What Drives Food Truck Pioneer Michael Bradbury
This is my first “I knew him when” story.
I met Michael Bradbury, owner of Kansas City’s The Funnelcake Truck, when I went outside to check my mail and saw him alternately working on his truck and playing with his kids. Bradbury still juggles both of those hats—entrepreneur and devoted dad—though we’re no longer neighbors.
He started the food truck about five years ago, long before Kansas City was hip to moveable feasts, as a way to earn extra money as a stay-at-home dad to Linkyn, Sebastian and Stephanie. The kids, each only a year apart and all still single-digits, kept him busy. Nevertheless, he had dreams of building a business that would not only produce an income for his family, but also make an impact in the community.
“I love being part of what’s going on in the community,” says Bradbury. “I don’t want to be in a trendy spot, catering to people who come and go. I want to be in Leawood and Overland Park and Lee’s Summit on Saturday afternoons. That’s where families are.”
Bradbury gravitates to places one might not typically think of for funnel cakes and other deep fried treats. Instead of festivals and fairs, he books his calendar with church and school events, private parties and family celebrations. It’s only fitting that his focus is on family; his love of cooking started with his grandmother.
“I went to her house every Sunday to make donuts,” he says. “We’re Polish and she taught me how to make paczki. Originally I wanted to start a Polish donut truck.”
Bradbury has expanded his menu to include kettle corn, cotton candy and a bevy of deep-fried treats. His favorite is deep-fried Snickers, but others sing the praises of his deep-fried Twinkies and deep-fried Oreos. The secret, he says, is the funnel cake batter.
“It’s the best thing in Kansas City,” he says. He would know; not only did Bradbury start a food truck business of his own, but he also created the Kansas City Food Truck Association in an effort to educate local officials on the intricacies of the food truck industry.
He’s teamed up with various suburban recreation departments to be present at local events—think concerts in the park, downtown festivals and Olathe’s annual Mayor’s Tree Lighting—and schedules private and charity events for local businesses.
But he does more than cook: he’s established himself as a social media trailblazer, using Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp to drive business and increase name awareness. He credits JazzyB’s Owner Brandon Simpson, fellow full-time dad of three and driving force behind the Kansas City Food Truck Association, with connecting him to MidContinental Library, where Bradbury taught a food truck class to aspiring entrepreneurs.
Oh—and along with cake decorating artist Mike Elder of Black Sheep Custom Cakes, he won Food Network’s “The Sound of Music” competition of Cake Wars last August.
“I learned so much about the magic of Hollywood by being on Cake Wars,” says Bradbury. “Los Angeles is the food truck capital of the world, so being there was amazing.”
Still, clinching that title didn’t change his business as much as one might think.
“I can serve 400 kids in three hours and no one recognizes me,” he says. “All the work of running a business—the product development, the push to get our information to new people, being present at events—that’s still the same now as it was pre-Cake Wars.”
So is the juggling act of being a dad first. Like many other parents who juggle business and family, Bradbury says working weekends and during the day, when his kids are in school and evenings when his wife is home with the kids, suits his schedule perfectly.
“My schedule revolves around the kids. I’ve built the business slowly on purpose, because family comes first. My wife Suzanne works full time at an office in Overland Park, so I take kids to school and pick them up. It works for us.”
To hire Bradbury for an event and order treats, visit TheFunnelCakeTruck.com or call 913.636.9647.