BYU student moving popular Happy Bowls Bus to Hawaii

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Paul Garfield being his usual happy, upbeat self jumps in front of the Happy Bowls Bus. (Morgan Allred)
Paul Garfield being his shows his joy by jumping in front of the Happy Bowls Bus. He created the business and built the bus mostly by himself. (Morgan Allred)

The Happy Bowls Bus is an acai-selling, solar-powered Volkswagen food truck that was popular among Utahns this summer. It started with one BYU student and his dream to start a business of his own. It is now being shipped off to continue its journey in Hawaii.

Paul Garfield, a 23-year-old student at BYU from Springville, Utah, has always been a self-driven dreamer, according to his friends.

He first thought of the idea to create an acai food truck in April 2014. Garfield quickly turned his idea into a reality, starting with only his salary as a server to help him. He had help along the way from friends and family, but the majority of the work to create the Happy Bowls Bus was done by Garfield himself.

Gavin Gregory, a long-time friend of Garfield, took part in helping with the bus and explained how Garfield was able to accomplish such a feat.

“He will get an idea in his mind, and he’ll do everything in his power to complete it,” Gregory said. “He’s not going to quit until his dreams come true. He’s a dreamer that’s willing to chase his dreams.”

Garfield said his mind has always been full of different ideas and innovations, and that’s part of how he came up with the idea for Happy Bowls Bus.

A Happy Bowl Bus acai bowl. The original ‘happy bowl’ includes acai sorbet topped with granola, bananas and strawberries. (Happy Bowls Bus)

“I get inspired when I’m sitting in class at BYU. I feel that God has blessed me with these ideas and He really expects me to do all of them,” Garfield said.

The beginnings of the Happy Bowls Bus required a lot of time and effort for Garfield. He was taking 15 credits at BYU and working when he first started. Once, he and Gregory drove all night to California to pick up acai from his supplier in San Diego. They put the acai in coolers with dry ice in the back of the car and made it back home just as the acai was starting to melt.

Garfield also said he did most of the body work for the bus himself. The original bus was yellow and rusted and not tall enough to stand in. So Garfield cut off the roof of the bus and bolted a fishing boat on top, then gutted the inside and turned it into a solar-powered kitchen. The bus was painted bright orange and purple with the signature Happy Bowls Bus logo.

“I was only able to work on the bus when I was paid as a server because I didn’t really have money,” Garfield said

Money ended up being an issue for Garfield again when the bus was finally ready to go and summer was approaching. It was about a month away when Garfield realized he still needed about $6,000 to open for the summer. He made the decision to do a Kickstarter campaign, offering T-shirts, stickers and free acai bowls to those who donated.

A 'before' picture of the Happy Bowls Bus. (Paul Garfield)
A ‘before’ picture of the Happy Bowls Bus. Garfield added a fishing boat to the roof to enable him to stand up inside. (Paul Garfield)

“It was the day before and we were at $3,000 dollars and with Kickstarter, if you don’t reach your goal you don’t get anything so we had to reach $6,000,” Garfield said, “So I posted saying how I just wanted to thank everyone that donated, explaining how much they mean to me but we were still really far from our goal. Within like four hours, 65 people got on and we made it to like $6,400.”

The Happy Bowls Bus ran from May 2015 until early September 2015 when they closed down shop for the winter. The Deseret News featured Happy Bowls Bus in an articles and the bus became a well-known commodity in Utah Valley serving between 100 to 150 people on an average day.

“The cliche quote of ‘anything is possible if you put your mind to it’ is very true. I am a true believer that you can do whatever you want,” Garfield said. “If you wanted to write a book that ends up being the next bestseller and has a movie made out of it, you can.”

Brandon Harris, another one of Garfield’s friends who helped contribute to Happy Bowls Bus said that it was a fun experience to watch it all unfold and that looking back he wishes he would have been more involved in the bus.

Garfield mimics the Happy Bowls Bus signature smiley by throwing up the peace sign. (Morgan Allred)
Paul Garfield mimics the Happy Bowls Bus signature smiley by making a peace sign. Garfield, owner of the food truck plans to take his business to Hawaii. (Morgan Allred)

“It was super, super successful. And it was super fun to watch. All the excitement people were having about it, it was inspiring,” Harris said.

For those looking to start their own business, Garfield said to not work alone but instead find a partner that is passionate about the idea. He is also a huge advocate of not being attached to cell phones and encourages others to put their phones away and explore their own minds.

“All of my ideas came to me when my phone was 1,000 miles away. I completed deleted all social media so if I go on my phone I can’t get on it,” Garfield said. “Your mind is very powerful and it can inspire you to do many things and give you great ideas. So don’t be glued to your screen.”

Christian Allen, a regular customer at Happy Bowls Bus, said he thinks the Happy Bowls Bus serves the best acai bowls in town.

“If you want an authentic acai bowl, then go check out the Happy Bowls Bus. They’re top-notch,” Allen said.

The Happy Bowls Bus is now retired from its position at the Provo Food Truck Round Up, maybe for good. Garfield plans to ship the bus out to his brother who lives in Hawaii and test it running year-round there.

“I’m going to see how it goes and I’m going to build another one if it goes well. Because I know how to make them, they’re not difficult. So if the money is coming in and it’s working the goal is to have one per island. So in January I plan to probably move out there and manage them,” Garfield said.

He said he also plans to return to Utah to work on many of the other business ideas going on in his head, so the Happy Bowls Bus may not be the last thing Utahns see from him.

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