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What Neighborhood Retail Gets Right – Episode 27 of the Building Local Power Podcast

| Written by Nick Stumo-Langer | No Comments | Updated on Aug 24, 2017 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at https://ilsr.org/neighborhood-retail-episode-27-of-the-building-local-power-podcast/

In this week’s Building Local Power podcast episode, ILSR co-director Stacy Mitchell interviewed Gina Schaefer, a Washington D.C.-based founder of several Ace Hardware stores and a board member of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. The two discuss a number of topics, including how her Logan Circle neighborhood reacted to her first store opening and the way her stores are faring in the age of big-box retail and Amazon.

Click here for a full transcript of this podcast conversation.

If you’re interested in finding out the ways the cooperative model of Ace Hardware works across the country, the experience of a women in independent retail, and why valuing retail workers is critical to success then this is the podcast for you.

Don’t forget to rate and review the Building Local Power podcast on iTunes or wherever you find your podcast, if you have show ideas or comments about our podcast email info@ilsr.org.

“[Amazon] just means that we have to be scrappier, and more diligent, and figure out how to be more top-of-mind for our consumers,” says Gina Schaefer of how she deals with Amazon encroaching on her hardware business.

“I do think that there’s a role that the customer needs to play. On one hand people are loving the return of Main Street. They’re embracing the Shop Local movements… Then on the other hand is really fighting this ‘it’s cheaper and more convenient’ mentality with Amazon that all of the small retailers have to figure out how to compete with.”

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Get caught up with the latest work from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance on fighting monopoly power and the state of independent businesses across our economy:

Tech Startup Allows Communities to Support Local Businesses – Episode 20 of the Building Local Power Podcast

Visa Wants to Rule How We Pay for Purchases. But Its Market Power Has a High Cost.

Watch: How Cities Can Create a Built Environment Where Local Businesses Thrive

Small Banks, Big Benefits – Episode 16 of the Building Local Power Podcast

Here is a great watching recommendation from our guest, Gina Schaefer:

Daughters of Destiny is available for streaming via Netflix.

View the full transcript of the podcast, below.If you missed our previous episodes make sure to bookmark our Building Local Power Podcast Homepage. Please give us a review and rating on iTunes or wherever you subscribe to podcasts.

Full Transcript of Podcast:

Stacy Mitchell: Hello and welcome to Building Local Power. I’m Stacy Mitchell. I’m co director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the organization behind this podcast. I’m coming to you from our Portland, Maine office. And I’m really excited about the conversation we have today. I’ve been eagerly awaiting this interview.

My guest is Gina Schaefer. Gina is founder and owner of 11 neighborhood hardware stores located in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Alexandria, Virginia. She opened her first store in 2003, and today she has over 200 employees.

Gina’s been deeply engaged in community revitalization, including efforts in D.C. and elsewhere to strengthen locally owned businesses and nurture new entrepreneurs. She serves on the board of directors for Ace Hardware, which is a national wholesale cooperative. We’ll talk more about what that means in our conversation.

Gina’s also an active member of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage and she serves on several non-profit boards including, in full disclosure here, our board of directors here at ILSR.

Gina has received many recognitions and honors. She’s been called an industry top gun, a woman to watch. I think as you listen to this conversation, you’ll begin to understand why.

Gina joins us today from our Washington, D.C. offices. Before we get started, a reminder to please subscribe to this podcast and rate us no iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you find your podcast. We’re a small, scrappy organization so we could really use your help and this is an easy way to do it. Just take a minute to leave us a rating. It really helps us reach a wider audience, so thank you.

Now let’s get started. Gina, welcome to the show.

Gina Schaefer: Good afternoon.
Stacy Mitchell: You know, back in 2002 you were working at a tech company and you came home one day and said to your husband “I’m going to open a hardware store in our neighborhood,” which is the Logan Circle neighborhood in Washington. I think at this vantage point you’re probably sort of prescient about the urban revival that was underway, and maybe even helped contribute to it. I mean, I think that’s what happened in a lot of cities, is that people started business and kind of abandoned main streets, and that was part of what helped drive neighborhood revival.

