I should have planned to meet with Arnold Park at his West Coast Tacos truck, so I could savor one of the delicious West Coast Tacos’ chicken tacos! While talking to him, I found myself enjoying listening to his experiences and passion for being an entrepreneur. My conversation with Park can be summed up with a proverb he shared in our conversation, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step”.
“How did West Coast Tacos make it to Indianapolis”? Park was living in LA, working as a financial adviser at the time. An injury forced him to take some time away from work, and when he returned he realized, that he wanted to work for himself; to be in control of making his own success. Park said, “I was going to take the taco truck idea back to Korea, but my friend John [then business partner and resident of Indianapolis] encouraged me to check out Indianapolis first”. Park came to visit Indianapolis, liked what he saw and decided to take the chance of bringing Indianapolis its first food truck. I had to know how Indianapolis ended up being his second choice after Korea.
“In Indianapolis, they speak English – Hahaha. It is an untapped market. I wanted to do something new in the area. We also could make use of John’s connections in Indianapolis”, said Park. So he sold everything, bought a box truck, and moved to Indianapolis.
Since coming to Indianapolis, West Coast Tacos has been mentioned or featured in The New York Times, Indianapolis Star, Metromix, IBJ and NUVO. Indianapolis has embraced West Coast Tacos and the food truck concept wholeheartedly.
But West Coast Tacos is more than just delicious food, it is a great lesson for entrepreneurially minded people looking to introduce a new business idea. Their branding strategy is to be considered closely. West Coast Tacos is building their brand and the success of the business using free social media outlets. To find the location of the coveted black taco truck, you must follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or have their Mobile app. The location of the truck is tweeted and posted and a line soon follows. The West Coast Tacos website is simple. It literally links back to their social media sites, and displays the twitter feed. This might seem counter-intuitive: What? No menus to look at, no fancy graphics and pimped out photos of the truck scrolling in the header? No! Apparently, these things might not be necessary when you have a strong social media presence. Not surprisingly, this strategy is not “new”. In fact, in LA, the social media culture is booming.
“Well first there is not as much culture here in Indianapolis as there is in LA, around social media. Social media isn’t fun here, like it is in LA. Every business uses twitter in LA to connect with their customers. It is way easier to connect with my friends and business connections through twitter. People are tweeting during meetings. It is fun to do. We want to make twitter fun and interactive for our business and followers”, comments Park. So can this strategy be successful here in Indy, given our distinct “behind-the-times” disadvantage? “Don’t be afraid that you are doing something different” is Park’s response. “People have passion in their ideas but are afraid to act on them, because they are different”. Park’s philosophy is that many of the city’s current movers and shakers are people who have grown up with social media, understand its importance, and want to bring new things to Indianapolis, so if you have a business idea that’s novel or hasn’t been done locally before, now is the time to try to make it go. West Coast Taco’s robust Twitter following, 5300+ followers and counting, might be a great indicator that Indianapolis is ready to embrace Twitter on a grander scale.
So what is next for West Coast Tacos? There are expansion plans, “…by August a West Coast Tacos truck will be at Purdue University. [Where his new business partner resides] Also a truck will regularly be coming to the Hamilton County area. After a month at Purdue, we are going to go down and check out the IU campus”. Park also shared some “off the record” information with me about the future of West Coast Tacos. All I can say is, if you are a fan of West Coast Tacos follow them on Twitter, Facebook, or download the mobile app for updates. This winter season might have a pleasant surprise in store for you.
As for Park, he is working on starting up an urban LA clothing wear company here in Indianapolis. A clothing truck perhaps? Not quite. Two of Arnold’s friends will be designing prints for t-shirts. One is a tattoo artist and the other is a graffiti artist. His goal is to showcase some different art expressions here in Indianapolis. He wants to contribute to the fashion street scene; “My generation is coming of age…Indianapolis is peaking with our generation. I want to start it as an online company. My workers on the truck will also be wearing the clothes to help promote the label. I am thinking the shirts will sell for about $25”, Park briefly sketched out the plan. I told him to keep me updated with the progress of his clothing company. I always like a good graphic t-shirt.
If there is one thing that I took away from my conversation with Park, it’s that Indianapolis is an untapped market in many areas and also that the city is more open than ever to business concepts that are thriving in bigger cities, but have mostly by-passed the Midwest – the food truck being one of many. The truck concept is catching on too! There are now a few more food truck options following suit of West Coast Tacos’ success, but they were the first. I think that now is the time for entrepreneurs to be acting on their ideas in Indianapolis. I leave you with 4 major lessons from Arnold Park: