My love letter to LUSH

I came to LUSH a little broken. Broken by my last job at lululemon. Broken by  complicated relationships, broken by decisions I had made and outcomes that left me on unsteady ground. Definitely not my most confident self. Which is why I was surprised during my first phone interview that when I was asked an unusual question I had never been asked before, that the answer popped out of my mouth like it had been waiting to escape my mouth for years. And it left me standing on solid ground for first time in a while. The interviewer asked:

“If you could be any drink, what would it be and why?”

Without a moment of hesitation, the answer that fled my mouth was this:

“I would be Champagne, because I am bubbly and the life of the party.”

For anyone who has looked to hire a retail manager, especially at LUSH, that answer is the definition of “Nailing it,” and I didn’t even know it. Because despite that I had shopped at LUSH before and thought it was cool, after living in rural New York  and suburban Colorado for several years I hadn’t retained much of the in store experience.  But it was a truthful answer, and if you ever came to my LUSH store (because I totally got the job) you would know why.

I have asked that interview question in every single interview I have done at LUSH in the last 3.5 years, and I know that it often trips people up. So even now my confidence on that average, grey October 2011 morning surprises me.  But I had no idea the amount of surprises that would be in store for the next three years.

I came into a store that was, for all intents and purposes… a political shit storm. The person who would be working as my MIT (kind of like an assistant manager for the retail inclined) had applied for my position and not gotten it, and the person who used to have my job had been promoted but still worked in my shop as a trainer, training many of the externally hired store managers to LUSH (such as myself). In other words, political fucking shit storm. It was kind of like being Switzerland except for you don’t speak any of the language and 50% of the people actually hate you. The other 50% might hate you but won’t tell you to your face. The jury is still out.

Despite all the cards being stacked against me (and occasionally being thrown in my face), I made the commitment to be fun, firm and fair with everyone. And that saved my ass. And slowly but surely I got  my footing in the shop and took over.

I had no idea the cool situation that I was walking into. Despite that being a training shop is a huge pain in the ass for special reasons (because housing three extra people in a store that is the size of an altoids tin is another type of shitshow), meeting new faces that are coming to the company  is like recharging your battery all the time. It is like being a goodwill ambassador but without the threat of landmines. They often come to your shop like a deer in the headlights, and are overwhelmed by the amount of questions they have, and by the experience they see happening in your shop.  But I feel so lucky that I get to meet these folks when they are so green, and so vulnerable. Because after ten days of training they will go back to their own shops. And they will hug you and thank you. They threaten to take your staff back with them to their own shops. They will think of your team as their own team… and they will be part of your work family. But that isn’t the truly amazing part.

The amazing part is when you see them at their first conference. I won’t deny that being in a training shop makes you feel really popular at conferences. You are often the only other person a trainee knows from LUSH, so they are so thrilled to see a familiar face among hundreds of unknown faces. But the most amazing part is watching them evolve from a vulnerable, green, LUSHie to a manager who has a group of friends after  three days at a conference. Becomes someone who raises their hand and asks questions. Becomes someone who teaches you at a conference two years down the road. Over the course of three years I have seen these “green beans” become trainers, support staff, corporate staff, meeting planners, and most of all… amazing managers themselves.

Eventually I became a trainer, who traveled and trained outside of my own shop. It was so interesting to be on the other side. To watch your staff listen so intently to what I was saying, to want to watch me sell so they could learn from me. To see their faces light up when they achieved a goal. It was like magic in real life. I truly loved it all.

I guess what I am saying (rather inarticulately), is that if you ever trained in my shop, or if I ever trained in yours, I consider you part of my family. Thank you for the moments we spent together learning and laughing. It has been an honor to watch you become beautiful butterflies in the LUSH world.

Once upon a time I went to my first conference. And being in a training shop is one way to expand your work family, but being at a conference is a whole other animal.

I went to my first conference about two months after being hired. And despite being relatively terrified, they welcomed me with open arms. I hugged my interviewer with reckless abandon for hiring me. I met tons of new people who wanted to know about me and cared about my success. They sent me on a charitable environmental conservation trip to build owl habitats in Arizona.

I met people who were so passionate about things that they would cry in your presence just talking about them. People who would take their whole team to march in a gay pride parade, support protests against Sea World, put on graphic demonstrations to end Animal Testing in cosmetics (which is the basis of LUSH in case you don’t know), etc. If there is one thing I can say about the people who work for LUSH, it is this:

These people actually give a shit about the world.

And none of these people, those who work in the store or the executives in the company are perfect. But they don’t pretend to be. They smoke and drink, they curse like sailors, cover their bodies in tattoos, piercings, and display an array of rainbow colored hair. And they are the most approachable, confident people you will ever meet. It was a vast difference from the hard bodied, smoothie drinking, cleanse-worshipping, stretchy pants job where people said they made mistakes but never looked like they made a single one. Who talked about mistakes with rhetoric and smoke screens.

I am so thankful that LUSH made me confident in my own imperfection. I came in feeling like a failure because I wasn’t perfect, broken by a million different mistakes. But their acceptance and campaigning for diversity in all parts of life and the world finally made me learn to accept my own diversity. I wish more people understood that this concept applies to everyone.

Campaign for and accept diversity… it will make you love and accept yourself.

So to my tattooed and dangerously beautiful friends, I say thank you. I may not have a single mark on my body but you have left tattoos of love and experience upon my heart. I will never forget the time we spent together learning, crying, dancing, drinking excessively, laughing, inspiring, eating poutine, and  being imperfect and beautiful all at the same time.

And to my beloved team:

I wrote a post a while ago about my life in retail… and how it has continued to change my life in a great way for ten years. It is here: https://yournewgirlfriendsnameisstupid.com/2012/12/16/for-anyone-who-has-worked-in-retail/

Unfortunately, my transition from Store Manager to Mom has been unexpectedly challenging. Daycare unfortunately only supports couples where at least one person has a more traditional schedule. And sadly for me, Ralph’s career trumps mine. It is a choice that has been made by many different life  circumstances.

What I didn’t realize is how much my career has defined me, and the vacuum it has left behind. I work daily to fill that vacuum, and some days are easier than others. I have fought some pretty heavy feelings of letting my team down. But the reality is that those feelings really just mean that I loved my career, and that I loved my team. And to be brutally honest, they are doing amazing without me. Which means that I invested time and energy in the right people. People who also give a shit about LUSH, and give a shit about the world. It is the end of an era for me. Maybe not forever, but at least for a while.

So for my team in PVD:

I am forever grateful to anyone who was ever a part of my team in Providence. Thank you for learning through our success, and learning more through our failtures. I have never laughed so hard or had so much fun being a part of something that grew and changed everyday. We worked hard, and learned some tough lessons. But the most important one is this: Unless you are physically on fire, there is no crisis in skincare.

I am forever changed by the life I had with you. You are the golden shimmer that highlights my hair in the afternoon sun. I shine again because of you, and I take you with me wherever I go. Thank you.

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