I love my job, and I love Shoe Zone and am very proud to have been part of our significant strides forward over the last decade or so but there are times when this job and the people I work with blow me away and this past month has been one of those times.
Since his visit to Leicester Head Office at the end of September, one very yellow, very cuddly bear has completely taken over the Marketing Department. His cute face (coupled with everything it stands for )has permeated out from Marketing through the rest of Help Zone and Distribution Centre and reached the furthest flung Shoe Zone stores across the land.
In stores it started with Sir Terry Wogan announcing, on the instore music system, that BBC Children in Need wristbands were for sale and before we knew it hundreds of amazing staff had signed up to do all sorts of crazy things to raise money for this well deserving cause. Sir Terry Wogan’s voice echoing over the system “welcome to Shoe Zone…everybody from Shoe Zone is busy fundraising…..” Terry Wogan in our little Shoe Zone stores, that’s a feat in itself!
Soon the stories started to roll in on email, twitter, facebook and over the phone; we heard of staff dressing up, taking dips in the North Sea, rowing, cycling, walking, various parts of the body being waxed and yes, we did hear that right, even a Pudsey tattoo. It seemed that staff and customers alike had taken this yellow bear to their hearts and were pulling out all the stops to raise money for disadvantaged children across the UK.
When the first update came through from the tills just 3 weeks after launching wristbands for sale and spare change donation on the tills, the total stood at £22k. We were astounded, we’d set ourselves a target of £60k, surely we would easily reach this? From here the excitement began to mount, each Monday, when the latest figure was issued there was a ripple of expectancy through the offices as the email dropped into inboxes, what would the latest figure be?
The Marketing team began to turn up the heat, updates were going out in the weekly newsletter ‘Headlines’ and stores were busy entering a competition to win various tickets to BBC Children in Need events, the most inventive and guaranteed to raise the most money ideas were selected as winners. “Show your spots, let’s raise lots” became our motto.
Plans began for the fundraising day of all fundraising days here at Help Zone. Now, we are accustomed to holding fundraising days but this one was with a difference. Anthony & Charles Smith lay down the gauntlet for a Directors vs Employees tournament. If the directors lost the challenge they would donate £250. Lee Hennell, our in-house solicitor, set about recruiting an Employee team drawing on all their weird and wonderful skills – it’s amazing what comes out of the woodwork – he had wheelbarrow race experts, arm wrestling champions, gymnasts and knitters all willing to pitch their skills against the highly competitive Directors team.
By the end of Week 5 we’d raised £58k; this was truly amazing, our stores and staff were doing Pudsey proud. More stories were flooding in of raffles, competitions, cake sales and the like and we had to order more wristbands to keep up with the demand. At Help Zone it had been decided that Friday, 15th November would involve a special extended lunch break for all who wanted to take part in the fun accompanied by a Pub Quiz and traditional Pub Grub in our very own canteen, re-named “The Boozy Bear” for the occasion.
On 11th November, just one week later our total stood at £91k – now we were speechless – the only word I could add to my update was WOW! I felt humbled by our staff and customers and their willingness to support this wonderful cause and I was so excited, what could we achieve? Michael Smith, our chairman, announced that he would personally donate 10% of whatever we raised over £110k, an extra incentive to push the boat out even further. Once again I was so proud to be a part of this record-breaking, historical moment for our business, the Shoe Zone family.
Now it was time, this was the week, Friday was the day, it was all coming together. Daily updates went out and the gasps and exclamations as the email was opened filtered through my office door. £101k by Tuesday, £111k by Wednesday, £115k by Thursday – the cash was rolling in! The place was buzzing, the employees challenges were all set up and being practised (the Directors were kept in the dark until the day before). Raffle tickets, bingo tickets, Pudsey ears and wristbands were flying off the Reception desk. The Buying Team held a sale of old samples and the Finance girls had their very own nail bar. The ideas kept flowing in stores and at Help Zone, we were all working towards one aim, one goal – to help disadvantaged children, we wanted to do Pudsey proud.
The day had arrived, in stores up and down the country, our wonderful staff were shaking buckets, showing their spots and having fun all in the name of BBC Children in Need. Here at Help Zone, the stage was set, midday in the car park the first challenge – a relay race would kick off proceedings. After a rather raucous 2 hours the Directors had failed miserably losing 3-7 (and we did try!). The team spirit and participation of all the staff at Help Zone was remarkable. The challenges even included a Bushtucker trial, initially marketed as ‘heaven or hell’ for the Online department, this was swiftly turned into a ‘tie-breaker’ for one of the challenges. Never wanting to duck a challenge, Anthony and Charles bravely did their bit (winning this one!). Lee Hennell said “we had such a fantastic day fundraising for Children in Need. Our annual charity day is always great fun, but this year there was an extra buzz around head office – so many people did such funny things to raise money for Pudsey! The highlight was a surprise challenge from our Online department. They threw down the gauntlet to our Directors to take on a Bushtucker trial – on the menu were live crickets, meal worms and sheep’s eyes!!”
The day sped by, pub quiz completed and pub grub downed, it was on to the ‘Tannoy-Bingo’ (a Shoe Zone speciality) and a raffle. The Marketing team were busy counting the pennies, giving out raffle prizes and clearing up after lunch. We needed to get our pledge in to BBC Children in Need before 5pm in time for the show. The final update of the day, downloading information from the tills at 4pm and counting up the kitty at Help Zone came in at £129,808, our pledge was going to be £150,000 – incredible! We are committed to donating this amount by January.
Watching the show that night, feeling exhausted, I also felt immensely moved by the experiences of people that are helped by BBC Children in Need. Emotional stories of loss, triumph and survival all involving children here in the UK that our money will make a difference to. It put all of the hype and excitement into perspective. It was a sobering thought – for all the fun we had had raising money, this was what it was all about. I was glad we’d made the effort, glad that we’d encouraged our staff and given them the opportunity to get involved. After all if it wasn’t for the millions of people around the UK who had put their hands in their pockets to donate some change these stories may not have been heard and these people may not have been helped.
And yet again I was overcome by an overwhelming sense of pride. I was proud of this wonderful business and our colleagues and customers that had given so generously of their time and money to contribute towards the fabulous amount of £31million on the night.
I know I’m not alone in the way I feel. Anthony Smith said “it’s been great to see the whole business get behind raising money for such a fantastic charity. I think the £150,000 we have raised as a team will make a huge difference to many people’s lives. Raising the money has also had a very positive effect on morale within the business.”
It’s been a honour to be involved with BBC Children in Need this year and I love the fact that through their support of hundreds of charities we will be helping thousands of people across the UK in communities local to all of our stores. I can’t wait to see what we can achieve together in 2014.