Archive for the ‘In Other News…’ Category

What Makes You Come Alive

September 21st, 2014 | Rachel

Only a three month lag between posts this time. Progress?

As expected, life is crazy. I’m neck deep in my campaign for city council, with a thousand houses left to canvass and the public forums coming up in two weeks. A majority of voters here vote by absentee ballot, so most of my campaigning [and fundraising] has to be done before the ballots arrive in early October.

On the business front, change is coming. Our food truck, which should have been here at the beginning of the summer, is finally nearing completion. We just added a new member to the team, and there will have to be even more hires made and employees trained after the truck arrives. Even though progress is slower than I would prefer, it is still amazing to watch an idea come to life and grow into something tangible.

These words, attributed to a writer named Dr. Howard Thurman, come to mind often:

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Although I have been feeling the weight of all of the recent stress and responsibility — and having a Want To Do List that is far lengthier than my Can Feasibly Do list — at the core of it all, there is an excited and satisfied feeling of being alive.

I never would have believed I’d last this long after investing most of my life savings into starting a business and burning through the rest as we worked full time to reach the point of profitability. The truck delay has been quite an obstacle, since it has always been the cornerstone of our business model, and yet we’ve managed to make do and struggle through the instability and uncertainty.

I can see why being an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone. But for some people, myself included, the challenge and risk is invigorating. Our human capacity to create and build is far greater than any of us realize. That’s why I think it is better that I didn’t know what my path as a start up business owner was going to look like. You can gather as much information as possible, assess the risks and carefully plan, but you’ll never know the unforeseen challenges until they hit you. When that happens, you have to dig down and find the resolve to keep moving forward.

Running for city council has similarly been a transformative and affirming experience. This is something I’ve known I wanted to do since I was 10 years old. It is one of the most compelling reasons I had to move to a smaller community where I could realistically get involved with my local government.

Three months after I moved to Sonoma, I emailed the mayor to ask how I could get on this path. Six months later, after I moved inside the city limit and became eligible to run, I began what has become an extensive network of meetings to meet as many community leaders as possible to learn about this city and the people in it. I’ve met with everyone from the city manager to the public works director, leaders from a number of nonprofit organizations, business owners, school officials, local experts on discrete issues, and many people who just have a heightened interest in and concern for the community.

In addition to paving the way for an educated and supported political campaign, these one-on-one meetings, as well as nine months of attending city council meetings and public forums, have given me a glance behind the green curtain to see how all of the wheels are turning to create a living and breathing city. It’s fascinating.

It’s also inspiring, not just because I find it all so interesting and want to be a part of it, but also because I am seeing so many ways people are making meaningful contributions to the community by pursuing the things that make them come alive. History. Birds. Cookies. Kids. Baseball. Tomatoes. I hesitate to even begin listing the possibilities because I could never stop.

Follow me out on an optimistic limb for just a second and imagine what a community would look like if everyone was doing something that excited them. Pretty spectacular, right?

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.


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.

Unexpected Results: Redux

July 20th, 2013 | Rachel

Wow, another month passes. I can’t believe the week is over much less a month since I last posted something. The business is slowly crawling toward our vision, and if you want to see what we have been doing, check out our Facebook page:

It occurred to me tonight that while I wrote about taking the California bar exam, then failing it (by just a few miserable points), and taking it again, I haven’t written anything about the fact that I passed! In fact, I’ve already been sworn into the State Bar of California. As a special treat, my mom and grandmother were visiting the week they held a swearing in ceremony in Oakland. [Note: if you found this post after searching for the California bar exam, I wrote a little blurb about that at the end.]

Sworn into the CA state bar

Standing with my proud mother and grandmother

Sworn into the CA state bar

Taking an oath to have integrity… meaningful even if I don’t practice again

Fan section

My fan section at the swearing in ceremony

Then we had a few post-ceremony celebratory beverages.


Nothing cooler than having a cocktail (or beer) with your grandmother

This was my grandmother’s first trip to California, and we covered a lot of ground.