But you know, way back then it’s easy … You know? Today we think of city neighborhoods as a great place to open a business, but that was not at all the case 15 years ago. I mean, at that time retail was all about big stores, lots of parking, big parking lots, everything had to be easy for people in their cars.

You basically did everything wrong. You opened this little hardware store that was 20 feet wide and 100 feet deep, and had zero parking spaces. Do people think you were crazy?

Gina Schaefer: You know, Ace Hardware thought I was crazy, the coop that we belong to. The neighbors thought it was wonderful. They didn’t care. I think they really bought into the idea of walking, and shopping, and recreating, and loving where you live, and that included going to stores that had no parking.

It’s funny, it’s not even been two decades. In the grand scheme of urban revival I think you that have to go decades to really see dramatic changes in some cases. But Logan Circle at that time had three or four businesses, I would say it’s probably … You know? I’ve never truly counted, but maybe 10 or 12 blocks and two or three businesses. Everything else was just closed. Houses were boarded up. Every other house was boarded up. The businesses had long gone and there was nothing here, so it was ripe for a lot of changed and Washington, D.C. at the time was truly ripe for retail development. The big boxes and the national chains that you think of had really … They had ignored us for a long time so we had a lot of opportunity that, in hindsight, is exciting but we had no idea what was coming at us.

Stacy Mitchell: Did that give you any pause? I mean, when you met with folks at Ace and they were like “This is not how a hardware store can operate, can function well today.” I mean, did you have hesitation and just decide to do it anyway?
Gina Schaefer: I think there were two things going on. My husband is very fiscally conservative, thank goodness. He controls the books. He’s super, super smart. He was just, I think, clueless enough, meaning I kept him clueless enough, to not realize how scary the process was going to be. The CEO of Ace, John Venhuizen, and I have a lot of funny conversations now about how, at the time, they thought it was a horrible idea. And just to be clear, John was not the CEO at the time. He had nothing to do with the process. But the folks in charge of new business development, they were afraid of the city, they didn’t like the neighborhood, they couldn’t see the vision. They didn’t live here so they didn’t understand how amazing this neighborhood was and how great the city could be.

So, yeah, I think I was the only one … Maybe I was the most clueless, because I was just so excited about the opportunities that I refused to see any of the negative sides that I was hearing about from various parties.

Stacy Mitchell: When you opened your doors, how soon did you know that you’d done the right thing? I mean, how did the neighborhood react.
Gina Schaefer: You know, when I think back on that day it’s so exciting to think about it. We opened with four employees and about … I guess we had, gosh, 7,000 square feet. I can’t even remember now. We quickly grew to 14 employees in about a week and a half. I mean, we way underestimated. Even though we knew the community, we felt the community was going to be excited. We had a standing ovation at a community event. We had lots of word of mouth and advertising happening all over the city. We didn’t really anticipate people waiting in line at the door, or really coming in in droves like they did. We grew very quickly in a short amount of time.
Stacy Mitchell: Today I imagine opening a new store is a somewhere different experience. I mean, you come to it knowing a lot more. I guess you’re up to about 11 stores now. When you think back on this 15 years, what’s one of the things that you’ve learned that you didn’t know back in 2002 that you sort of wished you had, or that’s been something that’s really been eye opening for you in terms of doing retail?
Gina Schaefer: How much time do we have? I should tell you that since I’ve seen you last we actually bought a store, and so now we have 12. I would say one of the things that I didn’t know then is that I would own this 12th store that is 98 years old. So I have this iconic brand really to nurture, which is so scary and so exciting at the same time. It’s called Frager’s. It’s on Capitol Hill.

From a business perspective there’s so much I didn’t know. I mean, I knew … My team jokes that I lead from a place of cheer-ocracy, meaning everything is just cheery and happy. That only gets you so far, and I’ve learned that over the years. I work with a business coach to learn more about the numbers. I have taken countless seminars, and classes, and used educational resources from Ace and other avenues to learn about HR and marketing.

