June 5, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 47°F


Q&A: Alum discusses experience of owning a food truck business

Katie Foley ’01, owner of the Silo Food Truck, is returning to Ithaca College’s campus with Silo’s signature fried chicken and mac and cheese beginning April 13. 

The food truck will be situated either near the Dillingham Fountains or the College Circle Community Building, depending on the day. A full list of tentative days and dates can be found on Intercom

Foley graduated from the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance with a degree in exercise science and a minor in fitness and cardiac rehabilitation. After working in the non-profit and customer service sector for several years, Foley decided to set up her own venture. Prior to working on Silo full time, Foley was director of development at the Ithaca Planned Parenthood. The Silo Food Truck has served at events like the Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance and the New York State Fair. In 2021, the Silo Food Truck set up another location at Ithaca’s Liquid State Brewing Company. 

Assistant News Editor Prakriti Panwar spoke with Foley about her personal and professional journey and how it led to the inception of the Silo Food Truck. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Prakriti Panwar: How did you transition from a degree from the School of HSHP to working in business?

Katie Foley: I had a whole life and career prior to getting involved in business. I felt like Ithaca College prepared me with a variety of skills that I could take to a lot of different industries. One of the things that I liked about my major and some of the experience that I had was the interaction with people and clients. … As I dabbled in that field, I realized that I was actually being pulled … to do human servicetype work. So in my early 20s, I took a position at the Ithaca Youth Bureau, working for the Big Brother Big Sister program, and fell in love with the … aspect of the Ithaca community where nonprofits play a fairly impactful role in terms of working with the community. … In the development field, I guess there’s an entrepreneurial way in which you approach your work. … So it’s always been in me. When I met my current partner, he had a background in food service. And I had a lot of background in some of this entrepreneurial stuff and had also moonlighted in a lot of restaurants. … So, I think all of those things combined gave me the excitement and the interest in trying to lend my hand at something else with [my partner]. … [The Silo Food Truck] was really his concept and his idea … and I had said, ‘Oh, I have a skill set that could lend some help here,’ but didn’t really know where it was going to go. … After about a year of running Silo Food Truck, we realized that it was gaining in popularity and that we might really have something, but in order to see if we did or not, we had to put a little more time and energy into it.


PP: What was your transition from Planned Parenthood to Silo like? Were there any challenges that came your way?

KF: Well, I felt very supported by my colleagues at Planned Parenthood. … The first year that I did Silo, I kept my full-time career and did Silo on the side. … I think we even did a couple of events with the food truck for Planned Parenthood. … We had done some fun little collabs. And even when I left Planned Parenthood, I couldn’t leave entirely. I ended up taking on a contract role with them. It was right when Planned Parenthood was celebrating its centennial year. … I was very part-time at Planned Parenthood and just helped to execute this one campaign. … There was a little part of me, admittingly, that realized it was a bit of a risk to go from a full time position at a well-esteemed organization with national affiliation … to open a fried chicken food truck. I was a little nervous if I would get any flack about it or judgement around it, but I actually felt the opposite. I felt like people respected that I was pursuing something. … [Now] we do a lot of little fundraising activities for a variety of organizations in town and that is an important part of business for me. Having been on the side of asking businesses to contribute, I know what that’s like. 


PP: How do you plan on giving back to the Ithaca community in general, but also with IC?

KF: Well, we don’t know. In some ways, we’ve been experimenting. … Obviously, for us, it’s a business opportunity to introduce our products to new students. I also think, for Ithaca College, it’s a fun way to highlight an alumni and also provide a pretty cool experience for students right on campus and potentially bridge that town-gown relationship that encourages students to think about, ‘Well, what are some of the businesses that are in this town that I’m going to school in?’ and that’s cool. And I think my story might be a little funny in some ways. … But I also think it’s a testament to being able to use your skill set in a variety of ways and that [a] well rounded college experience should allow you to pursue whatever [you want]. 


PP: The food service industry is known to be a stressful and high-pressure environment. In what specific ways did your degree from the School of HSHP prepare you for that part?

KF: I would say that despite fried chicken and mac and cheese being a lot of what we do, fitness and balance has personally been something that I’ve always held in really high esteem. … I’d also say that with cardiac rehabilitation in particular, there was a lot of talk and hands-on experience in working with clients. For instance, my internship was at St. Joe’s Hospital in Syracuse. And customer service is customer service whether you’re taking somebody’s blood pressure while they’re on the treadmill and trying to brighten their day about staying on track for their health, or having a really great interaction … while somebody is at a music festival ordering food from you. … I think being well rounded and having a sense of being grounded is something that Ithaca College fosters.