Wed | Mar 21, 2018

Patria-Kaye Aarons | Even beggars must have ambition

Published:Wednesday | November 22, 2017 | 12:00 AM

If ever you stand in line at the ABM in Duhaney Park, you are sure to meet the most ambitious woman in history. Her petite frame is always clean, sometimes even fashionable. Her slippers often complement the colour of her blouse, and her hair is always neat. The woman is also very well spoken. But don't be confused by her external office-ready get-up, or her perfect English. She doesn't have a nine-five. She most definitely is a beggar.

Here's what's most unique about her asking technique. She begs in $500 increments. The solicitation often goes something like this: "Can you draw a little extra for me please, like $500."

The first time I heard her, I laughed my butt off. I had to ask the gentleman behind me if I had actually heard what I thought I had, and I got confirmation when she made the same proposition to the lady in front of me. On my second encounter with her at the same spot, the request was $1,000.

Though she begs every single person in the money machine line, your time with her is special. She asks with an expectant, straight face each time and looks you dead in the eye, making sure not to break her gaze. You are engaged twice - once just before you go into the vestibule and immediately after you get out.

Honestly (and perhaps not surprisingly), I've never seen anyone give her money. But I've got to give her credit. As a woman in business myself, there are real lessons to take away from her unique approach. I'll share with you my top three.

1. Location, location. This woman knows exactly where to find her market. If you're going into an ABM, you're going to draw cash. The "sorry I don't have any money today" that may seem believable when you're at a stop light in traffic just won't fly. She knows exactly where to find a customer with cash. She hit the jackpot with this never-ending pool of potential customers who are able to pay.




2. Stick to it - Though I've never seen anyone give her money, she isn't put off by the tens of hundreds of nos I have heard her receive. She isn't put off by the chuckles or astonished side chatter. She is there on a mission and is laser-focused on her goals. It's a stick-to-itiveness many business starters lack. She has a fortitude in the face of disappointment that I look up to. I honestly don't know her success rate. I can't imagine her always out there begging if no one has ever given her money. She's a beggar, but she isn't crazy.

3. Know your worth - This little lady works smarter than most beggars. She clearly has done the math and knows a man who is asking for $50 has to work 10 times as hard as she does - literally. She's clearly convinced that she's worth a $500 donation, and you can't hate her for that kind of confidence. She asks for a specific amount every time because in her mind, your small change is beneath her worth.

So often, business owners are timid in pricing. They undervalue both their goods and their own time. This lady has the confidence to name her price, and you either work with it or you don't. That takes some serious balls, the pair many of us business owners still haven't grown.

More and more I'm seeing life lessons in the most unlikely scenarios. This repeated encounter with the beggar at the ABM is a perfect example. I wish her luck. There was once a time I would wish her a job, but that's probably not what she wants. And that's none of my business.

If begging $500 from perfect strangers at the ABM puts food on her table and floats her boat, sail on, girl.

- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to and, or tweet @findpatria.