Building a Business in Non-traditional Ways w/ Gina Schaefer

by | Jul 11, 2023 | Podcast

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Guest: Gina Schaefer knows a thing or two about building a business in non-traditional ways. Gina is the founder and Co-CEO of a chain of Ace Hardware stores located in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, MD, Montgomery County and Northern VA. She is a passionate entrepreneur who grew her company from one to 13 stores in only 14 years and now leads a multimillion-dollar business that employs more than 300 people. She is dedicated to maintaining a strong corporate culture and is selling her company to her teammates through an ESOP.

Gina’s big passion is developing urban markets, supporting small businesses, and helping women succeed in all aspects of the hardware industry. She has tirelessly focused on the “Return to Main Street” movement in her city of Washington, D.C., to promote Shop Local campaigns and community revitalization in urban areas.

Gina has received numerous accolades for her many accomplishments, including being the recipient of the Women Who Mean Business award from the Washington Business Journal of 2009, being recognized as an industry Top Gun in 2011 by the National Retail Hardware Association, being honored by Profiles in Diversity Journal as one of its Women Worth Watching in 2013 and recognized by Hardware and Building Supply Dealer as one of 14 of the 2016 “People of the Year.”

Her book, Recovery Hardware, was published in 2022 and chronicles her business growth and the lessons she learned from hiring folks in recovery – proving that leaders can build a business in non-traditional ways.

Episode in a Tweet: I am a far better leader because I am open to learning from non-traditional teachers. Second chances transform communities and change lives—and they often start with one business at a time.

Background: I absolutely love this interview. Gina Schafer is one of the most inspiring leaders I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. We can all learn from her vision, gumption, grit, and compassion. Not only did she open an Ace Hardware store in a rundown but regentrifying community in Washington DC with no prior experience with hardware, she and her husband built their business by giving those in addiction recovery a chance to change their lives and find meaning and purpose in their work. Her compassion touches my heart – I, too, know what it’s like to have a second chance at getting things right.

During the episode, Gina shares how she grew her Ace Hardware store empire to 13 stores, even though she had never touched a power tool in her life. She tells us how she hired a person in recovery without knowing it before he joined the company and how he taught her many things about life, hardware, and second chances. Gina and her husband also decided to sell their stores to their employees through an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) and why she hopes that someday Ace Hardware DC will employ millionaire cashiers. Gina is no doubt proof that one can build a business in a non-traditional way.

This heartful interview will surely inspire you. Please have a listen and let me know what you think!


How to find Gina:

Book Website:


Instagram: recoveryhardware


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