The gift of presence!

There’s a nifty hair stylist operating out of her home in Barrie’s south end. Her name’s Felicia and if I was called on to use five words to describe her, I’d say: positive, optimistic, energetic, kind, gracious. She’s also a woman of few words, but her clippers tell her story.

Felicia is carving out her business in her basement studio. She’s painted her floor, installed screens, sprayed the plastic covering her insulation and generally tried to make her workspace pleasant for her customers. But, hers is a new business and it takes time to build enough cash reserves to finish a basement when you’ve got sole responsibility for a mortgage and a family.

It happened in October one night when Felicia was sitting with a group of other small business people and they were deep in discussion about the stress of running your own business. She wasn’t complaining, but she was expressing extreme frustration with her workspace and its unprofessional look to her customers. She felt caught between a rock and a hard place… how to charge what she’s worth when the surroundings are so simple!

After she left that evening, the six or so entrepreneurs remaining looked at each other. One said, “we should finish Felicia’s basement for her!” They looked around the table… I can put in support studs, said Kurt; I can install and tape drywall said Hanne and Clayton; I can install all the electrical wiring and outlets and phone systems, said Steve. I can help paint, said Ursula; I can supply the paint and get the colour on the walls, said Scott.

The group then announced its intention to Felicia and after a couple of planning meetings, the work was begun. People found drywall and donated steel studs, and the first work party involved Tom Byrne using his skills as a renovator to organize room sizes and lead people through possibilities. Kurt Williams of Green Pine Technical Services, and Clayton Keyes of Keyes Home and Cottage Patrol Services used their tool skills to cut studs, measure, nail and screw. Steve Mably of Alliance Electrical Contracting came back the next week and installed the electrical and telephone wiring, adding outlets and switches, and lighting fixture plates exactly where Felicia wanted them. Then the drywall “crew” of Hanne Nielsen (who is actually a registered massage therapist) and Danny Ferri (a computer guru), Darryl Skeard (who works for a fittings company), and Felicia herself worked together to install the drywall, and tape it. After sanding occurs, Jan Barnard of Finishes With Flair and Scot White of Painting by the Whitehouse will apply the colour.

Felicia is absolutely thrilled, and happy to be working alongside her colleagues. “I can’t believe it! Hanne taught me how to drywall!” she announced when I called to check on the progress.

For Felicia, the hardest part of this is accepting the generous offer of other hardworking entrepreneurs. “I just don’t know when I can ever pay it back!” she said. “You don’t pay it back,” announced Hanne. “You’ll one day be in a position to help someone else, and that’s how you’ll keep the circle moving. We’ve all had tough times and we’ve all received a hand up from someone. We’re just giving back.”

It’s a nice story, and it happened right here in Barrie. And in two days, I’ll be sitting in Felicia’s chair, as her clippers buzz around my ears, and we’ll celebrate her emerging studio.

Thanks, Ursula, Hanne, Clayton, Tom, Kurt, Steve, Scot, Jan, Darryl and Danny!