A look into the life of a food truck owner

Nov. 18, 2022–New York, NY: Scenes from Livonia Avenue, Brooklyn. Akeelah and her partner Mikell are working in their food truck Kinky Taco. They have owned this food truck for a year. Photo by Leying Tang.


On Livonia Avenue, Brooklyn, the L train rumbles past above; below, a colorful food truck is parked, and inside of it stands Akeelah A. and her partner Mikell S.. The pair are the owners of Kinky Taco, and they say their business is the only food truck in the area that sells cheap fresh food. The couple says they don’t earn much from their truck, but they won’t move locations because they want the business to serve the people in their community who are usually not able to afford fresh food.  


“Nobody wants to do it,” Akeelah said. “But we were willing to come to the poorer parts too. Hopefully, it’ll encourage more businesses.” 


Akeelah was born in California. After her parents divorced during her senior year of high school, she went to New York with her mother and soon started college. She worked two jobs to support herself through school before graduating in 2001 with $100,000 in student loan debt.


She spent the next 17 years working at a clinical research firm before she was finally able to pay off the last of her student loans and save enough money to start a business in 2020. Akeelah says that the COVID-19 pandemic provided her with a good opportunity to research and seriously think about what it would mean for them to open their business. Finally, the couple began the five-month-long affair of transforming a USPS truck into the food truck it is today. Then came the process of getting the truck inspected.


Due to the long and difficult inspection process, Akeelah and Mikeell weren’t able to open their food truck until Nov. 2021, a low season in the food truck industry. At that time, it actually cost them $150 to open the truck every day, only $50 of which they were making back. Things got better after March, as clients began booking their truck for catering jobs. 


Today, the business is stable, but Akeelah still has two jobs. She stayed part-time at the clinical research firm, working on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays while Mikell and two other employees operate the food truck. She is hoping the work she does will allow her to support her 16-year-old son through college next year. She wants him to be able to enjoy the experience and graduate debt-free, instead of having to work two jobs and pay back student loans like she did.


Akeelah and her partner recently decided to move to Queens, in an effort to divide their work and personal lives, but they want to continue feeding the community in Brooklyn. They have bought a larger food truck to meet their business’ catering needs and they have their employees open the current food truck on the street for daily business.