At the moment, I’m facilitating a two-week workshop on self-employment and starting your own small business while in receipt of social assistance. As participants in this group are all exclusively on social assistance, it’s important for them to understand the rules that are in place that govern what they can and can not do as a small business owner until that day when they reach financial independence and can then do as they wish.
Now there are what I call the soft and technical skills that are required to be a successful small business owner. The technical skills are things like budgeting, writing a business plan, product production and money management. The soft skills are things like how dress, understanding what personal qualities are generally held by entrepreneurs etc. Very important and many would argue even more important than technical skills, as those can be sought out in others you could contract.
So there I was on day 2 of a 10 day class yesterday. The subject we were discussing is clothing, and how important it is to make a good first impression on investors, advisers, potential customers and business partners and colleagues. My audience was made up of people in ball caps, reflective sun glasses, t-shirts, jeans, etc. I was stressing the importance of taking pride in how you dress, and the fact that one never knows when you might attract or put off someone who might help grow your business.
With this target population, I assume nothing. We talked about everything from the length of skirts and dresses to the need for clean nails and teeth maintenance. Then the topic turned to underwear. You know, making sure your pants aren’t having your crotch at your knees, and 7 inches of your boxers exposed if you want to be taken seriously. And with respect to bra’s, not over exposing yourself, colour matching with your top etc. It was at this point a question was posed which I think is worthy of sharing here.
The question came from one of the females in the group who said that the cost of a bra for her – being heavy chested) was out of her price range. She pegged the right bra at about $80.00. We talked as a class for about 20 minutes on the subject of bras. Was it uncomfortable for me? No not really. I was impressed that the group on day 2 could have a serious conversation without the immature comments that might have come up from other groups, or the snickers.
Wearing the right bra really can make all the difference no matter what your bra size. But in the case of this woman and a few others in the room, it was an issue of needing the right one to provide support and reduce back pain. My suggestion to her was to put a funding request in writing for her Caseworker, and if she could obtain it, include a note from her physician that backed up her claim of experiencing back pain. Looking at things on a cost basis, what’s less expensive after all, two $80 bras or trips to Doctors and Chiropractors?
And as one of the woman in the class contributed, wearing no bra at all isn’t the answer as a small business owner. And she’s right on that account. And on the other end of things, another participant brought up the issue of being small chested and having to find one that fit her frame.
Finding the right fit; be it a bra, a dress, a pair of pants or a shirt is critical to both looking professional and feeling good about yourself and your level of self-confidence when addressing others. For tall or large people, some stores charge extra for plus sizes, and even those that don’t sometimes have limited selection of clothing. One of the men in the group said he has a waist size and inseam combination that isn’t easily found, and he has to sometimes settle for clothing that wouldn’t be his first choice due to availability.
You see the option of going to stores that cater to people who are taller, broader or heavier etc. isn’t always there for those on fixed incomes. Pay your rent, buy your groceries and there isn’t much left for what we might call basic necessities. And this is why I’ve made the suggestion to put a request for some clothing funds to the client’s worker who is in a position to provide it based on demonstrated need.
By the way, you might have already done a comfort check with yourself had you been in my position. You know, a guy talking with a mixed class about bras and underwear. Would you in my place be at ease discussing it or even think it appropriate. My feeling is this: if it’s important to the participants in the class to bring up, it’s important to discuss. Really effective adult education facilitators have to in my opinion, allow for discussions to occur where interest is sparked. Sure I’ve got my agenda, but adult participants have to be respected, allowed to contribute, and if it’s topic-related and relevant, discussion is to be encouraged. Looking at things the other way round, if she didn’t bring up her concern, she may not have found out that funds are available to help alleviate her problem and find a solution.
Like they say, there are no dumb questions. And if you’re thinking of a question, someone else likely is too whether it’s bra’s or some other subject.