Entrepreneurs as Builders of Community and People
by Donald Sutherland
“…we help to build community. This is a labour of love, not a road to riches.”
The Forks, in Winnipeg, is located where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers meet. For many centuries this small parcel of land was a trading area for First Nation peoples who plied the rivers and their tributaries in canoes. These entrepreneurs came here to trade, socialize, build community, dance, sing, and meet prospective husbands and wives. City planners have been very careful to preserve and honour the essential character and history of the Forks. This is home to many entrepreneurs. I recently interviewed Romalda who has been in the tea and coffee business at The Forks for eighteen years. In addition, I interviewed Rebecca, one of her newer employees, who brought to the conversation the perspectives of youth.
Romalda described entrepreneurs as among those who strive to make things happen. “Customer requests are challenges, not problems. Delivering that special item is amazing. A very important outcome of our day-to-day work is that we build relationships. In addition, we help to build community. This is a labour of love, not a road to riches. I am always researching to find the unique, the lovely, and the new experience. At this moment I am bringing in a black tea from Thailand that starts black and then turns red. We offer seventy-five different teas and many different coffees.
“I am constantly in awe of the young people who come to work here for two or three years as part of their life journey. They expand their skill sets and self-confidence and contribute their creative ideas here. They grow in so many ways—communication skills, organization skills, and planning skills. Often, this is a first job out of high school. In addition to work, they grapple with complex challenges such as student debt, meaningful relationships, and independent living.”
The coming together of Romalda and Rebecca, for a time, as companions on the path of life, reminded me of a story in The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The boy interrupted his spiritual journey to the pyramids to work a few months for a tea merchant polishing crystal glasses to prepare them to serve as exotic tea containers. The boy and the tea merchant walked side by side, ushering in a new experience for patrons of the tea house. The business prospered despite its altitude at the end of a mountain path.
Rebecca talked about her experience working in a tea and coffee enterprise. “I like the people contact. We build community. Romalda is amazing. I had never met anyone like her before. When I met her, I thought I must have known her in another life. She is doing what she was meant to do. I find it hard to stay away from work. It’s so interesting. Every customer is different. Customers look for an eager person with an interest in them as persons. We are proud of our products and stand behind them. We have to have passion. Products must meet that expectation, and they do.”
Reprinted courtesy of Earthcare Connections, PO Box 1790, Wynyard, SK S0A 4T0. Phone (306) 554-LAND, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, www.earthcare.ca. Donald Sutherland is a career counsellor, personal coach, and mediator with special training in restorative justice.