On Faith

June 29th, 2014 | Rachel

Rachel Hundley

Before I scare you off, no, I’m not talking about religion or spirituality.

I hate the word “busy,” and I am trying to remove it from my vocabulary. Let’s just say life in the past six months since I last posted has been very full. When I turned 31 in January, I knew this was going to be my biggest year yet. I knew it was going to be the second year of operation for my business with considerable growth and change as we actualized our goal of building a food truck. I didn’t know that the food truck would take a lot longer and considerably more energy than we anticipated, nor did I realize business would sky rocket even with out it. I also didn’t know that this was the year another dream would come true: running for public office.

I’ve officially thrown my hat in the race for Sonoma City Council. The election is in November, and I am blown away by the support than I have gotten so far. I wasn’t planning on jumping in so soon, but the landlord of the my last house suddenly terminated our lease, and I suddenly found myself living inside the city limit, a requirement for candidates. On top of that, the political climate is right and the way the seats opened up have presented an opportunity to get very involved in municipal government, one of the main reasons I chose so move to a smaller city. If nothing else, running for office has already connected me with an inspiring number of local decision makers and community activists, and it has pushed me to learn more about the City of Sonoma and what is important to this community. The new connections have also been great for business and my personal life and have allowed me to get involved in other organizations and causes that are important and fulfilling to me.

Some people have rightly pointed out that embarking on these two major projects in the same year is a little, well, insane. But I know that the time is right, and I have the time, energy and ability to take the plunge. Standing on the edge of any large scale project can be intimidating… or terrifying, and, from my experience, the swim towards success entails a recurring cycle of excitement (dude the water is awesome!), feeling overwhelmed (these waves are intense!), panic (I’m drowning!), and the amazing realization that the pieces are coming together and you have accomplished something (woohoo, I’m swimming with dolphins!). There will always be challenges, obstacles and unexpected turns, but the cycle is just that, a cycle, and you have to constantly renew your faith that the dolphins will appear.

There is a Catch-22 in starting and building a business. You create the vision and get to work. At first, the concept is small enough that it is completely within your ability to operate. Eventually, you’ll grow, and you’ll need help to accomplish your goals. But, you haven’t yet achieved your vision of a fully functioning business, so you have to find people to help you as business grows and have faith that your careful planning and forecasting was accurate.

I am in the business of food. I don’t have any professional training in this field, but I had enough of a knack for it and a solid vision to get it off the ground with only the help of my business partner. We created the concept, developed the menu and learned how to produce it for our customers. Eventually, he and I could serve up to 50 people pretty well on our own. Then, we got our first opportunity to sell to a hundred people. We still couldn’t hire any employees, so we called in favors with friends to come help us prepare and cook for a number of larger events last summer. It was important for the business that we took these new opportunities, because they paved the way for even more business. With the help of our friends, we continued to grow through the summer, but as we entered the fall, we knew that we needed consistent help that could take over some aspects of production. They would learn the processes and become more efficient, and we would be able to focus on other areas of the business, like improving the menu and developing and growing the business.

Fast forward to today, and we have four part time employees, all with food experience, and we have the added assistance of two (paid) teen interns for the summer. We are also looking to hire an experienced cook, which is necessary to elevate the quality of our food and the efficiency of the staff to the level where we want to be. We can now comfortably cater to crowds of 200, and we regularly get emails from people requesting our services. It’s gotten to the point where the demand is greater than Arthur and I can physically keep up with, even with our growing staff.

Lately, we have been so consumed by the day to day operation of the business, that we haven’t had time to step back and figure out how to delegate more of the production responsibilities to our very capable staff and how to focus our own energies on creating a sustainable operation that is able to achieve a higher level of capacity. We also haven’t sat down and discussed more ethereal components of the business, like defining our company culture or hospitality philosophy (the latter of which is an essential component of our business concept that was never articulated because Arthur and I had an assumed understanding of the kind of southern hospitality that we want to emulate).

I’ve already turned this into an essay on business development, so I won’t dive into the financial aspect too deeply. Suffice it to say that the adage of “it takes money to make money” is very true, and although we are on the road to sustainability and have the confidence of our lender and financial advisers, we aren’t there yet. So, it takes faith to keep moving onward and upward, even though our current position can be unsettling.

And so, a theme of this year is faith: faith in myself, faith in the dolphins, and faith in the universe as a whole.

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As an addendum, the beautiful side result of investing everything you have into a business is that it forces you to simplify and prioritize. In the last three years, I’ve seen my salary go from six figures to zero to making just enough to scrape by. It’s easy to give up costly habits and unnecessary expenses when you are completely committed to creating something that inspires you and that you believe in. On the other hand, I also look forward to the day that I can (occasionally) indulge in my favorite past time of shoe shopping.

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