News / USA

    Woman-Owned Hardware Business Thrives in US Capital Area

    Woman-Owned Hardware Business Thrives in US Capital Areai
    X
    July 24, 2014 7:57 PM
    More and more American women are starting businesses in fields that are traditionally associated with men. VOA’s Julie Taboh caught up with one of those women to find out why she entered -- and how she successfully competed in -- the hardware business.

    Gina Schaefer never expected to get into the hardware business.  But when she and her husband bought an apartment that needed to be fixed up and there were no local hardware stores, she decided she’d open up one of her own.

    “I always wanted to own my own business... so the opportunity just presented itself... and I said, ‘This is what I’m going to do,’” Schaefer said.

    That was in 2003. Today she owns nine thriving hardware stores in and around the Washington D.C. area, serving a total of 1,200 customers a day.

    'Where's the guy?'

    But starting a business – especially in a field usually dominated by men – had its challenges.

    “We laugh about it in hindsight, thinking about some of the guys that would come in that would want some product help and would ask: 'Is there a man that I can talk to?'  'Where’s the guy in plumbing?’ ‘Where’s the guy that runs the store?’” she recalled, adding “We also joked that if you go to a convention and you walk down a convention aisle, the vendors don’t talk to the women that are there.”

    But over time, that gender bias dissipated.

    “There are lots of folks who come in – male and female – who have never had to fix their toilet, for example, and they just want advice on how to do it," Schaefer said. "And if you can make them comfortable and be confident in that answer, they’re not worried about whether or not you’re a man or a woman."

    She credits her success to a number of factors.

    Each of Schaefer’s stores is affiliated with Ace Hardware, a 90-year-old, multi-national U.S. corporation that lends its name to independent hardware stores. Schaefer says that gives them credibility, and more.

    “So they give us that buying power, and then they wrap a whole lot of services around it, whether it be training, store layouts, planning, financial organization; all types of programs that they wrap around the co-op.”

    She also credits her employees for her business success. She said she pays above average wages and provides health insurance and other benefits.

    “What we really decided is that we wanted to be a great place to work,” she said. “We wanted people to be able to raise their children by working here. We wanted them to enjoy coming to work because they knew that their employers really valued their skill set.”

    People make the difference

    Gina Schaefer talks with employee Brian Cole.Gina Schaefer talks with employee Brian Cole.
    x
    Gina Schaefer talks with employee Brian Cole.
    Gina Schaefer talks with employee Brian Cole.

    One of those valued employees is Christina Amaya who has been with the company for six years.

    “I like it here," she said. "They respect you. They’re very considerate of everything, of you as a person, instead of you as just an employee, and I like that very much because it makes you feel important.”

    And happy employees translate into satisfied customers, like Chris Bolanos who visits the store on a regular basis.

    “I think I come back more for the customer service than anything else,” he said. “Products you can probably buy anywhere. But customer service you can’t replace.”

    Schaefer hopes to open in more locations as the demand for urban hardware stores continues to grow.

    You May Like

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.