We have 30,000 items in our store, which is a whole other conversation. But what it comes down to is I’m really running a small business, and any small business has the same needs in terms of expertise, marketing, HR, finance, et cetera, and so on. So I wish I had known more about those things when I first started, but I think my growth path for the last 14 years has gotten me where I’ve needed to be when I’ve needed to be there. And I am by no means an expert in anything.

Stacy Mitchell: How are independent hardware stores doing overall? I mean, I think if we go back 15 years, for example, when Home Depot and Lowe’s were just growing like crazy, everyone sort of looked at hardware store as this sort of bygone from another era, going away. But I mean, you’re a testament and I think there are others like you that have opened brand new stores in places that didn’t have them and really succeeded. What’s the overall state of the hardware industry right now for independent retailers?
Gina Schaefer: There’s a lot of really interesting things going on. You sort of touched on it, but I think 10 or 20 years ago if a … Well even five years ago, if a big box was opening in the neighborhood of a small hardware store it was absolute panic. I think in some ways the independent retailers who are good at what they do … This is not going to work everywhere, but those of us who are good at what we do can comfortably live in communities where there are both.

We sort of think of ourselves as being in the home preservation business. People come in because their toilet needs to be fixed. They want to repaint a wall. They might need to hang something on the wall. You know? Nail in floorboards, et cetera, and so on. Obviously it’s bigger than that to keep us in business, but the preservation. Home Depot wants to help build houses, build buildings. They’re selling lumber and drywall and things like that. So there is a pretty good distinction for most of us.

In terms of the independent market, again a couple of really distinct things going on. Ace had the pleasure this summer of celebrating our 5,000th opening. We now have over 5,000 independent stores across the country. We’ve had several years of increased store growth. We went through about an eight-year period there where we closed more stores than we opened, and it was really scary. But that has changed. We’ve been fortunate for the last, I think, five years now to have a positive net store growth.

If you read any hardware news, which some people might find interesting, you’ll see things like True Value potentially trying to sell itself. True Value is also a coop. If you think of the landscape, there’s three big national coops for hardware: Do It Best, True Value, and Ace. The True Value system is really in jeopardy right now. It’s kind of scary to watch from an independent perspective because while in some case we could consider them competitors, I consider them allies in the fight against big retail and so I don’t necessarily want them to fail. But they’re struggling now.

I think that Ace is doing really well. True Value needs to find its feet, or figure out what’s going on. Iconic brands in the larger picture, like Sears, are struggling for a variety of reasons. We’re kind of all over the place, I guess, long answer, short.

Stacy Mitchell: Yeah, I think that’s right. Let’s talk a little bit about the coops because I think people … You know? They might see the Ace brand and assume that it’s a chain, or think it’s a franchise. But it’s not. It’s this other model. Can you just walk people through what it is? And True Value and Do It Best are the same basic setup, I think, right?
Gina Schaefer: Yep. We are a purchasing coop, the exact same as True Value and Do It Best. Coops dividend their profits back to their members, so as a member we are part owner in the overall corporation of Ace Hardware, or Do It Best, et cetera. That dividend comes to us at the end of the year based on our purchases. It’s a percentage of our purchases back. You get it in the form of stock and cash.

I would tell you that it’s not a ton of money, although it incrementally goes up. The more you purchase, the more successful you are. The stock is not redeemed until you die, sell, or close the business. It’s almost like a … I use the word “forced,” but a retirement plan for those of us that are owners. Then the cash piece comes back. You use it to pay your taxes. You use it to do store renovations. Some owners, depending on how small they are, use it to supplement their income. That’s how that works.

I was also fortunate about a year ago to be elected to the board of a national coop called CCA Global. They run the Carpet One Flooring & Home stores. which a lot of folks know about and may not know that that is a coop as well. CCA Global has helped spin off more of a non-profit arm that’s really delving into coops and what they do communities. What they think a typical community is comprised of is about 150 coops.

So those of us who are consumers or residents in communities don’t necessarily think of these business models being everywhere, but coops can be in housing, they can be in food, they can be worker coops, purchasing coops like us, utility coops, credit unions are typically coops.

So we’re a little bit of everywhere. And people are much more likely to do business, with my business at least, when they hear that we’re a coop and not a franchise. Obviously nothing against franchises, but we’re perceived very differently in the consumer’s mind and so it’s very important to me that consumers know that Ace is a coop.

Stacy Mitchell: One of the ways that that’s different is you’re fully independent. I mean, you run your business the way you want to run your business. You can create a store that is suited to the neighborhood that it’s in. You’re not having to follow a national set of parameters the way … You know? If it’s a McDonald’s it has to be X, Y, and Z. You have to sell a certain kind of food, and so on.

That’s not the case with your stores. I mean, you get to make the decisions. You are fully a local owner, and then you’re also a part owner in Ace along with about 5,000 other store owners. I assume you all sort of have one vote, right?

Gina Schaefer: Yes.
Stacy Mitchell: And ultimately it’s on you in a kind of democratic fashion to direct this wholesale buying group, right?
Gina Schaefer: Correct, yes. Ace has wrapped a bunch of services around just selling us product, which has been super helpful for us. So when we open a new store they’ve created what we call a core package. It’s about 6,000 square feet of product that a consumer would absolutely expect us to have in a hardware store. All of the widgets that you can think of: the plumbing parts, the electrical parts. Things that, as a small business owner, I don’t even want to have to think about. We may fit that into a smaller space than 6,000 square feet, but that’s what they’re core plan would say. Then on top of that we can do basically whatever we want.

I was in an amazing Ace Hardware Store in Houston, Texas last year that has a fudge shop inside of it. You want to talk about the fun place to be in a hardware store, it’s not the plumbing aisle, it’s the fudge shop.

We have a really great indoor plant section at one of my locations. We sell a ton of houseplants in specialty flowerpots. That’s unique. A lot of Ace Hardware Stores don’t carry that. So we have the benefit, as part of this larger buying group, to be able to create these really interesting niches to help serve our neighborhood the way we would like to.

Stacy Mitchell: You mentioned the carpet and lighting one, you know, those stores. Ace is about 100 years old. There are coops in the grocery sector too. People might have seen IGA, Independent Grocers Association. A lot of rural, small-town grocery stores are part of that coop which is also, I think, around a century old.

It’s been interesting as someone who’s done research on independent businesses for a long time. I think there’s a really marked difference in how well independent businesses are that belong to one of these coops, that have coops in their sector, versus other sectors where they don’t exist. It seems like that sort of mutual support, and the kind of knowledge, and also the economies of scale … I mean, you guys are buying … Ace is buying in bulk. That means pricing it at local hardware stores is not that different from a Home Depot or a Lowe’s, right? I mean, those are some of the sort of strengths that come with that.

Gina Schaefer: Nobody believes that but Ace does help us, keep us competitive pricing wise. I mean, we hear every day that we’re more expensive but, again, a whole other conversation. But that is one of the beauties of being a part of a coop. They’re doing all of the negotiations with the Weber’s of the world, and Black & Decker, and Milwaukee. All of those brands that you can get in a lot of places, they can get for the same price from us.
Stacy Mitchell: So you guys are price competitive but no one believes you?
Gina Schaefer: Nobody believes us. I had a retailer tell me years ago that the research showed that customers think that independent hardware stores are 17% higher in price, and so his advice was “Go ahead and price higher.” We have not done that. That was apparently the research at the time so, yes, most people assume the smaller you are the more expensive you are.
Stacy Mitchell: We’re learning in so many ways these days that if you believe something to be true, it doesn’t really matter what the facts are that you see in front of you.
Gina Schaefer: Right.
Stacy Mitchell: Well let’s take a short break and we will be right back. You’re listening to Gina Schaefer. I’m Stacy Mitchell with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. We’ll be right back with more of this conversation after a short break.

If you were listening to another podcast right now, this is the moment when they would take a break to bring you an ad from a national company. Maybe an online mortgage broker, or a meal delivery service, you know the ads I’m talking about. At ILSR our mission is to deconcentrate the economy, to bring economic power back to communities, so we’re all about locally owned businesses.

