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Last Update: Thursday September 23, 2021

Retail, retail, retail. We are always in the season of retail.

How do I get started in business?

Answer: Carol Schroeder says, "Get started while you're young."

When Carol Schroeder was very young, she dreamed of having her own shop. At the age of 21, she bought the building on Monroe Street and started selling furniture.

Madison, Wisconsin:  In this episode you meet a master retailer and a quiet hero in her community. She was an early leader in the movement to revitalize Main Street and she's written a popular book called Specialty Shop Retailing. If you get it and read it, you'll find that Orange is happy to talk with you because you just may stimulate her thinking in a new way.

A guru of specialty retail, Carol "Orange" Schroeder with her husband, Dean, started their business soon after graduating from college. Orange's parents saved money for her to go to college. When she completed her degree at Tufts University in three years, they gave her the money she did not spend for that one year of college and a new business was started. That was 1975.

Their business, Orange Tree Imports, is a specialty retail shop in a revitalized business district. Soon after buying the building on Monroe Street, Orange organized a neighborhood business association to do joint marketing and promotion. This group helped to change the orientation of this old shopping district. They refocused it to become a vital area of specialty shops and restaurants drawing people from a wide area beyond the local neighborhood and even Madison. 


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Use Money to Borrow Money

1:15 | Play Now | The Schroeders were able to get a loan to buy this building by using their own cash as collateral.

Stay Focused on Your Target

0:41 | Play Now | Carol Schroeder wrote the book, "Specialty Shop Retailing."  She says that successful shopkeepers who make it through a Wal-Mart shake out know not to sell anything that they do.

Build a Database

1:27 | Play Now | Building a database should be one of the primary components of a business owner's total business plan. It's absolutely critical that you retain key information about your customers.

Offer the Hard to Find

2:07 | Play Now | Assuming you understand your target market thoroughly, the next task you have is to find things customers will want to buy that they can't find conveniently any place else.

Encourage Employees to Take Charge

2:20 | Play Now | At Orange Tree employees are involved in many decisions and on many different levels.

Turn Workforce Planning Upside Down

2:09 | Play Now | Owner Carol Schroeder has taught her team to staff the shop on their own and she rewards them for being collaborative.

Treat Employees Like Family

1:34 | Play Now | On the wall in Carol's office,  there's a new family tree being created to include employees who have joined the company since the 20th anniversary.

Transform Your Entire Neighborhood

3:11 | Play Now | Orange Tree Imports is on the historic Monroe Street with other specialty shops. The owners all work together to create a unique shopping experience.

Be a Team Player

1:11 | Play Now | Employees feel like they're part of a team and truly enjoy their work.

Create Event-driven Traffic

1:54 | Play Now | Carol Schroeder builds bridges between her vendors and her customers by hosting events where customers can buy items Carol would never be able to stock in the store.

Love People

2:07 | Play Now | It is not enough to love the products you sell. You must also have a profound love for people to build a successful specialty retail shop.