GIGI’S JOURNAL: THOUGHTS FROM THE ROAD

“Two books kept me grounded during the week I spent undercover in Gigi’s stores across the country – my Bible and my journal. With one I was able to fill myself up every morning, and the other allowed me to pour out my thoughts after long, exhausting and sometimes emotional, but always rewarding days.

I hope you’ll enjoy this small glimpse into what was going through my mind in this most unique week of my life.”

– Gigi Butler

Day 1: I’m exhausted. I have an employee with MS. I miss my daughter.

Well, I am sitting on a bus riding from Buckhead in Atlanta, Georgia to Charlotte, North Carolina. I am exhausted, cramped, freezing and missing home. However, I had an amazing day! Today, I experienced something that most people don’t get to do. I went undercover, wow! I was disguised as someone that’s not like me at all. I guess that is the point of a disguise, right?

Cee, the girl I was interviewing, was tough, quick, a great teacher and inspiring. She lives her life filled with daily pain. No feeling in her hands and legs sometimes, due to Multiple Sclerosis. She fights through it because she doesn’t want to give up. She is a fighter and in my mind, a champion. I didn’t know what to expect going into Undercover Boss, but I do know that I didn’t expect this. I loved her spirit. She’s doing a few things wrong that need to be fixed, and that is on us. I want my employees to have the proper training. That’s one reason I agreed to do this Undercover Boss thing.

I miss my daughter so much that my heart hurts. I do have to remind myself that this is for her future also. I have six more days left and counting. I can’t imagine how tired I am going to be next week. This is the beginning to an incredible journey. God, thank you for holding me tight in your hands right now. I feel your presence.

You are good.

And, I am blessed.

Day 2: Only getting to be Mommy over the phone. Jason is a scrapper.
I am now flying from Charlotte, North Carolina to Gainesville, Florida. I talked to my daughter tonight, and she was crying. This absolutely breaks my heart. I wish I was there holding her and comforting her to let her know that everything is going to be all right. Mommy will be home soon, baby girl. I will fall asleep tonight wishing I was there holding her in my arms and reading to her a bedtime story book..

What did I learn today? I learned that God is not only a God of second chances for me, but also for Jason in the Charlotte, North Carolina store. He was a total “scrapper.” He was so creative and bright. He treated the shop like it was his own and took pride in it. Once again, I was extremely touched by his story. He had really been traveling down a bad road when he decided to turn his life around. Nobody was willing to give him a chance because of his past. That was until he met Sergio, the owner in Charlotte.

Sergio saw something special in Jason. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Jason came on board to Gigi’s about a year ago. After Jason came on board, that is when Sergio’s sales started increasing. Sergio, a great owner, now has someone he can depend on. The hard and dedicated worker, Jason, didn’t realize who I was. When we started doing the Gigi’s swirl, I found that he was plopping the icing and not doing the “Gigi swirl.” He even said, “Gigi has a special way of doing things. This is what Gigi expects.”

I can’t describe the feeling of pride I felt after that. Even though Jason hadn’t been to training in Nashville, Tennessee, something had still been able to trickle down to him. He had passion and pride that he was a part of the Gigi’s family. At the end of the day, I sat there and listened to his story. I was taken back by his kindness and compassion. He truly wanted me to take something away from this day, to help inspire me. Even when the cameras were off, he was trying to help me. Or trying to help Candace, I should say. I learned a lot about my experience and time with Jason. I was “step on the gas” full throttle and told myself to not be afraid to take that chance. I was so moved by his spark and his kindness. I had to give him a hug before I left. I can?t wait to see the shock on his face when he finally sees that I am in disguise! It is going to be an amazing moment.

Day 3: CEO’s do cry. What a hard day this was. Janette has overcome a lot.
Today I found out that CEO’s do cry. I cried more today than I have in the past three months. I was like a leaky faucet that wouldn’t stop! I was embarrassed, and I felt very vulnerable. Today, I worked the front counter with Jannette. She was a feisty and friendly young lady, who has had a bit of a tough ride early on in her life. Her dad left home and sadly her mom passed away when she was six years old, which left her very alone.

After a rough few years, a friend asked her to go to church. That’s when she connected with a pastor who helped change her life around. She gave her life to Christ! Physically and spiritually, she let God heal her wounds. It was so humbling to hear about her journey. I was still moved by her testimony. She had huge walls up, and she wasn’t about to let “Candace” in. It was an uncomfortable day. I was hot, I had that blasted wig on and for the third time I saw things in the stores that were consistently wrong. Yet, I couldn’t do anything about it. Wow, we have got to train better. I was mad at myself that somehow the communication is failing in getting to our stores. I kind of lost it, but it’s completely on me.