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Now back to our conversation with Gina.

So the one thing we haven’t talked about yet in this conversation is sort of the 800 pound gorilla in the room for all retailers and for local economies, which is Amazon. Amazon is now capturing about one out of every $2 that people spend online. And although I can buy hardware from you through the Ace Hardware website, anywhere you are if there’s an Ace store near you you can buy all kinds of stuff from them online through the Ace coop website, lots of people are just starting their search right on Amazon. They’re not even going to Google. They’re not looking around. They may not realize they have local options if they want to shop online and still support the local economy.

How does this feel from your perspective as a hardware store owner? Have you felt this in your own business, the growth of Amazon? And how do you think we should respond? What is it that people need to know?

Gina Schaefer: Oh my gosh. I wish that I had the magic answer for this. It’s a standard conversation, right? It comes up often with organizations that are businesses, even my team, customers. It’s really scary. I think 50% of all retail purchases now are coming from Amazon, or 50% of all consumers have an Amazon Prime account.

I gave a presentation to about 800 franchise owners in New Orleans a couple of months ago. They sell tires and they really thought that they were Amazon proof. But you can buy tires online now, and I said to them “You know? If you are in the audience and you have an Amazon Prime account, why would you ever shop at a local store when you’ve already paid money to shop at an online store?”

It was kind of an “aha” moment for a lot of the people in the audience. It just means that we have to be scrappier, and more diligent, and figure out how to be more top-of-mind for our consumers.

I do think that there’s a role that the customer needs to play. On one hand people are loving the return of Main Street. They’re embracing the Shop Local movements. You know, in Washington, D.C. if you’re not eating snacks that came from a local maker, you’re not eating the right snacks. Right? If you’re not drinking a locally produced beer, you’re not drinking the right beer. It’s become very hip to do those things. I think the consumer wants to do that.

Then on the other hand is really fighting this “It’s cheaper and more convenient” mentality with Amazon that all of the small retailers have to figure out how to compete with.

Stacy Mitchell: You know, it’s interesting you mentioned food, because it seems to me like one of things that independent businesses have is experience. You know? Food is an experience. It’s about the experience of having … You know? I just had a locally grown peach for breakfast and it was so good. It was just completely different than the conventional peach at the supermarket. It’s all about that experience.

I wonder to what degree the experience of being in store and part of your neighborhood … Is this something that you’re emphasizing more? And what’s the role of the people, the employees in your store, in making that something that people seek out that creates a different kind of shopping experience that sort of exceeds the lure of clicking a button on your phone?

Gina Schaefer: Well I think we have three weapons to fight with. Product selection. A lot of things that you can’t find online, and by that I mean some of our vendors are really giving us, and by “us,” I mean Ace, exclusive rights to sell some products. So we have items that you can’t find anywhere else.

We have to have superior customer service. I can’t tell you how many times a day I hear:

“Oh my gosh. I went to …”

and they’ll name another retailer or some place they shopped online and they’ll say:

“The service was terrible so now I’m coming here.”

Well why didn’t you come here first? So the minute we get them to realize that we have better customer service, we’re likely to have a customer for life. The converse of that happens too though. The minute we disappoint a customer, they are very quick to say they’ll never shop here again. So even if the alternative means going back to a place where they know that they’re going to get poor service, they will hold that one experience with us against it. You know? Maybe it’s double standards, but us really needing to up our game when it comes to customer service.

Then finally customer location. Having 500 stores means that we’re very close to a majority of the population in the United States, meaning you might be able to ship something overnight form Amazon, but you can walk in and get friendly customer service with unique products within a couple of miles of where you live all over the country.

So those are really are three weapons. Those are the three things that we have to fight with. Now what we do with them is up to us. For me it’s educating my staff on what the differences are between us and Amazon. I have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder because I always want to have that price argument:

“No, they’re not always cheaper. No, I know you can always find stuff cheaper online but that doesn’t mean that Amazon is the cheapest and we’re not.”

