It was a total leap of faith that led Carla Hall down an unconventional career path that took her from a steady job in accounting to being a co-host of the popular daytime talk show “The Chew.”
After graduating from Howard University with a degree in accounting, Hall landed a job as a CPA at PriceWaterHouseCoopers in Tampa, Florida. Things were going fairly well until she had a light bulb moment while working with a more senior colleague on an audit.
“I looked at the accountant working next to me and he was folding the receipts very carefully so that the edges matched up perfectly,” says Hall. “And I just thought, ‘That can’t be me at 40.’ I was so anxious that two weeks later I quit.”
Making the jump
Having been a model since her days in college, she began networking and planning her next move. “I met these girls who were going to France,” she explains. Hall eventually decided to join them. In preparation, she started taking French lessons from the wife of a former colleague and then — armed with exactly one telephone number — she boarded a trans-Atlantic flight.
Figure out what you really want
It was in France that Hall discovered her love of food. “I was just looking for signs to follow my passion,” Hall says. “I sort of fell into food.”
Teach yourself the skills you don’t have
Because she didn’t have any formal training at that point, Hall figured out the basics of cooking on her own. “I was self-taught,” she says. “I was reading cookbooks. I was very much like this generation in that the lesson was tenacity.”
After returning to the U.S. from France, Hall launched her own lunch delivery service.
“I started it as a fluke,” she says. “I made a friend lunch one day and brought it to their office and they liked it so much that they said, ‘You should make lunch for me every day.’” And so her business, the Lunch Bunch, was born. “I went door-to-door with sandwiches and soups,” she recalls. “I did that for five years before I went to culinary school.”
There is no such thing as perfect timing
It’s important, says Hall, not to talk yourself out of changing your path once you’ve made a decision to follow your dream. “If you try to plan, you’ll never do it,” she points out. “The timing will never be right. You really have to take a leap of faith.”
Stick with it if you really want it
“I didn’t know how to wrap my sandwiches when I got started,” says Hall. “I worked seven days a week. You have to prepare yourself mentally, because it is a free-fall.”
Hall first came up with the concept of her Petite Cookies during her days as a caterer. “The cookies started off kind of as a joke,” she says. “People tend to break off a piece or a half of a cookie and then no one takes the other half. So I started to do these cookies that were so small that no one would break them.” The mini cookies were such a hit that customers began requesting them.
Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.