Hustle and Heart
It's not difficult.
It's not a new concept.
It's been around for longer than we've been alive, and it'll be here long after we're gone.
It's one of the standard mantras for The UF Brand. We've been saying it since the beginning.
Hustle and Heart Set UF Apart.
It's easy enough to understand. We all have some sort of hustle. And we all are passionate about at least SOMETHING in our lives. So really, is our mantra even special?
Hell yes it's special.
There are many ways I could go about explaining this simple, elementary phrase. But instead, I'm just going to tell you a story.
Once, in 2020, retailers, along with many, many other careers, found themselves entirely in hell. Like fire burning, Lucifer laughing, pitchfork lunging HELL. And while we were descending into this hell, we didn't know what to do. Because it doesn't matter how quick witted you are. How clever your ideas. Or even how much determination you have inside you. Even with all of this, during that quick descend, you lose all of your bearings. You have nothing left.
And you don't know what to do. At least for a minute.
You just don't.
When I made the decision to close before it was mandated back in March, I did it for safety. For you guys, for the team, for my family. Safety. Period. In my head, it was the best choice for the greater good. Yes, I knew it would be better financially if I stayed open for as long as possible, but if you know me well enough, you know I'm not terribly great at business and I make decisions that makes my accountant husband's left eye twitch.
So we closed.
Well. Once you close five little baby businesses at the same time, you soon realize that those baby businesses created adult sized bills that need to be paid. Because that's what you do. You pay your bills. There is no other option. You somehow pay the damn bills.
So what we have here is quite a grand situation. Closed businesses. Lucifer laughing, and bills.
Oh. And me. With no wits about me. Not knowing what to do. Sitting. Thinking. Coming up empty. Wondering. Sometimes crying followed by hysterically laughing.
A big bundle of worry and fear. That was me.
Now listen. You guys know Ali. She's the one behind our social media posts. She's incredible. Her pictures are so on point I can hardly take it. Her words are perfection. She's efficient. Timely. Intelligent. Beautiful. And then, to top it all off, she even has the audacity to be genuinely kind!
I know. It's kind of disgusting.
Let me tell you what Ali did when we closed.
On the morning after we closed, she sent me a text. It said, "I know my job is very important, especially right now. Let me know what you need me to do. I don't need to be paid."
Absorb these next words.
She is 17 years old.
Now listen. Maybe in your world, 17 year olds are jumping at the chance to work harder, and for free. I don't know.
As miraculous as this is, the MOST incredible event that took place was AFTER her text. I will try to describe it as best as I can.
After Ali told me on March 17th that she knew her job to promote us on social media was of the utmost importance, which was exactly three months ago to the day, she and her sister, Hailey, CAME IN LIKE THE FASTEST, MOST FURIOUS, OVERWHELMING, HEAD SPINNING, MIND BLOWING VORTEX YOU'VE EVER ENCOUNTERED.
What does this mean?
It means that Ali and Hailey single handedly kept The Ugly Duckling open. Listen to my words. I am here to tell you. Those girls, those KIDS...worked so hard to sell Easter baskets, toys, games, puzzles, kid's clothing, shoes, I mean EVERYTHING inside the Duckling. If they said they were going to sell it, then by God, they sold it. They KEPT THE DUCKLING OPEN. So the next time you come into the Duck and you are happy it's here, thank Ali and Hailey.
They worked endlessly. Tirelessly. Never once did they complain. Not when they worked too many hours. Not when they were tired. Not even when my office was so overflowing with Easter baskets and Mother's Day and Graduation gifts that needed to be shipped that we couldn't even MOVE (in retrospect, it was pretty funny).
But they never complained. Not. ONCE.
And it didn't stop after Easter. They just kept going. They came at me with ideas. They brought you guys the graduation box. The sunshine box. The blue box. They came at you with sales. And jewelry and candles and blankets and even sitting here now, in the quiet of my room, I can hear their laughter when they'd come running and stomping up the stairs to my office to tell me that they just sold something within one minute of posting it.
They will never, ever be able to fully understand my gratitude.
Those girls sold so much for us, that I wasn't ever able to catch up with shipping. Even with help, we were always a bit behind (and you guys were incredibly gracious and never expected us to be Amazon, so thank you).
I couldn't catch up.
Today, June 17th, is the FIRST day that I am COMPLETELY CAUGHT UP with shipping.
Also today, and so much more important, is Ali's 18th birthday.
Can you believe that?!
It's so interesting how life works.
Guys, I do manage to keep myself together. But man, when this started, I was lost. Scared. Worried about the stores. The team. My family. Everything. I was almost paralyzed.
I lost my hustle and heart.
And then Ali Craig helped me find it.
Wishing you better than the best today, Ali!