Our International Women’s Day coverage continues with a conversation with two of our Network Executive Women (NEW) leaders, Amanda Richardson and Mackenzie Drescher. NEW recently hosted entrepreneur Gina Schaefer for a speaker event at Sands Family Grounds, and we caught up with Amanda and Mackenzie to talk about the experience.

Gina is the owner of a small chain of 11 ACE Hardware stores in the Washington, D.C/Maryland/Virginia area, and she joined the students to share her leadership and entrepreneurial journey, in general and as a woman in leadership in a traditionally male field. Check out Amanda and Mackenzie’s answers below and be sure to listen to our recent ExecMBA Podcast interviews with women in our Executive MBA communityPriyanka Rattana, ’19 / Terrell Fuller, ’19 / Melinda Woods, ’19 / Erin Tollini, ’20.

What was the focus on the event?

The event was designed to allow for Gina to share her thought leadership and ideas. She has served on the ACE Hardware Board of Directors, opened a single store in Logan Circle and grown her business footprint significantly – for a period, opening about one store each year – so she definitely had a lot to talk about!

Mackenzie’s husband actually heard Gina speak at a conference and, after Mackenzie connected with her, she felt Gina, given her success in traditionally male industry, would be a great fit for a NEW speaker event. What started as a 30 minute coffee meeting, turned into a two and a half hour meeting discussing all aspects of her business and career trajectory and, eventually, Gina coming to Sands Family Grounds to talk with our group.

What were the biggest takeaways from the event?  

Gina is an incredibly dynamic speaker, and two things really stood out from her remarks. First, her work, her community endeavors and her values are incredibly aligned. She believes in women, community and doing good. She built her business from the ground up, focusing on building communities. This alignment is part of what has enabled her success and given her the energy to do all of the very hard work she has done, and continues to do.

Second, our male colleagues who attended the talk noted that they learned a lot from Gina’s story, and were interested, and in some cases surprised, to hear about some of the hurdles she faced. It was a wonderful way to continue to encourage the men in our class to remain allies and champions for women in their workplaces.

What’s next for NEW?

We’re looking at a few social events, we’re still trying to determine the best way to do an ask-and-offer event, virtually, and we’ll be looking at leadership transitions soon. Gina actually put us in touch with an individual who leads a women in entrepreneurship organization to help identify future speakers, so we’re excited about that.