I was also missing my daughter, my puppies, home, friends and family. I wish so much that they could be experiencing this with me. After we finished taping, I then had to go film at the hotel. I had to take off my makeup and sweats, and my hair was a mess. Talk about vulnerable; I lay bare alone in my hotel, exhausted both spiritually and physically. Right then I had to let it out. It was completely real in that moment like I have never been before. This day has been a journey like none other. I almost had a total out of body experience. That is the only way I know how to describe it.

Day 4: Cake decoration is truly an art. So is parenting.
It was another exhausting, yet amazing day. At first, I thought I had met my match in The Woodlands. Cheryl is tough. I think I’m tough when I have to be, and I suppose that’s a good thing as the CEO. However, for a few minutes I almost forgot I was Gigi, you know the founder of the company. I was Candace the newbie, and thought, “I’m not destined to be the next cake decorating queen.” Along with super talented, you’d really need to be on your game to work for Cheryl. Her standards are extremely high, and I love that. Everyone in our company needs to strive for excellence like that. Thankfully, so many Gigi’s bakers, decorators and customer service employees are striving for excellence. That makes me so thankful and proud of what we’ve done at Gigi’s in the past seven years. Cheryl has kids around the ages of six, eight, and twenty-one. They came to the store in The Woodlands, and I couldn’t be more impressed at how sweet, respectful and mature they all were. What a great family! Her husband was such a nice guy too.

I know they are great parents, and they have a lot of mouths to feed. God, help me do a good thing.

I’m missing my daughter so much I can’t stand it. I’m thankful that when I talked to her on the phone today she seemed happy. I told her that mommy will be home in just a few days and that we will do some fun things together every day when I return. I can’t wait to see that precious little face!

Day 5: A three-person cleaning business to this. Really?!
Today I was thinking about when I came to Nashville, Tennessee for the first time. I was going to be a country music star. God had other plans! Now, here I am on the verge of revealing my true identity to four people who just a few days ago believed they met someone else. I think I am someone else now. Being on this quick and intense journey I do feel different. I am different, and I am tired too. Perspective is a good thing. I’ve met people with amazing stories and each has taught me something great that I can bring back to the team at Gigi’s. The time I met all of them and got to listen to their stories has been the most life changing for me. Now, because of Undercover Boss, I get the opportunity to maybe help change their lives a little too. I loved cleaning houses and could have done that for my entire career. Of course I would have built the world’s largest cleaning service! Ha! But life took another turn, and that was a good turn. Today, because of a phone call from my brother and some amazing mentors – my parents, my grandmothers, my Aunts and a landlord who believed in me (and is now my business partner) I get to help some deserving people. They are employees, yes, but at the end of the day they are people with lives, and for some reason our paths crossed. This is part of His Plan I’m learning, not my plan. My daughter, I miss you my sweet baby girl. Mommy is coming home in one more day!

Day 6: Smiles, smiles, smiles! And I’m going home!!!!!!
Well, you don’t get to do that every day. Surrounded by cupcakes and Gigi’s Cupcake boxes, (I love our boxes. Darlene, you did an amazing job with those a few years ago) and out walk four people I barely know. I still felt like I knew them well, and finally they meet the real me, Gigi, the founder of Gigi’s Cupcakes! I get to bless their lives with a gift! Wow, is this real? It can’t be. I got to see so many smiles from Jannette, Cheryl, Jason and Cee!

I finally got to be me and what an amazing opportunity I just got! I hope this changes lives. Was I really just a part of this amazing television experience? What a week it has been! I’m exhausted, but in a good way. No, I?m exhausted in a great way. I have so much to share with the Gigi’s team. We will continue to become better and better as a company. I’m so appreciative of Gigi’s fans everywhere. We owe it to them to give them our best on every level. We always did, and we always will. I’m fired up for the improvements we can make. I’m so encouraged about our people. This should all be about people and their experience when they walk through our doors. I’m on the plane and not sure I’ll be able to fall asleep thinking about all of this. I will be thinking about my daughter, who I get to see in just a few hours!

Mommy is coming home!

HOME! My first time to see my daughter in over a week!
There is no more work for now. I’m just going to be with my daughter! I am blessed in so many ways, and thankful to be home. I’m grateful for this once in a lifetime experience that the show provided to me and my company.