Gina Schaefer is a passionate entrepreneur, co-founder and CEO of 14 Co-op Ace Hardware stores located in Washington DC and the Baltimore area. Gina founded her business after noticing that there was a shortage of hardware stores in the lower income, urban neighborhoods of DC.
After 18 years of growing her business to 13 stores and employing over 250 people she decided to sell her ownership to her employees via an ESOP. Gina was a brand new entrepreneur when she opened her first store- formerly in SaaS - when she started in her early 30s. This is a great story of someone who saw opportunity in a low income place and created a mission to change the lives of people through “a few cool hardware stores.”
Gina is a retailer, entrepreneur, public speaker and employee advocate based out of Washington D.C. In just 18 years she has started, grew and partially sold her 14 Ace Hardware stores to an ESOP where her employees can create wealth and enjoy work. Gina is three months away from completing her book, “Recovery Hardware” When Gina has time to relax she writes greeting cards because she believes in the power of a hand written note.
07:33 - “We hear this in various parts of our lives, right? ‘I wish somebody would do this,’ and ‘I wish somebody would do that.’ And one day I just said, ‘Why can’t that somebody be me?’” - Gina Schaefer
10:11 - “At its foundation, a purchasing co-op is a collective purchasing tool for independent retailers. It gives Ace the opportunity to go to… Milwaukee, for example, or Black and Decker or DAP and negotiates on behalf of all the Ace retailers.” - Gina Schaefer
35:21 - “We had the ability to take that money, use it to open a new store, and pay ourselves back in future stock money.” - Gina Schaefer
39:11 - “People are afraid to talk about [how much their businesses are worth].” - Gina Schaefer
41:31 - “She was bouncing off the walls! She was so excited to give us a tour. Partially because she was so excited to tell us that she was an owner of that damn brewery and they were an ESOP.” - Gina Schaefer
43:48 - “No one opens an independent business with enough phone lines to handle a pandemic.” - Gina Schaefer
47:04 - “That made us even more aligned with the idea of an ESOP because we felt like, if anything was going to help make a difference in incoming equality, social inequality, all of this crap that–as a country–we can’t seem to figure out, the ESOP was an answer” - Gina Schaefer
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