Spending his summer break at the lake in his hometown of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho last year, BCom student Essex Prescott saw there was something missing in the lazy lake experience – there were snacks sold on the shore, but no easy way for the throngs of boaters to access them.
Within weeks, Prescott put his entrepreneurial mind to work on a business plan for the first floating food truck in the region. He had already registered for Sauder’s Entrepreneurship 101, an undergraduate class that acts as an accelerator for student ventures, so he spent the fall semester learning about building a startup and honing his business plan.
“It was extremely helpful to learn a bit about every aspect of starting a business,” says Prescott. “Taking the class made things that seemed insurmountable before seem completely doable.”
He kept on working on the project after the class finished and bought a houseboat that he and his business partners – two friends he grew up with – refurbished with a restaurant grade kitchen, while securing permits from health inspectors and the coast guard alike.
Their boat, called The Buoy, began serving up burgers, tacos and ice cream all across Lake Coeur d’Alene earlier this summer, and Prescott says business has been booming. They've been attracting plenty of boaters, and even swimmers and paddleboarders, who can get their food in floating, waterproof cases.
“We had no idea we’d be this well-received this early,” says Prescott. “It’s challenging just to keep up with demand as we’ve sold out of food multiple times and we’re already seeing lots of return customers.”
He expected that running a business would be challenging, but didn’t realize quite how time consuming it would be, as he’s been working seven days a week all summer to stay on top of things. “But it’s fun – and the hard work is paying off,” he says.
Sauder Lecturer Elizabeth Newton, who teaches Entrepreneurship 101, says she’s not surprised Prescott’s venture is so successful.
“I could see he had this competitive drive – from his other passion of competitive skiing – that would serve him well,” she says. “I always find it tremendously exciting to see students come in inspired, dive into planning their projects in class and then launch as soon as they can afterwards.”
She says his early success bodes well for the future – whether that’s with The Buoy or another venture. “It's one thing to plan; it's another thing entirely to execute and deal with the day-to-day details and challenges,” she says.
Prescott’s success has already been noticed in Coeur d’Alene by more than just boaters and beachgoers, as he was recently featured in news segments by two local TV networks.
The team is already expanding operations, having just opened up a catering side to the business, and there’s a delivery boat in the works. Prescott and his business partners are continually brainstorming for The Buoy’s future, with hopes of a solar panel on the roof to make it more sustainable and hosting live music acts on the boat.
Their goal is to franchise a fleet of floating food trucks eventually. Prescott says one of the most useful parts of Entrepreneurship 101 was hearing from an entrepreneur who spoke about her own franchising experience in a guest lecture.
“I've already used almost everything we did in class at one point or another,” says Prescott, who has just one semester left in his BCom. “The timing was perfect.”