Hiking in Muir Woods

Hiking in Muir Woods

Stinson Beach

Driving out to see the Pacific Ocean at Stinson Beach

San Francisco Embarcadero

Strolling along the Embarcadero in San Francisco

Vineyard tour

Touring a wineries in Napa and Sonoma

Loxton Cellars

Drinking wine at Loxton Cellars

Domaine Carneros

Drinking champagne at Domaine Carneros

It was a very special visit and a fitting way to celebrate my new life in California and, of course, passing the bar.

And now a note to the bar exam takers out there:

Every now and then I check my Google Analytics to see how people end up reading my blog. Around bar exam time, I have been getting a lot of traffic from search terms ranging from “california bar exam overwhelmed” (I totally know that feeling) to “how much studying bar exam” (I’ve seen that one a fair amount). My advice here is specifically for attorneys who have practiced in another state and are taking a second exam after being out of school for several years.

First, the February exam, at least at the Oakland Convention Center, is so much more chill than the July exam. I spoke to a few first time test takers who missed the July exam for whatever reason, but it is mostly second-time takers and attorneys. If you are wondering when to take the exam, I recommend doing it in February. Fresh law school graduates taking it for the first time are kind of annoying. When I took the exam the first time last July, I had several of such test takers try to talk to me during the breaks about the section we just completed. In fact, the kid beside me wouldn’t stop talking to me about it until I told him to stop talking unless he could talk about something besides the exam. At the February exam, I didn’t have anyone try to force that sort of conversation on me.

Second, I talked to several attorneys who had practiced in other states and were taking the California exam for the second time, and we pretty much all felt the reason we failed the first time was because we tried to view the exam as experienced attorneys and not as law students. For the second attempt, I picked up a big book of model test answers for every subject on the exam and re-learned how to answer an essay like an unsophisticated law student. That made answering the questions a lot faster, and I’m certain I was able to rattle off more than the needed number of points of law and whatever to achieve passing scores on each essay. I checked in with a few of the attorneys who I had talked to about this mistake the first time around, and they all passed the second time.

I only failed the first time around by 16 out of the 2000 points, so it would have only taken small adjustments to push me over. That being said, a lot of attorneys do pass the first time around, so don’t think it is impossible :-)

I’ve gotten emails in the past from people asking about the exam, and even though I’m no expert, I did take the California exam twice (after passing New York without question on the first try) and I’m happy to talk to you if you want: rachel (at) idratherbeinfrance (dot) com.

Oh, and don’t be an idiot like me and bring a digital watch into the exam. Not only will they confiscate it and never give it back, they’ll give you a scary Notice of Violation of Exam Rules (which didn’t effect anything).

If you are taking the bar exam at the end of the month, good luck!

Thanks For Another Wonderful Year!

November 22nd, 2012 | Rachel

Happy Thanksgiving From The Hundleys!

 My family is gathered in Charleston, South Carolina for Thanksgiving this year. My parents sold the house we had here, so we are renting a condo on the beautiful Isle of Palms.

I got to spend some times with old friends the past two days, even passing through my college stomping grounds in Athens, Georgia.

The Arch at The University of Georgia

Instead of cooking dinner in our rented kitchen, we decided to take it easy this year and have Thanksgiving lunch at Poogan’s Porch, a great upscale Southern food restaurant downtown. We had perfectly prepared smoked turkey, ham, stuffing, gravy, corn pudding, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce and exceptionally good biscuits. We framed our main course with she-crab soup, corn chowder, chocolate pecan bars, pumpkin cheese pie, and cranberry streusel.

Now we are back at the condo napping off the tryptophan. Tonight I’m introducing the rest of my family to Apples to Apples!

I hope you have had a wonderful day with your own loved ones, whoever they may be. If you had to work today, I hope you get to relax and celebrate tomorrow or this weekend.

Last November I wrote daily(ish) blog posts about things for which I am thankful. You can see that full list here. Thank you so much for reading my blog. I hope the next year will be even more interesting to follow as the new business comes to life.

