As majority shareholder of the food truck Area 51 Foods, College of Charleston sociology and English double major Carolina Grace Bowen stays busy outside of the classroom managing food preparation, customer services, budgets and scheduling for the business.
In 2015, Bowen’s family opened Area 51 Foods, named after the U.S. Air Force base subject to frequent UFO conspiracy theories, as a way to pay for the insulin she needs to manage her Type 1 diabetes.
“We decided to name the truck Area 51 Foods because our chef/co-owner was in the Navy,” says Bowen. “We’re both conspiracy theory geeks and thought Area 51 would be a unique name for the truck.”
The food truck not only supports members of her immediate family, but Bowen and her family also take pride in the way they treat their employees and community – something that stems from her sociology coursework.
“I try to ensure that anyone working for us is treated as family and paid well. If an employee has an issue, even if it’s personal, like not having a ride to work or being unable to make a down payment on a car, we always try to help out,” says the CofC sophomore. “Fostering relationships through the business has been incredibly fulfilling, and my sociology coursework has helped me understand the importance of relationships in business.”
As an example, after Hurricane Florence, Bowen drove the Area 51 truck to the Myrtle Beach area to donate food to evacuees and service workers. The business also makes providing food for customers with food allergies and special diets a priority.
“We are one of the few food trucks that offers gluten-free options as well as carrying no food that contains or is manufactured around tree nuts, shellfish, peanuts or sesame,” says Bowen. “We try to aim for healthier, lower-carb options and offer vegetarian options. Our goal is to cater to special diets and offer healthy options.”
Bowen also credits her English courses for teaching her how to communicate and network efficiently with customers, co-workers and event coordinators.
“My English coursework has helped me market the business and communicate with other businesses and vendors more effectively,” she says. “It’s also helped my understanding of how to market through social media and create relationships with other business owners.”
As a double major, you might wonder how Bowen has the time to run a business. But, it’s her demanding schedule that she attributes to her success.
“My busy schedule has really helped me learn to be more organized and manage my time more effectively,” she says.
And while she has plans to eventually work in medical sociology, focusing on the ethics side of healthcare in social work or human resources management, Bowen hopes to continue operating the food truck for years to come.
“I plan to continue running the truck (with employees) on the side even if I can’t work often,” she says. “I really just enjoy working with people and making them happy.”
You can find Area 51 Foods parked at the MUSC Greenway as well as at local breweries across the tri-county area. Look for the food truck at the Lowcountry Hemp Festival in April. The most up-to-date locations for Area 51 Foods can always be found on the truck’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Area51Foods/.