Our founder & chief retail therapist, Lisa Dalia published this opinion piece for the Hamilton Spectator as a recap of the exciting campaign we designed when Michelle Obama visited Hamilton on October 11th.
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See the article on the Hamilton Spectator here.
Written by: Lisa Dalia
On the day that Michelle Obama didn't grace our door on Locke Street, I was devastated.
I felt deep humiliation wrapped in disappointment and topped with failure.
Last summer we cheered when we learned Hamilton would host Michelle Obama. It was suggested that I consider doing a window display to welcome the former first lady and perhaps try to get her to visit our store.
My creative family and friends brainstormed, and The Twelve Days of Becoming (a play on her book title) was born. We replaced the verses in the "The Twelve Days of Christmas" with Michelle's key messages. We would ask community groups to sing the verses accompanied by a life-size cutout of Michelle, all captured on video.
Our store window featured Michelle Obama's famous quote "When they go low, we go high." Next: get people to sing and make the video.
From the get-go, I was torn between the enthusiasm of my supporters and massive tidal waves of self-doubt. What was I doing? Maybe the store window was enough. Is this a silly dream?
A fun little project to try and get Michelle Obama to visit Solee Shoes on her way to the FirstOntario Centre unfolded into an intense labour of love, a highly emotional campaign and life lessons for me.
Our very first video was shot with a group of children. They were guided to sing "Don't be Afraid to Fail." I was so proud of the kids. It was the first of many moments during this campaign that moved me. It was positive and it was motivating.
The second day of Becoming was filmed with a group of seniors who were skeptical (and had laundry to do) but sang anyway. Their contribution was inspiring and the banter humorous. It was beyond heartwarming.
Ten more videos to arrange. We continued with Locke Street construction workers, a verse in sign language and a local musician who sang her heart out. For Day 6, even Mayor Fred gave this campaign some time and sang "Push on with your goals."
My day with Mayor Fred boosted my confidence, but at the same time self-doubt was getting louder. Is this campaign ridiculous?
Every day I posted a new verse on social media.
Emotions were flying high. Time was ticking — I had to keep going!
Local businesses, St Joseph's hospital delivery nurses, 60 high school students and their teachers, two Tiger Cats and a local media personality all sang. Tim Hortons put their drive through on hold to sing. They ALL SHOWED UP!
A class of special-needs cheerleaders, complete with a grand finale stunt, not only showed up, they sang so loudly "all of the United States would hear them."
We did it! The 12 Days of Becoming … Became! Now I had to use the power of social media to make this work.
Oct. 16 arrived. Michelle Obama was making her way to Hamilton. We tweeted, we plugged, shared, posted, and … Michelle Obama didn't show up.
Heartsick, pure and simple, for all who put their time in the project and faith in me. I felt I failed the kids, the seniors, the cheerleaders, my community. I should have abandoned the project when my gut told me to.
I posted my "failure to deliver" on social media to thank and apologize to those who supported me. I expected comments like, "Of course you couldn't get Michelle Obama to your store ..." — but instead … it was a massive wave of positivity.
Strangers said they were honoured and proud to drop what they were doing and sing Michelle inspirational verses despite what the outcome might be. Now, how cool is that!
People spoke loudly about how people rallied and how it created a positive ripple in the ocean of our community and moved me to my core.
They had faith in me and my project, yet it has taken me weeks to comprehend it myself. While I thought it was creative to put Michelle's messages out in a video, in fact it was those very messages that came back to me in spades as life lessons.
The power of a supportive, determined community taught me that "courage is contagious." I learned what can happen when you "push on with your goals." I was blown away with new friends you will meet when you "stay true to yourself" and that when you "use your voice" you can inspire others. Most poignant is that success that can happen by "not being afraid to fail."
I am eternally grateful to and humbled by the community that supported a little campaign and contributed to an amazing video that speaks to the spirit of Hamilton. And thanks to Michelle Obama for the life lessons you inspired simply by not showing up!