Bailey Wilson '18: If the Lord Leaves a Door Open, Run Through It
When Bailey Wilson ’18 opened her food truck, Bondi Bowls, she had no idea that it would become so popular and grow so rapidly. The idea for the business had come from her mother after noticing how bored Wilson was laying around her house in Oklahoma in the early days of the COVID pandemic. “She said, ‘Bailey, you need to get out of the house. You’ve been making these delicious acai bowls for Dad. He loves them. Your friends love them. You should share them with the community.’” Wilson found a used food truck on Facebook Marketplace, fixed it up and repainted it with her father, and launched Bondi Bowls on June 1, 2020. “I didn’t think many people would show up,” Wilson said. “But when my sister and I opened the window, there was a line of people so long it went through the entire parking lot. We literally hit the ground running.”
What began as a simple idea to help her make it through the pandemic quickly turned into much more. Just two-and-a-half years later, Bondi Bowls has grown massively with 17 food trucks in eight states, one brick and mortar location, and two kiosks in Oklahoma sporting venues. “In the beginning, I had no plans to hire employees, but we needed to,” she said. “Once we started licensing, we’ve continued to grow and now have more than 100 employees across the company.”
A big factor in this growth came about a month after Wilson opened her first truck. She was serving her bowls at a CycleBar event when a man approached her to talk about the business. “It turned out he served as a top executive at Disney for a long time. He also worked closely with Steve Jobs and helped start iTunes,” Wilson said. “He’s been my mentor ever since.”
Wilson also attributes her business growth to a vital lesson she learned while a student at APU. “I learned it’s so important to operate your business correctly, obey the rules, not taking shortcuts for short term gain, running it the right way and watching the Lord bless your business,” she said. “Everything we do is connected to the mission and mindset of growing the Kingdom. I’m so glad APU taught me the right way to do business.”
The food Wilson serves echoes this idea as well. Bondi’s acai bowls are made without any sugar or preservatives. The granola and nut butters are created in house and the acai base is blended fresh daily. “We spend a little more money, but we’re serving clean, healthy food, which is really important to me,” she said. “It’s literally part of our mission, to encourage God honoring conversation while providing clean and healthy meals.” Wilson decided on Proverbs 16:3 (Commit to the LORD whatever you do and He will establish your plans) as her company verse before Bondi Bowls even officially started. “We want to serve the Lord,” she said. “That’s our why. It’s what keeps us going.”
Although Wilson’s mother helped come up with the idea for Bondi Bowls, it never would have been possible without her father. After graduating from APU in 2018, Wilson decided to travel around the world. “Coming to APU from Oklahoma was a big test of my faith,” she said. “I wanted to test it again. It’s exhilarating once you enter an uncomfortable situation, but grow so comfortable in that decision because of the Lord.” Wilson moved to Australia, even though she didn’t know anyone there.
“I never got a sure yes from the Lord, but He also never shut the door. One thing that I’ve learned is that if the Lord leaves a door open, run through it.”
Wilson lived in Australia for two years. During this time, she worked at a cafe and a study abroad company that took college students on adventures. From leading tours of the Sydney Opera House to scuba diving and surfing trips, Wilson thrived with her job in Australia. “I loved the people and the culture there. There was always something fun to do.”
It was while living in the world famous Bondi Beach that Wilson got some bad news. “My dad called to tell me he had a 6-centimeter tumor in his bladder. The doctor was honest with him. It didn’t look good. He had emergency surgery the next day.” Wilson flew back home in March 2020 to be with her father, who ended up making a complete recovery. Unfortunately, Wilson was unable to return to Australia due to lockdown restrictions. “Bondi was such a special place to me for my faith and growth. When I moved back to the U.S., there were still nine months left on my lease in Bondi, so I say my time there wasn’t finished, which is where the name for Bondi Bowls comes from.”
While Wilson has experienced rapid success with her business, she remembers she’s just a few years removed from being a humble college student who worked multiple jobs to get through. “I was an RA in Adams Hall. I was an Alpha Leader. I worked as a social media intern for Communiversity (now Commuter Life). I was your typical APU student,” she laughed. One of Wilson’s favorite memories from APU is taking a Senior Seminar class with former APU President Jon R. Wallace.
Perhaps her biggest takeaway from this class was the idea of servant leadership. She models this in her business by making sure to never spend more than two hours in her office at a time. She’ll pop out of the office and ask her employees what they need help with. Sometimes she’ll serve bowls, other times she’ll deep clean, even scrubbing trash cans. “I never forget where I came from and that I’m not too big for the little day-to-day tasks,” she said. “I learned that from Jon Wallace. He was the epitome of servant leadership. I miss that man so much. I wish I could have shown him Bondi, but I know he’s looking down and smiling. He passed that knowledge from one generation to the next and I hope to do the same.”
Posted: December 6, 2022