Creator of JJ Gray Shoes Surprises Author Sarah Centrella
A few weeks ago a beautiful young lady came up to me after my book signing at Barnes & Noble in Los Angeles, and told me a little of her story. She said she too came from nothing, and that just stumbling into my reading that night was a sign to her that the Universe had connected us. She told me that she was fighting for her dream too, and finding ways to give back to the community as she did so. "I make riding boots." She told me. "And with every boot I sell, I *purchase a new pair of tennis shoes and give them to under privileged kids in my community. Because when I was a kid I remember getting a hole in my shoes and asking my grandma if we could get a new pair. She couldn't afford to buy me a new pair and that's what prompted me to get my first job at the age of thirteen." I hugged her and we both teared up. That tends to happen when you meet someone and you know instantly that they just "get you."
After the event I followed her on Instagram (@jjgrayshoes) and fell in love with her custom riding boots. Last Thursday night she came to my ABC News book signing event and invited me to lunch the next day in NYC.
I arrived over an hour late to lunch last Friday, not realizing it would take that long to get from one end of Manhattan to the other, and when I walked in, flustered and upset, to have kept her waiting so long, she got up with a beaming smile and gave me the warmest hug. "It's okay!" She kept saying, and soon we were chatting the way old friends would over lunch in SoHo. Here we were two like minded women,, recognizing each others hustle, and loving the spark we found in sharing our stories. We were out here in the big bad world making our dreams happen, hustelin, and believing. She told me how the book (#HustleBelieveReceive) had affected her and how she could relate to the stories in it, and my own struggle. She told me how she'd started her business, JJ Gray Shoes with just $800 in the bank, walking away from a successful job in high end fashion sales. How she'd found the inspiration for her boots in a small town in Spain from local cobblers. How she'd made a commitment to help kids wear nice shoes, because as girl growing up in Queens that was all she dreamed of. She told me of the sacrifices she's made for her dream, and her hustle. (#TheHustle)
After lunch she said: "Come with me, I wanna show you something." We walked a few blocks to a quaint little shop around the corner, and she went in the back room. When she returned, she handed me a pair of custom made gorgeous black leather riding boots. "Try them on!" Her excitement bubbled over, "I just know they will fit you perfectly!" I tried to protest, telling her the riding boots never fit my fat calves, and that there would be no way we'd be able to zip them. "You'll see!" She said, slipping my foot in and zipping up the back gracefully over my calf.
They fit me life a glove. I was in awe! They were beyond perfect! I just stood dumbfounded looking at them in the mirror. "They are yours." She said giving e a huge hug. I wanted to cry, knowing there's no way I'd be able to afford anything like these any time soon! I was speechless.
This was the first time anything like this has ever happened to me and I'll cherish these boots for years to come. It truly is a testament to #MoneyAintAThing and the #HBRLife each day I see more and more, how anything is totally possible. This life amazes me constantly, and the people I meet along the way are such an enormous blessing in so many ways. Being able to share peoples stories, and show you that you can be ANYTHING you want, and live ANY life you want, is the greatest gift.
May we all always pass it on and support our fellow hustlers, believers and dreamers!
*Jessica hopes to start a non-profit that will enable her to help even more kids get new shoes.