When the Covid-19 pandemic temporarily closed the doors for in-person shopping at the Mission Store, Alexandra Jiménez saw another door open.
“Our online stores were the only way to make sales so there was a lot of work.” Alexandra introduced new platforms for the store – Poshmark to sell clothing and Amazon for books, while also growing the existing eBay store. Social media helped draw shoppers to the sites and made sure the Mission Store remained profitable.
Alexandra’s interest in retail was inspired by her background as a fashion designer in Colombia. When she came to Canada three years ago, the Youth Connections program at Collège Boréal helped her find employment. The program aids recently-immigrated workers under 30 to gain relevant work experience to help them find stability and connection in their new communities.
Marwa Burhan found the Mission Store through the same program. Marwa studied journalism and worked as a translator after her family left Syria. After arriving in Canada, she turned to Collège Boréal for help finding a job.
“The biggest obstacle was my lack of Canadian experience,” she says. “That’s why the placement program is so important.”
After her initial three month placement was complete, Marwa searched for employment elsewhere but found herself drawn back to the Mission Store.
“I felt comfortable working here,” says Marwa. “The volunteers [in the warehouse] are like a family. They say hello, ask you about your week,” she says. “It feels important – we make decisions about which items can be sold, about pricing. The low prices are good for our customers but we also need money for programs.”
“I see the value in everything now. Items we don’t think too much about – that’s someone’s
Both women agree the Mission Store provided valuable experience and inspiration for the future.
Alexandra, who is studying marketing, says her time at the Mission Store has been invaluable. “The e-commerce experience is 100% useful. [The Mission Store] has helped me grow not only as a person but also as a professional. The managers actually listen to your ideas and you can contribute to improving things or making changes.”
“I would like to work in social work. It’s been fulfilling to work with volunteers for seven or eight hours a day,” says Marwa. “Some stereotypes about people experiencing homelessness might make us distance ourselves. But here, we all interact as equals.”
“We needed help but now we can help others,” she says. “The goal of the store is to help the community. What we do has a positive impact.”