One GHS grad’s road to success
Like many high school graduates, when Cameron Davies hurled his graduation cap in the air—alongside hundreds of fellow graduates from Georgetown High School’s Class of 1999—he had little idea what the next 18 years would hold for him. To be sure, his first 18 were filled with fond memories of goofing with buddies and modifying his beloved blue Chevy Blazer with new wheels, tires, and a stereo system his mom hated because it made everything in the house rattle. But he never dreamed he would make a living pursuing those same passions.
And he almost didn’t. Had Cameron not joined a fraternity during his freshman year at Baylor University, his life might have unfolded very differently.
“I was a business major at Baylor, but I liked the entertainment side of things more than I liked the academic side, unfortunately,” Cameron says. “I learned pretty quickly that if you don’t attend classes, then you don’t get grades, and if you don’t get grades, you get kicked out of school.” Cameron realized it was time to roll up his sleeves and make some money. That’s when he took a job with his dad retrofitting aircraft interiors.
After a couple years of hard work, Cameron opened his own company, 210 Customs, which built custom cars for NFL athletes. While he worked on some cool vehicles—including a ’72 Cutlass convertible for Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Patrick Crayton—a string of poor business decisions and delinquent payments receivable left the company in the red.
“I was young, you know?” Cameron says. “It was my first time building a business, and I liked the glamour of building cars and getting to go to NBA parties more than the business aspects.” To make matters worse, many of his clients were out of the league by the time their cars were finished and no longer had the funds to pay 210 Customs.
“It was rough. I went broke and lost everything I had,” Cameron says. “It sounds strange, but I’m glad I went through that. I learned a lot, and it made me appreciate everything I have in life.”
Now married, and with a baby on the way, Cameron didn’t have the luxury of taking time to feel sorry for himself. Instead, as he saw it, there were two options: get a job or start a new company. With his wife, Kaycee’s, blessing, he started Cruising Kitchens, a mobile business and food truck fabricator. What Cameron didn’t know about designing and building food trucks, he taught himself.
Months after opening Cruising Kitchens, Cameron once again asked for his wife’s blessing: this time to start a food park. Again, she gave it, and the Boardwalk on Bulverde Food Park in San Antonio was born. At a time when food trailers were still stigmatized as unsanitary and when much more red tape dictated which roads trucks could travel and where they could set up shop, Cameron’s food park was a sharply progressive shift toward popularizing mobile kitchens.
Soon, Boardwalk on Bulverde had gained national recognition for its hot business model and family friendly atmosphere. As a happy byproduct, Cameron saw an uptick in Cruising Kitchens clients as mom-and-pop restaurant businesses began hiring him to create their mobile kitchens.
That was 2010. And though Cameron recently shuttered Boardwalk on Bulverde in order to free up time for other projects, he’s forever thankful for the exposure it’s given his business. Today, Cruising Kitchens is the largest manufacturer of custom kitchen trucks in the world. It’s grown from employing one other person—Cameron’s best friend from Georgetown High School, Matt Marshall—to employing between 25 and 30 employees at any given time.
The entire fabrication process—from conception to execution, branding, and even printing—is done in house. Cameron quotes and designs all the builds and has a team to handle the electric, plumbing, and gas. “We own the entire process here. We’re never dictated by another company’s timeline. And that’s how we’ve stayed so busy,” he says.
Over the years, Cameron has learned many hard-fought lessons that have led him to handle business decisions differently. But as long as he runs a small business, one thing will never change: “I run it like a family,” he says. “It’s about trust and shared experiences.” To that end, he hosts regular company parties and takes employees on outings like golfing and skydiving.
“My guys work hard!” he says. “A lot of work takes places outside, and they’re hot or they’re cold, but they don’t complain. We always come together with tight deadlines and get things done.”
In 2012, brothers—and fellow GISD grads—Matt and Jake Marshall were shooting the breeze about who was the best mobile kitchen builder and fabricator. To put the issue to rest, one night after a few beers, they decided to do a food truck build off, pitting shop manager Matt Marshall and fabricator Roland Esqueda against Jake Marshall and Raul Flores, fabricator and lead carpenter, respectively.
“It was funny as hell! They talked so much trash between them, so we decided to film it,” says Cameron. “Josh put it up on YouTube, and it got a lot of hits! That’s how our first production company, Fog Edge Media, found us. They sold the rights to Leftfield, which is one of the largest production companies in the world, and Leftfield was approached by Discovery Channel to do a show.”
After some negotiating, Discovery Channel picked up a six-episode run of Blue Collar Backers, a show that featured budding entrepreneurs with winning business ideas as they approached Cameron and his Cruising Kitchens team, seeking seed money in return for equity in the business. The show performed well with focus groups and was a valuable marketing asset for Cruising Kitchens, but it became a financial burden for Cameron, who invested in three mobile businesses while on the show.
“It was a great opportunity, but I’m really not a blue collar backer,” he says. So when a popular network approached Cameron about doing a new show that focused on his family, business, mobile kitchen builds, and the delicious food that can be created in Cameron’s fabricated vehicles, he was all in. Who knows? With this new opportunity, he and his wife may even become the “Chip and Joanna Gaines” of mobile kitchens.
“It’s funny,” says Cameron. “Chip was my landlord when I was at Baylor!”
At 36, Cameron may not know where the next 18 years will take him, but he knows one thing for certain: he’s happy to be on the ride.
For more on Cameron and the mobile businesses he’s designed, visit www.cruisingkitchens.com.