Hi everyone! I’ve been bursting at the seams to tell you about this project that has been a secret up until now! The time has finally come that I can spill the proverbial beans about all the amazing details. This May I was approached by a television production company that was hired by Facebook. They were in the process of making a new television show called “Returning The Favor”. The concept of this show is to find fantastic individuals around the country who go the extra mile in their community by paying it forward and then find ways to reward them for their efforts. The premiere episode was shot here, in my very own town of Albuquerque! The first episode’s focus is on an outstanding 14 year old boy named Donovan. He and his mother were once homeless. During that difficult time he learned how important a simple bar of soap is to many who suffer from homelessness. He used his experiences to start his own company making and selling soap. He uses a portion of the profits to make soap for donation to homeless shelters across the country. Last year alone he made and donated 10,000 bars of individual use soap!!! The purpose of the show is not only to highlight Donovan’s amazing story but also to make this boys dream of having his own brick and mortar soap shop come true. That is how I was unceremoniously inserted into the story.
I am going to spare you the spoilers as I know that you are going to want to watch (and likely cry while watching) this incredible program but I will let you in on a little of the “behind the scenes” stuff. I told you all that being a loyal fan would pay off!
I’m sure most of you have seen TV make-over shows where they build a home or restaurant in a week. You are probably like me and think to yourself “HA HA! Whatever. That can’t be real!” Or you may believe that the time lines or actual accomplishments are just edited for TV. Let me assure you that on this project the timeline AND accomplishments were real and it was a cross between a hurricane and tornado that somehow wound up incredible! I entered an empty space on May 13, presented a design plan on May 15, started construction May 27th and finished the project 6 days later on June 1st! Whew! My head still spins when I think about it. With such a large job ahead and a outrageous timeframe, we got the whole design team involved. In fact we got the whole family involved in this one to make sure we finished in time!
Here is what the space looked like when I toured it on May 13th. The request was that I design a space that included a retail soap store, a lounge and relaxation space a 14 year old boy would love and a work area complete with soap making gear and supplies that could also be used to teach soap making classes. Everything had to be sourced, materials ordered and then built in a week!!! Oh, and there was virtually no money available to spend. The entire project relied heavily on donations that had not been secured and contacts that had not been made on day 1.
This is the design we presented. The front of the space is meant for an amazing retail soap shop complete with custom fixtures, the middle area a groovy teen lounge where any 14 year old boy would love to spend some relaxation time and the back of the space is for soap production and teaching soap making classes.
This is what we built. Again we built this in 6 days!
When they presented this to me, they spoke of the host of this program in very abstract terms. No names were ever mentioned. Everything was going really well and then they dropped a bomb on me! About a week before we actually shoot the show I get an email from the producer that says “Letisha, on the morning of June 1st, I’d like to film our host, Mike Rowe, at the shop. It would be great if you’d be willing to be our main participant (on camera) here to walk him through and show him what we’ve done.”
I need to fill you all in on a little back ground. I have had a HUGE celebrity crush on Mike Rowe for years! YEARS!!! I listen to his podcasts, follow him on Facebook and watch his television shows alone in the dark with a glass of wine and a smile. Now I find out that after a week of no sleep, with no time to get a spray tan or some lipo suction I am supposed to be on camera with him for this television show?!? The email I sent back to the show’s producer read something like:
“OMG!!!! WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME MIKE ROWE WAS THE HOST!!! I’m freaking out!!!! Ok I will focus on the rest of the email now. I would be happy to help in any way and Mike can get as dirty as he wants with me! I mean if he wants to help with the project. ;)”
As you can see I remained professional at all times. This is just a little preview of how our interaction went in person.
Fortunately the project kept me so busy I didn’t have much time to fret about meeting my big celebrity crush. The soap shop came together so beautifully even if it was something of a photo finish! You might wonder how in the world was it possible that we were able to complete such a large project on such a short time frame? It came down to three intangibles and those intangibles may not be what you think.
First, Albuquerque is a fantastic community! You might hear the name Facebook and think we had an unlimited budget. However, that was definitely not the case. We actually had a very limited budget. So part of my job was to find key individuals in the community that were willing to pitch in. The response was overwhelming! When people heard about this outstanding young man and what he was doing for our city and around the country, so many within our community was eager to support him. Many donated time, materials and furniture requiring no other recognition than many a “thank you” from me. Mostly they only wanted to contribute to Donovan’s success. Our construction crew , The More Brothers especially, were pivotal in getting this shop built in record time and took such pride in doing beautiful work for Donovan and his mother.
Second, the team that put everything together beginning with the production crew. Everyone I worked with was kind, hardworking and eager to make a positive change on the television scene. They all worked tirelessly to make every detail come together. One late night when we were all feverishly trying to paint walls and hang art, I asked a couple of the producers what this show meant to them. They spoke about how they had worked on television programs that they didn’t feel passionate about in the past. This was an opportunity to not only give back to someone that was incredibly deserving, but also inspire others to effect change in there communities. They said they felt they were making good television that they could really be proud of. I too am so very proud to be a part of something so positive and rewarding.
Third- gusto! My husband often says that whatever one lacks in talent, they should make up for it in gusto! That is what we did here. We were not lacking in gusto! Everyone on this project certainly was talented but more than anything we used every bit of our energy and excitement we had and put it into this project.
I want to thank Hudsun Media for giving me this opportunity and experience. Some local vendors that I feel deserve a special thank you are, More Brothers construction for doing all the construction on Donovan Discovers. They were top notch to work with! La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries in Albuquerque, NM for generously donating all the furniture in the teen lounge. Sherwin Williams for donating all the paint we used in the space! Jessica Dunlap for doing all the graphic art and logos, Hunter Bower Lumber for donating all the lumber, Adam and David Silverman with Geltmore, LLC for being so helpful when building out the store & Amanda Davis with Business Solutions by Design for giving business mentoring and so much more!
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