BYU’s ‘Bun Boiz’ find balance between school and small business

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The Bun Boiz sell an array of Bao fusion buns, including a Buffalo chicken bun, spinach artichoke filled bun and cinnamon roll bun. (The Bun Boiz)

Two BYU students got a taste of being student small business owners last weekend as they opened up their new fusion bao bun restaurant, Bun Boiz.

BYU juniors Jimmy Watson and Braden Swanson were inspired to start Bun Boiz because of their love for cooking and support from BYU and peers.

At the beginning of 2020, Watson and Swanson started to experiment in the kitchen with different kinds of chicken sandwiches. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, they worked to perfect their sandwich recipe and began experimenting with baking buns.

Though the two initially started to make food as a hobby to share with their friends, Watson said he had always wanted to start his own food business. He started to brainstorm many ways they could take their love for making and sharing food to the next level.

Watson’s entrepreneurship class at BYU eventually motivated him to act on his idea. His professor encouraged him to take the first step and become a student entrepreneur.

“In September 2020, Jimmy came to me and explained the whole idea behind what is now ‘Bun Boiz.’ We decided to just take a bunch of food that we like to cook and eat and blend everything into a bun,” Swanson said.

Bun Boiz menu includes a variety of fusion buns, all created by BYU juniors Jimmy Watson and Braden Swanson. (Bun Boiz)

Through trial and error, Swanson and Watson spent time outside of school perfecting their recipes and laying out a business plan. Swanson said they had to learn to manage their time and experienced several sleepless nights during Fall Semester in order to effectively open up shop in February.

On Feb. 4, Bun Boiz opened up a pop-up shop in downtown Provo selling a wide array of buns, including a spinach artichoke bun and a Buffalo chicken bun. They recruited several other friends and students to help out with the process and, in what they called “organized chaos,” introduced Bun Boiz to Provo.

Just in the first night, the Bun Boiz were shocked and excited to see that their entire inventory of buns sold out.

Watson attributes their success to helpful resources that they received through BYU and the Marriott School’s Rollins Center. “BYU has so many resources; it’s incredible. The sheer amount of help that we’ve gotten just by being BYU students makes me wish people would realize that they can reach out and take those first steps with their ideas,” Watson said.

BYU student Emry Wallwork assisted the Bun Boiz on their opening weekend and experienced the frenzy and excitement of starting a small business as a student. Wallwork runs her own small business on the side and said it is a great creative outlet for her while at school.

“Starting a business is a lot more time put into it than you think it’s going to be,” Wallwork said. “So, if you’re going to start something, go all in and be ready to put in hours and hours, whole weekends, and everything. But it’s so worth it.”

For now, Watson said they hope to continue opening up pop-up shops around Provo on weekends and eventually establish a full-scale casual fast-food restaurant for Bun Boiz.

“We just hope to keep making good food and more buns,” Swanson said.

Bun Boiz is open for business in Provo on weekend nights. More information about Bun Boiz can be found on its website or on Instagram at @the_bun_boiz.

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