Thank you!


Unexpected Results

November 17th, 2012 | Rachel

This is even worst than that time I dumped the new bag of Verve coffee beans on the floor at work.

[For those of you who are regular readers of my blog, you may remember a previous dedicated to failure.]

Its Friday night. Its been raining on and off all day. And I’m bundled up on my sofa wallowing in self-pity.

This seems to be one of those things that people on all sides don’t like to talk about, but the results for the 2012 California bar exam were released earlier tonight, and, much to my surprise, I wasn’t on the pass list.


I was a little nervous about the results simply due to the nature of what was at stake, but I wasn’t too worried about how I would fair because I’ve thought I had this one in the bag since I took the exam in July.

This isn’t my first bar exam. I took the New York exam right after law school and practically skipped back to my hotel when it was over because I knew I had killed it. Those feelings were confirmed a few months later when I got my results: pass.

I thought there was going to be an advantage to taking a second exam after passing another state. I thought the psychological advantage combined with thorough studying would be a guaranteed pass. All of the opinions solicited from my friends who had taken a second state seemed to support these assumptions.

As I did for the New York exam, I wrote out by hand a thousand flash cards covering the material in my Bar Bri books. I spent hours every day sitting at my kitchen table as I read through my books and made note cards. As the test neared, I reviewed the Bar Bri strategy for answering essay and practical test questions and read through a number of the practice questions.

Looking back (in the three hours I’ve had to reflect on this unfortunate turn of events), I think there were a few key differences my preparations for the New York and the California exams. I am sharing them not only to vent my overwhelming frustrating (and desperately search for an answer for WHYYYYY??), but also to document my experience for everyone in Internetland who will one take a second bar exam, particularly California.

First and foremost, I didn’t take a formal bar review class for the California bar. Those programs are pretty expensive and this effort was funded by me and my parents, so I just bought the books off of eBay for $200 and relied on my own self discipline to make it through all of the material in time. This seemed to be the strategy that many friends had taken and had received favorable results.

Second, I took the New York exam the summer after law school while I was still living in Chapel Hill. All of my friends were studying for bar exams, and I had study buddies who were also taking the New York exam. I still had a little fun, but life for everyone that summer was centered around studying. This meant that there were people around me that understood first hand how boring and uninspiring studying for a bar exam can be. This second time around, my non-lawyer friends tried hard to be supportive, but it was impossible for them to relate to what I was doing, and much of the time I felt like I was silently suffering alone. Even worse, I encountered a few well-intentioned but annoyingly misguided people who insisted I was studying too much.

Third, and probably the biggest contributing factor to my lack of success with the California exam, I was trying to balance studying with not just one but two jobs this past summer. This was when I was working at the restaurant, which I really loved doing, and also had my day job that paid considerably more. I ended up quitting the restaurant job the week before the exam because I realized how much time it was consuming, but I’m afraid I made that decision too late. Even more irritating is that I was spending considerably more time at the restaurant than at my other job and wasn’t making enough money to support myself. That combined with a frivolous post-exam extravaganza has left me with a credit card bill that I am still paying off.

Fourth, even before I get the break down of my score, I know the reason I failed was the multistate multiple choice exam (despite the fact that I passed with a high score last time). I decided against doing practice questions, and had I done so, I would have realized that criminal procedure was going to be tested a whole lot more than I was expecting. I didn’t take crim pro in law school and now recall having to study that subject a little harder while prepping for the New York exam. Most of the other information on the California exam was facts I already had buried in my brain, but I found myself in the middle of the MBE this time around wishing I had reviewed criminal procedure more thoroughly. Again, to make a terrible situation even more irritating, if I had waited a year to take the exam, I would have been eligible for the attorney exam, which doesn’t include the multistate exam.

It is a frustrating, deflating experience, to say the least — particularly in light of the financial, emotional and time investments made by my family and friends. I feel like I let everyone down, and none more so than myself.

Maybe my next post will include some sort of perspective or insight, but for now I’m just sad.