when I work out, so I’m disoriented by what you’re saying.
Bailey: That’s fair. I think a lot of people are that way.
Chris: Well, I have to say, it has been awesome to sit down and have a conversation. Your effervescence is palpable, right? It’s amazing how passionate you are. It really comes across and it’s been amazing just to learn your story and hear what’s next. And I cannot wait to just follow you on social media even more and see what happens next with you in Bondi Bowls.
Bailey: Thank you. I appreciate it.
Chris: Absolutely. Thanks for coming, Bailey.
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