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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs