Many women entrepreneurs are part of family-owned businesses. Whether a business begins when a husband-and-wife team goes into business together, or with a parent-child partnership, these businesses often have close ties to the community and can be powerful advocates on behalf of the community. However, 70 percent of all privately owned businesses will change hands in the coming decade as Baby Boomers retire, and only one-third of family businesses successfully make this transition. Businesses can significantly improve their odds by undertaking three critical initiatives essential to a successful transition: 1) formalized business management, modernization and accounting practices; 2) a concerted approach to improving cash flow, inventory maintenance and business curb appeal; and 3) a multi-year training and transition (or sale) strategy to maximize the value of the business. Communities can support these efforts by providing access to training or services from accounting, human resources and marketing professionals; hosting entrepreneurial development courses to help existing employees grow into future business leaders from within; and encouraging local businesses to have the necessary conversations with relatives and key employees to create a transition plan. For more information, visit:

Today’s featured downtown business-women are examples of a successful multi-generational business transition – AJ Ashenbrenner and Theresa Kronforst are successful third generation owners of Schroeder’s Department Store in Two Rivers. The family has managed not only to transition the business to subsequent generations, but also to adapt to changing market conditions by offering a new idea of what a department store can be.AJAshenbrennerTheresaKronforst

How long has your business been open? Our store has been open since 1891. We took over as general managers in 2008 when the previous generation retired.

What was your inspiration for your business? Ever since I can remember I wanted to work with my dad. I started ‘working’ when I was 10 years old at the Maxwell Street Day Sale. (AJ)

With regard to your business, what are you most proud of? I am most proud of how we transformed our business. We basically turned the business upside down and shook. I had a dream of restoring the department store concept, but didn’t want to manage inventory and buying. I identified segments missing in the community and built relationships with other women in business to lease space and meet these needs. (AJ) I am most proud of the ability to change when necessary while keeping the values of our forefathers in sight. (Theresa)

How has your downtown location influenced your business? Being downtown in one of the largest buildings in the city is a blessing and a curse. It’s a curse because we are seen as an anchor in the community, which comes with a lot of pressure to succeed on many fronts. That being said, the blessing is that we are in the heart of our community. We are in the center of activity and have become a draw for tourists that may have simply driven through. (Theresa)