Another Year, Another, 'What's the Plan?' | Melanie's Musings
Posted on Jan 31, 2019
I've had this post on my to-do list since December. I told myself I'd knock it out early, get it up on Jan 1st, BAM - productive Melanie strikes again. Well ... it's the end of January, and I think to myself - I doubt I'll even get this up today. But, Hamdullilah. I'm starting to think God is finally slowing me down.
Against my will, the first half of January was a two-week period of absolute zero productivity. I got sick with the stomach flu on January 1st followed by a nasty cold that wouldn't go away and left me weak and feeble. After finally regaining my strength and getting back to work, Gizelle's mom, who has been battling ALS for the past two years, passed away, may God have mercy on her soul. (Please read the du'a for her and Gizelle below). As you can imagine it was devastating for the entire team, as we've all come to know Gizelle's mom, and Gizelle herself is more like family than mere colleague. I couldn't help but reflect on these events, the wisdom behind them, and what lesson, if any, I was to learn.
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Over the past 2 years, Gizelle’s mother battled ALS, a crippling, degenerative disease with no known cure. Despite the irreversible and inevitable fate of this debilitating disease, Gizelle’s mom Gihan was full of life and personality. She was fiercely vivacious and for those who knew her well, there was a stark difference between your life before, and after you met Gigi. In the early hours of yesterday morning, the angel of death greeted her for the final time. Yesterday, our beloved Gizelle did the hardest thing any child has to do - bury her mother. Despite this immense burden, Gizelle moved throughout the day with strength, grace and gratitude, knowing her mother’s disease served as a purification for her here on earth - a testament to the incredible fortitude and beauty Gigi instilled in Gizelle. Ya Allah, forgive Gihan Sakr of all her sins, big and small. Allow her disease to have served as a purification that allows her to enter the next life as pure as snow. Oh Allah, cleanse her transgressions as white cloth is cleansed of stains. Make her grave wide and expansive, with a beautiful scent and window to Jannah. Protect her from any and all punishment of the grave ya Allah and enter her into jannatul firdaws, the highest of the heavens. Let her fly across the sirat-ul-mustaqeem on the day of judgment and protect her from the torment of the hellfire. Allow her good deeds on earth to multiply infinitely long after she has left it. Oh Allah, give patience and strength to her family and only child Gizelle, and grant her jannatul firdaws for losing the one she loves most here on earth. Give her comfort and peace knowing with full conviction that she is no longer suffering or in pain of any kind. Reunite them in the highest of heavens and let the remainder of Gizelle’s time on earth be in service to you oh Allah, and to her mom, Ameen. Fatiha. ❤️🤲🏼
Last year was an absolute whirlwind. I don't even remember what I did on New Year's Eve 2018 because I was probably fast asleep before midnight even hit, as we were in the midst of our Luxury Collection launch. Back then, it was just myself, Ahmed, Gizelle and Alice - and I have no idea how we pulled it off, but with the help of Erin and Salwa who joined two weeks later, we managed to get that collection out by the end of January.
Shortly after that was New York Fashion Week, speaking at SXSW then a spontaneous trip to Dubai to get our Silk Collection in order. I remember the day after Gizelle and I returned from Dubai, I attended an all day women's entrepreneur bootcamp and somehow survived the day despite the jet-lag and intense travel and work we underwent those five days prior. That same week was the Fresh Beauty summit, more speaking gigs and interviews followed by a complete overhaul of all our product photography. Every single last hijab on our site had to be re-shot in an effort to elevate both our photography and brand presence.
Then, it was the first week of Ramadan, and again I remember saying to myself - well this is a first, breaking fast on the first day of Ramadan on take-out - in a photography studio - without my family. That week-and-a-half was brutal - shooting all day in that studio until 10, 11, 12 o'clock at night in Ramadan no less. (This was when we started our daily Ramadan vlogs, so you can watch all that go down here!)
The craziest part is that in the middle of the product photography overhaul, we had our Silks shoot, which to date is the most frazzled and chaotic shoot we've ever had. With God's help we came out on top, but it was a stressful time to say the least.
Prep for our commercial started right after that shoot, and we managed to pull that off in just 10 days. Hiring the film crew, actors, extras, props, styling and everything in between. I'll never forget that day - it was one of the most magical days at HH to date. Everything came together so smoothly, and I just remember wanting to pinch myself all day asking if this was all real.
Riding on that high, our Ultimate Underscarves really got underway with intense planning and a successful launch - our most successful to date! It was around that time Ahmed and I started fundraising for our second round, which I've said before, is in itself a full-time job. In between more speaking gigs out of state, our once-a-year sale, Camp Al-Hilal and taking some of the team to ISNA to see our commercial finally air, it was a crazy time.
Fundraising and hiring were the priorities for the rest of the year, as we brought on Mahmoud, Lily, Mona and Dilshad during this period and flew to Dubai for the second time that year, this time with Ahmed, to choose more prints and figure out how we can scale our production facility in Dubai to keep up with growth. More speaking gigs, including one in Vegas where I brought Salwa and we shot in new Viscose and Modal colors, NYFW, and our scramble to get Underscarves back in stock after they swiftly sold-out in a matter of days. We ended the year on a sweet note - finally closing the fundraising round and spending the holidays and new year with family.
That takes us back to today and this abrupt slow-down, which, as you can see, I haven't experienced for a single moment in 2018. Save a few trips to visit family we didn't go on a single vacation (that wasn't work-related) since early 2017. So what's the point of this long run-on ramble? Well for one, to re-cap 2018, and second, to remind myself to slow down in 2019.
That two-week sickness was definitely God (and my own body!) telling me to stop, breathe and evaluate. That's not to say we won't continue to smash here at HH in 2019, but with more members on the team (we currently have four open positions!!) Ahmed and I will hopefully be able to delegate more so we're not operating like chickens with our heads cut-off. And maybe, just maybe, we can actually focus on starting a family. ;)
So, what's in store for 2019? SO. MANY. THINGS! One thing I'm SO excited about is continuing our mission of community building. You may be part of our closed HH Community Facebook group - it's *amazing!* Seeing all the comments, photos, women supporting women, meet-ups, live tutorials and more is exactly what we do this for: To build an incredible community of women empowering one another through their unique stories! Expect many more in-person community events to come in 2019.
What am I most excited about for 2019? If I'm being honest, it's probably our new office, (WE'RE SO GROWN UP!!!) but a close second is the priority to round-out the hijab category on our website. We want to make sure you have the hijab you need for any occasion you may find yourself in. From the most basic to the most fancy and everything in-between, we want to make sure you have every hijab you need. YES - that includes athletics ;) And, so much more.
Of course there will be tons of projects to improve your shopping experience, from shooting all our solid basics on models (starting with Jersey, coming soon!) to streamlining international orders and improving our Loyalty program, we'll be working very hard to make sure you have the easiest and best hijab-buying experience in the world.
Is there something you want to see at Haute Hijab? Whatever it is, big or small, let me know in the comments below! Let me know how we can serve you better and as always, thank you for being the most amazing, beautiful and loyal fam out there ❤️ Lots of love to you and yours in 2019!