Balloon Zoom Spotlight: Gina Schaefer, Owner of "A Few Cool Hardware Stores"

In this, our first of a series of "Balloon Zoom Spotlights," we feature a Q&A from great entrepreneurs (kids and adults!) we can all learn from.

Gina Schaefer, 42, is an energetic businesswoman who owns nine ACE hardware stores in and near Washington, D.C. She opened her first store in March, 2003, and now employs more than 170 people. Gina's stores do $20 million in sales per year.

Q: How old were you when you wrote your first business plan?

A: Twelve.

Q: What was it, and was it successful?

A: I was going to open a daycare business, but I never got started.

Q: What was your first successful business?

​A: This is not exactly a business. But, when I was in college, I had to pay phone bills that were very expensive. So I made these hair scrunchies and sold them to all the girls in the dorms. That’s how I paid those phone bills.

Q: Why did you decide to open hardware stores in Washington, D.C.?

A: Because D.C. didn't have any.

Q: What do you like about running a business?

A: I like that I learn something new every day. I like meeting new people, and I like finding new products to sell.

Q: What was the biggest business mistake you ever made?

A: I had so much to learn, that I didn’t concentrate on things like training my employees better. It’s hard when you have nine stores. Everything gets multiplied.

Q: What was the best business decision you ever made?

A: Other than opening? Opening the store in Tenleytown was the best decision I've made. It is a funny space with no windows, and it is in a basement, but it is a very successful location.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you can give a young entrepreneur?

A: Not to be afraid. If you want to try something, do it. I heard somewhere that 70% of all businesses never start because the person who thinks of the idea is afraid. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. I decided, early on, that there would be no stupid questions. If I didn’t know how to use something on one of my store shelves, I asked.

Want to know more about Gina's stores? Visit


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