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In 2004, Andrew Carlson was on his way up the corporate ladder, but he gave it all up for the good of his family. He was in marketing at software giant PeopleSoft, and when the company was taken over by Oracle, he was offered a higher position. The promotion would be excellent for his career but meant an intense schedule with little time for his wife and two sons. Andrew's wife, Michelle, feared the strain it would put on the family and requested he quit. "It was a hard decision," admits Andrew, who declined the offer and left his job in January 2005. "I was walking away from something I had put a lot of time and effort into."
After an extensive search, the Carlsons found a way to combine their work and family lives. Impressed by experiences as Ace Hardware customers, they began planning the launch of their own Ace Hardware in Denver. Unlike a typical franchise model, Ace Hardware has no royalty or franchise fees. It follows a non-traditional, retailer-owned cooperative business model where any profit the business earns goes back to the store owners as a patronage dividend.
In February 2006, the Carlsons finalized a 20-year commitment to a 15,000-square-foot downtown location. The months following involved a fixture contractor, a setup crew of 10 and seven 48-foot semis packed with inventory--all in preparation for the grand opening in August.
The business has truly become a family affair: Andrew, 39, is manager, Michelle, 37, is bookkeeper and buyer for the specialty departments, and their sons help stock. With first-year sales goals of $1.5 million to $1.8 million and personal goals of teaching their children about business, the Carlsons are working toward franchise success together. "When I was in the software business, nobody knew what I did," says Andrew. "I went to work; I wore a suit; I had a nice office. Now it's a family business that we're all involved in."