There is something mythic about the family adventure story – parents, children and pets are swept away together on a life-altering journey, overcome unlikely trials, and emerge stronger thanks to each other.
Danny and Jennifer Morales, owners of CocoBowlz, are intimately familiar with that journey, both as Hispanic immigrants, and as entrepreneurs. This family made the adventure a reality, and gave fresh flavor to the phrase, “family business.”
Jennifer’s family is Puerto Rican/Dominican and Danny’s hails from Ecuador. Both grew up in New Jersey, and both chose nursing as their first career. However, 12-hour ER shifts and 90-minute commutes were not conducive to starting a family.
“My little girl Mikayla went from a newborn to three in the blink of an eye” Danny recalls, still stunned by the fact.
A lane-change was needed to maintain a close-knit Hispanic family, so they began looking for a home where they could live life on their terms, not yet aware that part of the road trip would be in a food truck. Here’s what their journey can teach us:
Lesson 1: There’s Something Magical About Greenville
Danny and Jennifer had read about Greenville’s thriving downtown and booming economy, but a visit settled their decision.
“We fell in love with Greenville…the city, the people…it’s just a tight community.” Danny recalls. “We came with our two boxers, went downtown, and there were dog bowls everywhere. That sold my wife.”
However, when they noticed that Acai (their favorite healthy treat on the Jersey shore) was not on the radar in Greenville, a lightbulb went on. They put their nursing careers aside, dusted off their dream of being food truck entrepreneurs, and CocoBowlz was born. This combo of smooth Acai, crisp fruit, and a multitude of toppings to crunch and drizzle, made its 2018 spring debut on the Liberty Bridge - and Greenville went gaga.
Lesson 2: You’ll Never Regret a Decision in Favor of Family
“The idea behind CococBowlz was to have more quality time together as a family,” says Danny.
They certainly succeeded. The CocoBowlz truck became a trusty emblem for their family life. Instead of missing out on Mikayla’s tender years, Danny and Jennifer help her grow and contribute to the family business in playful ways, such as learning to label the bowls.
Their girls know the brand and are proud of the family business, and most important, they see their parents working together.
“Even now our girls say, ‘I want to go to CocoBowlz! Daddy, where are you? At CocoBowlz?’” Jennifer sighs contentedly. “CocoBowlz is just as much of our baby as our other kids are!”
Lesson 3: Drawing Strength From Experience
Their epic journey wasn’t always blissful. Danny recalls a horrible month of sales last December that threatened to destabilize his confidence.
“The key thing about being an entrepreneur is your mental toughness,” he insists.
Danny credits his resilient mindset to his immigrant experience, watching his family embrace the struggle in a new country to find their best life.
“It’s a long journey to get from point A to point B, and in between there will be a lot of detours. Some people look at them as roadblocks or dead ends, but I accept the challenges.”
It turned out that the couple’s nursing experience was also vital to responding to truck break downs and late shipments.
“I worked in the ER and have always had that calm mentality,” Danny says. “You never know what’s coming through that door next. To stay level-headed and positive is the most challenging part.”
They continue to draw lessons from their immigrant roots and past careers, but their true strength will always be as a family:
“As long as we stick together, me and my wife, we feel like we can conquer anything,” Danny affirms.
And conquer, they did.
Lesson 4: Success is to be Shared:
CocoBowlz thrived in the rising star of downtown Greenville. The Haywood Mall reached out to bring CocoBowlz to the food court; they landed a coveted spot in Gather Greenville, opening behind Fluor Field in mid-October; then, they will be partnering with Soul Yoga in Five Forks – all within 2019.
Their five-year goal is to plant the CocoBowlz franchise in Columbia, Charleston, Atlanta, and down the east coast to Miami, using this momentum to create opportunities for community-oriented entrepreneurs across the southeast.
“I’ve always had that entrepreneur mentality. I have always strived for more,” Danny insists. “Gather and Five Forks aren’t open yet, and we are already working on the process of franchising. We want to give this amazing opportunity to another entrepreneur.”
Jennifer gives the same message to her little girls, as she does to young entrepreneurs ready to take a journey into the unknown:
“If you want to do something, just do it!” she tells them. “I want everyone to feel that!”