I have never deliberately considered this adage, but in hindsight I realize I have always dressed well in comparison to my associates. In high school, I spent more days dressed in skirts and heels than in jeans, and when I started working in the financial industry in Toronto, I always dressed above my level. This was not any deliberate plan to elevate myself above my peers….I just loved clothes. Or more precisely, I adored shoes, and bought the clothes to support my shoe addiction! I searched a long time for the dress to perfectly match my gorgeous teal suede pumps….oh, they were glorious!
It wasn’t until I had left the 9 to 5 world that I deliberately gave thought to this phrase. After several years of self-employment that saw me traveling the world representing our company, the bank crisis in December 2008 resulted in the loss of our financing, and with my go-to financial industry reeling, no-one was hiring.
With opportunity decidedly not knocking, and bills to be paid, I started a pet services company. I love dogs, dogs love me, and I was living in doggy central, so it was a no brainer. The company flourished, and I was healthy and happy, and 25 pounds lighter. Bonus!
One day while walking between clients, I saw another dog walker, and noticed that his attire was less than remarkable. I remember thinking to myself, “he looks like a dog walker”. Then I looked down at myself….jeans two sizes too big (that 25 pounds!), and a baggy sweatshirt. I looked like a dog walker!
Then came an epiphany….was I only a dog walker? No, I was an entrepreneur that owned a pet services business, and I was a walking advertisement for my business. You never know when you might meet your next client….what impression was I giving of my business, if I didn’t care how I looked?
I went home that night, sorted through my clothes and pulled out all of my baggy, tired, uninspiring clothes and tossed them out, or set them aside for donation. Then I went shopping. Nothing fancy….I still needed to dress practically for walking dogs, but my jeans could be size 10 not size 14, and no need to wear baggy sweatshirts and T shirts, when there were so many cute yoga tops and jackets available.
Did changing my wardrobe make me a better dog walker? No. What it did was give me the confidence that I was representing my company in a polished and professional way to any potential clients I might encounter on my daily route.
I still run that pet services company, and still walk dogs on a daily basis. However, I now also run a handcrafted bath and body business, so I also need to be aware that I could encounter customers or potential retail partners at any moment.
Grooming is more essential. I can’t have long fingernails, but are they neatly clipped and polished? When was the last time I had a haircut? Are my roots showing?
Murphy’s Law guarantees that the moment you run to the grocery store in pajama pants and Uggs, with your hair in a messy ponytail, you will run into the buyer for that store you’ve been trying to get your product into for 6 months.
Being a handcrafted entrepreneur usually means we are the sole labourer, a jack of all trades. Many of us are holding down full time jobs while trying to get our business off the ground. Many are wives and mothers. With all that going on, very often it is you that end up at the bottom of the priority list, and thinking about our image can seem so unimportant, compared to the countless balls you have in the air.
I understand….but do yourself a favour; look in the mirror every day and ask yourself….would I buy handcrafted bath and body products from me? If the answer is “no”, then it’s time to move yourself to the top of that list and fix whatever needs ‘fixin’ to allow you to feel confident that you represent your business in a professional and polished manner.