Nicole DeLoach Hubbard spent her formative years playing travel softball, helping West Orange High School win a state fastpitch softball title. But Hubbard, 40, describes herself as a tomboy who wore bows. She loved fashion, she loved accessories but she also loved sports. Now as the president of the Junior League of Tampa, the lessons she took from athletics are helping guide her as the League prepares for its biggest event of the year: this week's annual Holiday Gift Market at the Florida State Fairgrounds that is expected to draw more than 20,000 over four days.
Hubbard, a mother of a 5- and 7-year-old who maintains a career at Tampa General Hospital as a nurse anesthetist, recently spoke to Tampa Bay Times staff writer Ernest Hooper about what drew her to the Junior League, the holiday market and why she chooses to balance marriage, motherhood, career and volunteer work.
You took over as president on July 1. How's it gone so far?
Awesome. It's exciting. We're celebrating our 90th anniversary this year. We're doing a volunteer campaign because the first prong of our mission is promoting volunteerism. So we've developed a 90th anniversary project We're doing nine "done in a day" projects throughout the year where we're focusing on past partners. When you can collaborate with your partners, it's neat.
How has what you learned in softball helped you as president of the Junior League?
I learned the concept of team. I use it all time. In fact, my internal theme in the Junior League is "#OneTeamOneDream." I can have all the ideas in the world — and you know I do — but if I don't have the right team underneath me to help me execute, it isn't going to happen. I tell them all the time, whether you're on the executive board, a committee chair or you're a committee member, the person sitting the bench is just as important as your all-star pitcher.
What drew you to Junior League?
I've always been really involved. I was president of my senior class in high school. I was president of my sorority (Delta, Delta, Delta) in college. I've always had a piece of me that wanted to give back and be in leadership. What drew me to the League is the chance to volunteer and give back, but one of the best pieces about it is that you can learn and develop yourself. They train you on how to go out and be a community and civic leader. There aren't any organizations that will do that. When you go and volunteer for other nonprofits ... it's wonderful, but they aren't going to train you on other pieces of life or train you on how to do it. The second prong of our mission is developing the potential of women and I think that's just as important as the work we're doing in the community. We give women a chance to do things they may not able to try in their professional lives.
Career, marriage, motherhood, Junior League. How do you handle it all?
It's crazy (laughs). I would be lying if I sat here and told you there's balance because there isn't. I truly believe that if you are passionate about something, it doesn't feel like work. I love this. It's probably not for everybody. My schedule is intense, but I'm making it happen.
Sometimes you have to push yourself beyond your comfort zone to achieve things.
You do. I will tell you one thing, my calendar would make someone's head spin, but it keeps you going. Sometimes I think being busy forces you to have good time management skills. I think it really helps you.
Your husband Matt works as director IT at WellCare. What does he make of all of your involvement?
I will tell you he's very supportive. I've been on the executive board for five years so he knew this was coming. You're president-elect and then president so it's really a two-year deal. I had to have his support. I'm sure he will be thrilled when it's over, but he's proud of me. He said, 'I want to see you succeed.'
The Holiday Market has evolved into a huge event. What can we expect this year?
When I was chosen as president-elect, I'm really good friends with Tracie Domino and Hannah Gross and I said, "I have a job for you." They're the co-chairs and they are very big picture thinkers like I am. They're not afraid of change. This year, we opened up the Thursday night event to the public. It's used to be called the kickoff party. It's now called the preview party. In the past, it's just been sort of a girls night out for league members. Now there's going to be local restaurant tastings and live entertainment. They've brought in a lot of fresh ideas. They're doing breakfast with princesses and they have a meet and greet with the princesses because the breakfast sold out (in 20 hours).
Since the market falls on Veterans Day, I know you have special events planned for them. What else can we expect during the weekend?
We have over 150 merchants and 30 new merchants. These merchants are coming from all over the United States. of course we have the man cave for the big games that are going on all weekend. We're having gift wrap this year, which we haven't had before, and we have stroller parking. So we've really increased our concierge this year.
What's going to be the emotion when you're tenure wraps up next year?
I will definitely be sad for sure. People ask me all the time 'What are you going to do next year? you're used to running a schedule like this, how are you going to fill it?' I don't know. I try not to think about it. I don't have time right now to think about it. But I will be sad. I've been in the league for 11 years. I'll still be active as a sustainer. I tell them all the time, I'll help you. I don't need a title.
Sunday Conversation is edited for brevity and clarity. Contact Ernest Hooper at [email protected]