First Contact

by Rosalind Ho // Fifth Space Fellow

2015-03-17 14.13.33

Team CARRA is currently working on the problem that too many youth-friendly employers are not employing youth with disabilities, and are therefore missing out on potential resources. To gain an understanding of the employer mindset, we began by exploring the stories of various businesses and the motivations behind their hiring practices.

This week, we split into teams of two (5 team members + Manuela from InWithForward) to make first contact with some of the smaller businesses around the Edmonds and Kingsway area.

Manuela and I visited Value Village, which purchases items from charitable organizations and resells them for profit. The store manager, M., told us that there is no such thing as a non-busy day at Value Village. They do daily inventories; 40 staff work in the back of the store to sort and tag items, and 20 staff work in the front of the store. Holidays, such as Halloween, are prepared for 1 month in advance. Customers run the gamut of society, from the elderly, collectors, people on a fixed income, and the wealthy. M. told us that “When you shop here, it is always a different experience. No item is the same twice.”

We asked M. what are her images of the “best employee” and the “most challenging employee”. M. described the best employee as a person who is friendly, enthusiastic, willing to learn, good at dealing with customers, and has experience with costumes. The most challenging employee is someone who is unable to do tasks, work responsibly, is not flexible and able to deal with day-to-day experiences.

Manuela and I also visited a few other family-owned businesses along Kingsway. While polite, those owners were not very interested in our project and a couple of them asked us to leave almost right away.

Tisol’s, a pet supplies store that Carla and Ann-Marie visited, has a few family-owned locations around the Lower Mainland, and one of the staff members commented that she really enjoys working there and that there is a great feeling of family amongst the staff members. There are about 20 employees throughout all their locations, and turnover is rare.

They also visited the Art Design Beauty Salon, which just opened in December 2014, and is operated by a partnership of two immigrant women from Mexico and Kosovo. The location is new, clean and recently renovated. The owners said that business is good, and last Saturday they were so busy that they didn’t get a chance to eat!

The various businesses that our team talked to all had different stories and different philosophies behind their hiring practices. Larger chain stores such as Value Village and Tisol’s depend upon a certain number of staff members in order to keep their businesses humming at a good pace. However, the stores are still small enough to have a cozy family feel; the Value Village manager remarked that her job doesn’t feel like full-time work “because this feels like family”, and a staff member at Tisol’s related how the owners rehired her after she had moved away for a time and then transferred her from their Richmond store to the Burnaby store because it was closer to her home. The other stores we visited, such as the beauty salon and a few family-owned markets, are just too small to hire extra staff or told us that they wouldn’t waste their time hiring young people because they would likely move on within a short period of time.

While our first contacts with those businesses were brief, we gained an understanding of how they operate and why they do or don’t hire young people. Next week, we will be making contact with more businesses and revisiting some of our initial contacts to learn more. Onward and upward :)!