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Last Update: Sunday April 11, 2021

Key Idea: Start Young

Carol Schroeder always dreamed of having her own shop, and at the age of 21, she bought the building on Monroe Street and started selling furniture. More...

Key Question:


Many business owners like Carol started young before they had many financial obligations.

Q: Why did Carol start a business even before she worked for others?

She said it was always her dream to have her own store and her dream came true a little faster than she thought it would. At 21 years of age she knew what she wanted and her parents helped with some cash. Most people dont know what they want to do with their lives that early and some people never feel that they have figured out what they want to do.

She admits she feels blessed that she could start early and not have to spend decades searching for her dream work.

The best part about starting a business when you are young is you probably don't have a complicated and expensive lifestyle. When you marry and have children you can no longer afford to risk time or money when you should probably be focused on rearing your children.

Another merchant, Yvonne LaFleur, told us she established her business before she started giving birth to her seven children!

Think about it

Do you have a dream you should work on sooner than later? Do you know young people you should encourage to get going in their own business? Do you have a young employee you could invest in to jump-start them in business?

Clip from: Orange Tree Imports with Carol Schroeder

Madison, Wisconsin:  Meet a guru of specialty retail, Carol "Orange" Schroeder (just above). She is the author of the book, Specialty Shop Retailing,  and she truly walks her talk. With her husband, Dean, they started their business, Orange Tree Imports, soon after graduating from college. That was 1975.

Today Orange is a master retailer and a quiet hero in her community. She was an early leader in the movement to revitalize the old downtown. Soon after buying the building on Monroe Street, Orange organized a neighborhood business association to do joint marketing-and-promotion to change the orientation of their old shopping district to be a vital area for specialty shops and restaurants. That worked miracles. Monroe Street now draws people from well beyond the neighborhood, even Wisconsin!

Go to all the key ideas and video of this episode...

Orange Tree Imports

Carol Schroeder, Founder

1721 Monroe Street
Madison, WI 53711

Visit our web site:

Office: 608-255-8211

Business Classification:
Specialty Retail

Year Founded: 1975

Start Young

 HATTIE: Hi, and welcome to "SMALL BUSINESS SCHOOL Goes To Main Street." Several of the programs this season will come to you from rejuvenated historic business districts.  
Since 1980 the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Main Street programs have generated over billions of dollars in physical improvements, thousands of net new businesses, and 100s of thousand net new jobs.  
Much of the work being done to revitalize these historic business districts is being done by small-business owners.
Today you'll meet Carol and Dean Schroeder who, before it was popular, bought an historic building on Monroe Street in Madison, Wisconsin.  
Every week on SMALL BUSINESS SCHOOL, we take you into our Master Class. This is not a class like you take in school. It's a real-life classroom where the teachers are small-business owner who will describe how they have built what you see now. Step into our Master Class with Carol and Dean Schroeder.  
Retailers come and go, but this specialty shop came and stayed. It's Orange Tree Imports, where shoppers can always find the unusual gift, from greeting cards to crystal to Christmas ornaments to kitchenware. The store is named after one of its owners, Carol Schroeder, better known as Orange. She and her husband, Dean, started Orange Tree Imports just out of college, and they've never done anything but operate this sweet spot.  

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