Three ambitious siblings – students of The American International School Muscat – open a food truck to raise funds for charity and discover their own entrepreneurial skills in the bargain
When the sun goes down every evening, their spirits begin to soar, and with that, appetising aromas, too, rise over Souq al Madina, in Madinat Qaboos, where a student initiative for a worthy cause is drawing much attention these days.
Three ambitious students of The American International School Muscat (TAISM) have set up a food truck, not just to examine whether they have traces of business acumen that could catapult their careers onto promising ground some day, but also to put smiles on the faces of some hapless families in Oman.
The brainchild of Maya Sultan, a 9th grade student at TAISM, the project has received able support from the school management and is seen to set an example for others to follow in their footsteps.
“I’ve always wanted to open a food truck since I was very young. I’ve been saving all of my money and making plans to do this for years,” says Maya who conceived the MAD Food Truck concept, and then convinced Ayman, an 11th grader at TAISM, and Dana, a TAISM Alumna and recent Northeastern graduate, to support and give their best efforts to the new business.
The MAD Food Truck serves its specialty, chicken wings, and many other dishes every night from 6-10pm, with a small team of the three siblings, a gifted chef, and one other staff.
The best part of the venture? Ordering fries or wings and a chicken sandwich from the MAD Food Truck is a delicious way to support a great cause.
“We’ve always wanted to have a charitable aspect to whatever we do,” Dana explained. “We decided that our goal is to feed one family for a full month, for every day that we are open.”
Through a partnership with Dar al Atta, the MAD Food Truck team gives daily the full amount needed to feed one Omani family for a month, besides donating additional funds. Any extra change or tip offered is also given to feed hungry families.
Already, since opening 3 weeks prior, the MAD Food Truck has given a month’s worth of food to over 50 families in Oman – so they are far exceeding their original goal.
The three social entrepreneurs beamed when asked about why they’re giving away all their tips and a significant portion of their profit nightly. “Our Mom was one of the founding members of Dar Al Atta,” said Dana, “and she has instilled the importance of generosity and service in us since birth. It’s really important to us.”
“Since we were small, all of our bake sales and initiatives have been for charity, not for ourselves. We’re very grateful for what we have, so it’s not about the money,” Ayman explained. “It’s about giving back to the community, one wing at a time. One wing at a time! That’s a good slogan! We will put it on our donation tip jar.”
The trio are hoping to join the team from Dar Al Atta when they deliver the food rations to needy families throughout Oman, to be a part of the distribution themselves.
Both Ayman and Maya have been at TAISM since Kindergarten, and are involved with the Student Council, after-school clubs, sports, and other extracurricular activities. Dana, a passionate foodie and supportive sister, recently returned from Boston and dove headfirst into this venture, crafting the menu and adding ‘special menu items’ every 2 days to keep the menu fresh.
When asked whether it was harder or easier than expected to open a business in Oman, Maya, Ayman and Dana agreed that after the big opening weekend, promoting and marketing the food truck on an ongoing basis has been a huge challenge, but a beneficial one.
“I thought after the day we opened, that every night 50 people would come,” said Maya. Dana agreed, saying, “Staying hyped up about all of this even on slower nights, that’s a challenge. But just interacting with people in person – the human side is so invigorating and so much fun!”
“The experience has been amazing – we went into it not knowing anything,” said Maya, and Dana finished her thought, “Now we’re completely running this, even the finances. It’s a huge learning curve, but why not just jump into the deep end?”
“At TAISM, we’ve always been taught to ‘rise to the challenge’,” Ayman said. “Having our own business as students is a huge undertaking and it’s not easy for us, but we keep going, we stay positive, we learn from our challenges, and we work together.”
When asked how TAISM has prepared them for this venture, everyone laughed together as each shared how incredibly helpful ‘collaboration techniques’ have been for them as family businesspeople.
“Sometimes we have to share our own ideas while listening to each other,” Ayman explained diplomatically. Maya chimed in, “And we definitely got mad at each other…we went over so many different types of menu items.”
Ayman continued, “I remember that in Elementary School, you learn not to be shy about what you believe in, and to share your feelings, while you listen to others. In Middle School, it’s about collaborating and problem solving – and that’s what we’re doing. This emphasis really benefited us in our communication as business owners. You have to be very organised to have a business, and it’s been embedded in our minds at TAISM that we need to plan ahead, we need to be organised, and we have to manage our time well to succeed.”
As the truck is currently being rented, the students will need to return it, while keeping the MAD branding and exploring other ways to do business, possibly including private events or delivery. Before then, the truck will remain open nightly in MQ, except when it’s parked at the TAISM Fall Festival to provide delicious food for the TAISM Community on October 27.
“The TAISM Community has been so supportive of the MAD Food Truck,” Dana said. “All of our friends and connections came out for the launch and have shared about us with others. We’d also like to thank Souq Al Madina for their support, and Mohammed Al Omari, who helped to create the MAD logo.”
The students are asking people to come try the menu, give some extra change to those in need, and share with others about their initiative.
A learning experience
What I have learned from this experience is that in order to start up a new business, organisation is key. I also learned that balancing your time between school, activities, sports, and work is very important in order to be successful.
This experience taught me how to manage a small business from both a financial and leadership aspect. I also learned how to pivot and overcome challenges through patience and trust.
What I have learned through this experience is that not everything goes your way, and there are many challenges that come up when starting something new.