I’m never going to get over that. I’ve tried to tell myself I need to have a better argument, or I need to not be so emotional about it. But I take care of 260 people and their families by providing them with stable employment, health benefits, a 401(k), vacation time, so many things that small businesses can’t do or that the bigger businesses won’t do, so I think that I have to be as vocal about it as possible. I can’t seem to operate any other way.

Stacy Mitchell: Yeah. I mean, it’s amazing, 260 employees and really the front lines of your business. I get really annoyed when I hear people talk about retail workers as being “low skill” or “no skill.” As someone who’s studied retail and spent a lot of time talking to people who work in retail at independent stores, at big chains like Walmart, I think those of us who have desk jobs couldn’t survive in these jobs a lot of times. I mean, it not at all low skill. I feel like that’s a way for the chains, especially, to make us comfortable with the idea that these folks aren’t paid very good wages and don’t get health care and other basic provisions.

What’s really interesting, and is also something that people … There’s this assumption that big companies always pay more. That’s true in a number of sectors of the economy, but it’s not true in retail. In retail the smaller businesses actually, statistically speaking, pay more than the big chains and that’s true for your stores. You had a piece in the Washington Post last year, an op-ed, and you wrote:

“Since the very beginning I’ve subscribed to the theory that business is a two-way street. I tell my team that as an employer I hope to be respected by them, and that they in turn should get the same respect back.”

What does that actually mean in your business? I understand the human case for that but what’s the business case for that?

Gina Schaefer: Simply for me it’s, I think the better you take of your team the more they’ll take care of customers, in going back to how we compete against the likes of Amazon. It’s having knowledgeable happy staff. And if we have constant turnover, or if we have disgruntled employees, they are not going to take care of your customers in a way that will keep them coming in, and that’s what we have to do. I mean, we fail sometimes for sure. We are not 100% perfect by any means. But those are the kinds of things that we strive for because that’s what we think will help us be more viable.

You know, you mentioned earlier that I’m part of Businesses for a Fair Minimum Wage. I want my employees to see that even if retail compensation, for example, isn’t as high as we would all like it to be that I’m going to fight to make it as high as legally we can; as opposed to the business owners that are out there saying “I don’t want to pay people more.” I mean, I don’t know how you go to work every day and look at your employees in the face and say “I hope you still make $7.25 tomorrow,” which is the starting wage in 24 states. So when I do work on these campaigns, I try to educate my staff as well so that they at least know why I’m doing it and what I hope to make better.

Stacy Mitchell: Mm-hmm (affirmative). One of the last things I want to ask you about is when you were a teenager, you worked in a hardware store and …
Gina Schaefer: I did.
Stacy Mitchell: I’ve done my homework. I think we’re roughly the same age so I’m thinking this is probably the early nineties or the late eighties, and you told another publication that you were not allowed to actually sell hardware. The only thing you could do was work the cash register, for the obvious reason that you’re a girl and so you wouldn’t know …
Gina Schaefer: Right.
Stacy Mitchell: You know? That’s where you had to stay. Sort of fast forward to now, do you still run into gender disparities in the industry? Do you sometimes get treated differently by suppliers and other people? You know? How does it play out and what do you, when you kind of look … I know you’ve been involved in trying to help and support more women going into business. What are the barriers that they’re facing, and what are the best ways that we can try to overcome those.
Gina Schaefer: You know? Like anything, it comes through education and awareness and just interaction with a whole diverse group of people who are owning stores. I helped some of the women at the corporate office start Women in Retail Organization and Ace, an affinity group. I think we had maybe, I don’t know, 20 women come to our first event and the last event had over 150 RSVPs. So really it’s just building awareness with the vendor community, that not only are walking the show floor (for example, I just came back from an Ace trade show), but that we hold the purse strings. You know? I can walk up to a vendor selling power tools and spend just as much as my husband can. It’s building that awareness and making sure that the vendors know. I can become a bit feminist about it but oftentimes they just don’t make that assumption. They just assume …

I was with a 19-year-old daughter of a retailer from California last week at this trade show. She walked up to someone who was selling a hand tool and he said:

“Oh, do you want to take one? You can use it to make your cupcakes.”

