If Sandy and Nancy Seright had waited to make a decision in 1979, they might not be the owners of two successful ACE Hardware stores in North Idaho today. And their son Brett might not be in a position to take over the franchise and continue their success. Starting a business comes with risk and the Seright family is fully aware and familiar with the odds.
Both husband Sandy and wife Nancy had many years of working for other people – one in small business and one in the heavy structure of a job with the U.S. Forest Service. They decided they truly wanted to be in charge and make their own decisions and together realized the best way to do that was to take the leap into entrepreneurship. They seized the opportunity to own a national brand hardware franchise in Post Falls, Idaho. Within a two-week window, they sold their house in Missoula, Montana and borrowed $5,000 from a family member in order to buy the franchise.
“We had been considering some other franchises,” Sandy said. “And when this one came open, we had to take the leap or miss it because the franchise only gave us two weeks to make a down payment once we committed.” Even though the skeptics didn’t give them six months chance of survival, they took the leap together, weathered a few transitions, and put in a lot of hard work to become the proud owners of two ACE Hardware Stores – one in Post Falls and another in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho.
As their first location grew, they took advantage of the SBA 504 Loan Program to build their second store in Coeur d’ Alene. The loan program was offered through the Panhandle Area Council – a certified development company (CDC) – working with Washington Trust Bank. The Serights’ ACE stores have enjoyed considerable growth since the start. When they opened their first store they employed a little more than a dozen employees and now they employ 36 full time.
All three family members feel their hard work has been worth it. “For the first seven years, we worked 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week,” Nancy said. “We were new to everything! Hiring was a real nightmare and when we did our grand opening, we didn’t have enough merchandise!”
Brett recalls that as pre-teen kids, he and his sister Brooke were brought in as “cheap labor” to sort, bundle and mail out the store sales circulars. After graduating college he had considered a career in criminal justice but the draw of the family business was too strong to resist. He joined the company again in 2007 and is committed to taking the reins when his parents get closer to retirement.
Now that their businesses have stabilized, the family has a good team going forward. Brett has a strength for the analytical side of business, Nancy enjoys office work, and Sandy loves customer service and is an energetic “seat-of-the-pants manager.”
Together they work hard to give back to the community who has supported their businesses by serving on the chamber of commerce, Kiwanis Club and helping out at the food bank. “We believe we need to give back to get back,” Sandy said. The Seright family are particularly proud of how their business has helped employees grow and become valuable, committed, productive citizens.
As far as advice for prospective entrepreneurs, Sandy says, “If people say you can’t, you can prove them wrong.” Nancy notes the importance to “be willing to work hard,” and Brett advises, “learn all you can to enable your success.”
Finally, Nancy shares, “Be sure to have a strong vision of what you want to provide. In our case it is all about customer service and that guides all of our decisions.”
For more information about Seright's ACE Hardware Stores, visit www.serightsace.com.
For more information about SBA loan programs, visit www.sba.gov/LoanPrograms.
For SBA local resources, visit www.sba.gov/wa.