Not all happy endings begin with love at first sight, and Gems N’ Loans is a classic case study for why one can’t always judge a book (or, in this case, a business) by its cover. In 1993, Mack Hembree, a successful real estate businessman, was invited to invest in opening a business that he had some commonly held reservations about. The business was a pawn shop, and Mack made sure to do his homework on the industry before jumping into a 23-year journey building an excellent organization in the most unlikely of places. By fostering and aligning employee satisfaction, collaboration, and commitment at every level, Mack has developed an ownership culture that differentiates Gems N’ Loans from its peers and has been instrumental in the company’s success. The company’s growth from one location in Oceanside, Calif. to five shops and 46 employees is proof that this model has worked well.