Well this was not the right young woman to say this to. I mean, the poor thing went ballistic and she said:

“I’ve never made a cupcake in my life. Why would you assume I was going to make cupcakes?”

So I would say that those kinds of experiences are a little fewer and far between than they were before, but they still occur. And you know how we handle them. We chuckle and then educate, and that’s all we can do.

Stacy Mitchell: Yeah. Are there things that more broadly, in terms of policy and what communities do … You know? Some of the barriers, for example, that women face going into business have to do with getting loans. There have been studies that have shown you can have the exact same credentials, the same financial resources, and you’re less likely to be approved for a loan. I don’t know if you’ve been involved in any advocacy around that, or if you have thoughts about what are the best ways we can overcome those things.
Gina Schaefer: I’ve been really interested in watching all of the studies coming out about unconscious bias. I know originally, or maybe at least I thought originally, it had to do with hiring practices and making sure that names, and gender, and all that stuff were not on resumes. I think that banks need those same types of criteria.

When I was applying for my first loan, my hardware experience didn’t technically count because I was only 16. The first three banks, I think, we spoke to didn’t want to give me a loan because I didn’t have any hardware experience. Mark, my husband didn’t go in and try and get those loans without me, so I don’t know if he would have been perceived differently because he was a man. But I’ve heard those conversations. I’ve had those conversations. Most women were never going to have true hardware experience, at least not in an urban setting in Washington, D.C., so I think incorporating some of the unconscious bias practices that are becoming more prevalent will help on a banking level.

Running a hardware business is like running a clothing boutique, a card shop, dog washing business, a restaurant, you still have to know all of the basics that I mentioned before: HR, marketing, finance, et cetera. So it doesn’t really matter if you don’t necessarily have expertise in that.

Stacy Mitchell: Well this has been a lot of fun. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. Something that we do at the end of our podcast is ask our guests for a reading recommendation. Is there anything that you want to suggest?
Gina Schaefer: Can I suggest a documentary instead?
Stacy Mitchell: Yeah.
Gina Schaefer: You know, I haven’t done a lot of reading this summer to be honest. I’ve been watching documentaries and I just watched one called ‘Daughters of Destiny’ on Netflix. It’s a four-part docuseries about … He was a tech executive from New Jersey, although he was Indian by heritage, who went back to India and started a school for children of the lowest caste system, which supposedly doesn’t exist anymore but it does. It was fascinating. He specifically … The documentarian specifically picked girls from the school to follow throughout their years. I think the documentary, or the series, was filmed over, I think, six or seven years so you got to see some of the youngest become teenagers throughout the series.

You know? We talk about the struggles that we have, building a business or building lives as women in the United States or business owners et cetera, and it’s nothing compared to what these families go through. So the series was good for me. It was eye opening, educational, it was beautifully filmed, I thought. The stories were great. It really made me want to go volunteer at this school and help these kids become better people.

So anyway, it’s not a book but I highly recommend ‘Daughters of Destiny’.

Stacy Mitchell: That’s great. Thank you.
Gina Schaefer: Yeah, sure.
Stacy Mitchell: And thanks so much for being on the show. It was great to have you.
Gina Schaefer: Thank you. I appreciate it.
Stacy Mitchell: And thanks to all of you for listening to this episode of Building Local Power. You can find links to what we discussed today by going to our website, ILSR.org, and clicking on the “show” page for this page. That’s ILSR.org, and while you’re there you can sign up for one of our newsletters and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. Once again, please help us out by rating this podcast and sharing it with your friends.

Also a thank you for our theme music. It’s ‘Funk Interlude’ by Dysfunction Owl.

For the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, I’m Stacy Mitchell. I hope you’ll join us again in two weeks for another episode of Building Local Power. Thanks.

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Audio Credit: Funk Interlude by Dysfunction_AL Ft: Fourstones – Scomber (Bonus Track). Copyright 2016 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license.

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