Purdue entrepreneur finds success in food trucks

WEST LAFAYETTE – An unexpected look at food trucks has become one of the latest successful entrepreneurial endeavors for a member of Purdue University’s growing family of entrepreneurs.

Ariel Smith, a doctoral student in American studies, is the founder of “The Food Truck Scholar.”

Ariel Smith, a doctoral student in American studies, is the founder of the podcast, “The Food Truck Scholar.” As part of her enterprise, Smith started and hosts a podcast looking at individual stories of those in the food truck industry.

The idea came when Smith noticed an increasing number of black-owned food trucks being operated in her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama.

“This stems from my academic research,” Smith said. “I combined that research and my entrepreneurial aspirations to develop ‘The Food Truck Scholar’ brand. I attended school in Alabama, where I became very interested in the voices of Black food truckers.”

Smith also is scholar-in-residence for the Black Cultural Center and has taught classes at Purdue about entrepreneurship. She also has gained insight through Purdue’s Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship and the Purdue Foundry.

“Enterprise has been the undergirding of our American history,” Smith said. “I try to inspire other young innovators by helping them realistically understand the risks and benefits associated with being an entrepreneur. I also bring in Black entrepreneurs to share their stories.”

Rayvon Fouché, a professor of American studies, said he has enjoyed seeing Smith’s passion for entrepreneurship grow since she arrived as a graduate student at Purdue. Fouché serves as a co-advisor for Smith’s dissertation.

“Ariel seeks to build connections between her research and the communities she studies,” Fouché said. “You can see her bold spirit and passion for sharing stories and taking a smart approach to storytelling that brings the human connection alive.”

About Purdue Research Foundation

Purdue Research Foundation supports Purdue University’s land-grant mission by helping the university improve the world through its technologies and graduates. Established in 1930, PRF is a private, nonprofit foundation. The foundation helps patent and commercialize Purdue technologies; builds places to encourage innovation, invention, investment, commercialization and entrepreneurship; and makes equity available to students to finance their Purdue education. For more information on licensing a Purdue innovation, contact the Office of Technology Commercialization at otcip@prf.org. For more information about involvement and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at foundry@prf.org.

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the No. 5 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at purdue.edu.

Information by Chris Adamcladam@prf.org.