Gina Schaefer on Building Communities & Instilling Culture - Chief Influencer - Episode # 010

Chief Influencer

Aug 2 2023 • 48 mins

Gina Schaefer is the Co-Owner of A Few Cool Hardware Stores, Board Member at CCA Global Partners, and the Author of Recovery Hardware, a book about Schaefer's path to building a business that revitalized her neglected urban community and provided opportunities for everyone to thrive, no matter their past. While expanding to 13 hardware stores in the Washington, D.C. Gina established a culture of acceptance, respect, and community. Gina shares why no question is a dumb question, how to develop greater buy-in from employees, and what happens when you treat everyone around you with the same respect without judging their past.


  • For a successful business, the local community it is a part of is more important than the walls that support the company’s roof.
  • Put faith in people who society may have left behind. Your feelings towards someone should not be based entirely on the worst thing they’ve done, nor should they be based entirely on the best deed they’ve ever performed.
  • When leading with humility, influence, and culture are exchanged and built by both the leader and the follower.
  • Ace Hardware is not a franchise-based business. It operates on a Co-op model, which fosters stronger communities because everyone is mutually invested in working toward a successful outcome that is only achieved by working together.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask a question if you’re unsure about something. Ensuring everyone is on the same page is more important than trying not to embarrass yourself by asking a “dumb” question.
  • You don’t have to be a licensed professional to act in a professional manner in everything you do for your company. Gina emphasized how important it was to instill that a retail job is still an important part of anyone’s career and the more that her staff bought into that idea, they became more committed to giving their best effort.
  • As a leader, it’s crucial to know when you're out of your depth and to be humble enough to listen to your employees and trust their insights when they have greater expertise in a particular area.

Quote of the Show:

  • “When you're trying to build a business, you need every single body inside the business to be affecting everyone who walks through the doors.” - Gina Schaefer


Shout Outs:

  • Father Gregory Boyle - Founder of Homeboy Industries
  • Roberta McDonald - Former Marketer at Cabot Cheese
  • Zingerman’s Deli