Raleigh, North Carolina has got it goin’ on! They not only are home to the 2014 Local Food Truck Blogger of the year, they are now the proud home of Mobile Cuisine’s 2014 Best Dessert Food Truck of the Year!
We’re always honored and humbled to have the opportunity to meet food trucks around the country and learn about their journey.
Like Donna Downs and Cristal Harrison, the intrepid owners of Not Just Icing, most food truck owners never realize their dreams of entrepreneurship lie in the confined kitchen of a food truck. For these two, buying “Joy,” the 1982 RV converted to cupcake bakery, and third member of the Not Just Icing team, wasn’t on their radar at all.
They met eight years ago when their daughters were in school together. While their friendship developed, Cristal grew to love Donna’s baking.
They came up with the idea and within 30 days Not Just Icing was not only a thing, they were at their first event – an outdoor concert at the American Tobacco Campus in Durham. That’s got to be the record for starting a food truck – or pretty darn close.
Their families helped them tremendously from mechanical services to bakers and everything in between. They “could NOT do this without the support of our families,” they both claim.
Now let’s talk about the reason Not Just Icing won… Their cupcakes!!
They sound incredible. I’m pretty sure if I was in line, I wouldn’t be able to make up my mind! Their flavors are filled with tradition and modern sweet twists. A commitment to natural ingredients set them apart from other sweets. You won’t find cans of fruit or jars of store-bought peanut butter on “Joy.” Donna and Cristal scour the markets for fresh ingredients and build upon them. Donna “has lots of tasty ideas and observes what’s around her, what sounds good and what’s available at the store or market,” says Cristal.
Their cupcakes run the gamut to tempt your sweet tooth. They have grouped their flavors with enticing names like “heaven” and “cocktail” to name a few. “Heaven” cupcakes are either chocolate or vanilla cake with flavored buttercream icing with a surprise-spice swirl. The “Cocktail” cupcakes are just that… With a Guinness chocolate cake and Baileys Jameson buttercream icing, you may decide to skip happy hour after eating one (or two!). The most unusual flavor is hummingbird. This Southern treat of a hummingbird cake is translated into a cupcake with hummingbird icing containing banana, pineapple and pecans. “It’s different, but delicious!”
We’re excited to have Not Just Icing as our winner. A lot of times trucks never know they’ve been nominated until we contact them. This was the case with Not Just Icing. They’re not sure who nominated them, but they’re thankful. As soon as they found out, they pushed the contest in their social media network. They also received a lot of local support ranging from the local news outlet NewsObserver.com and local bloggers (including our Blogging Winner, Wandering Sheppard) to their dedicated customers and other local food trucks.
When we hear about a community that rallies for one of its own, it warms our hearts! Food trucks are a community unto themselves and we love to hear when they’re supportive of each other’s successes.
When Cristal and Donna aren’t jamming to the 80s while concocting their luscious batters and whipping up icings, you can find them involved with their children’s busy schedule. Outside of being business owners and mothers, they are committed to giving back to their communities. Individually, they’ve always enjoyed giving back and together they make a point to regularly contribute to causes about which they’re passionate.
Not Just Icing tries to fit at least one charitable event/contribution every month. They donate to many organizations, two events stand out in 2014. The first being the Food Truck Rodeo for the Durham Rescue Mission Men’s Program where they participated with three other Raleigh food trucks – Gussy’s Greek, Stuft, and Chick-N-Que. The second was Adopt-A-Thon for the Wake County Animal Shelter.
Donna and Cristal make this whole thing seem so easy… Get an idea, on the road in a month and kick-ass while being their generous, creative selves. We always ask if food truck owners have tips for aspiring owners. They say, “food trucking is hard work.” So, don’t kid yourself that this is kids’ play…
1) Do what you love!
2) Make customer service a priority.
3) Embrace social media.
And an unofficial #4 – learn how to drive an RV (or whatever your vehicle of choice).
Congratulations to Not Just Icing for winning Mobile Cuisine’s 2014 Dessert Food Truck of the Year! Thank you Cristal and Donna for building “Joy” and sharing your creative and delicious cupcakes. The Raleigh-Durham area is lucky to have your sweet treats!