Painting on the spot at Norwalk Furniture
The upcoming High Point Market is going to be a big one! I travelled all the way to Norwalk, Ohio to do secret developments and testing so all would go smoothly. It all starts in a town filled with pick up trucks, corn fields and no Ubers! What? No Uber? No way! Ahem! Yes way! Corn for miles and no Ubers… Actually, the only way to describe it is that I was like Dorothy, only I was in Ohio, and there was a magical lady and her name was Ms. Caroline Hipple. Here we go, tap your sparkles wherever they may be, and see why I believe in magic.
Me looking for Ms. Hipple and trying to keep up with her...and also a rare moment where I caught Ms. Hipple sitting still!
The President of Norwalk Furniture, Caroline Hipple, is one of the few female presidents of a furniture company in the United States. In 2017 she was the recipient of the WithIt Legacy Award, WithIt's highest honor. You can join WithIt right here. Ms. Caroline is kind of a legend, the kind of lady that casually lends out teepees that fit an entire pow wow ( I actually had to go with the smaller of the two teepees, because the bigger one just didn’t fit into my ENTIRE showroom – wow – I want to be like that when I grow up: just handing out teepee’s..,So fab!) She moves very, very, fast – actually she floats and glides. I think this is one of the main secrets to being a #girlboss: never stop moving! I consider myself a New Yorker and I had to kind of run to keep up with her. That’s saying a lot. Actually…by the end of the day, we just rode on a golf cart together. That’s the other thing about #girlbosses: understanding people’s capabilities and celebrating what they are good at.
Ms. Caroline Hipple
I’m not sure I can explain how much fun it is in words as to what it was like to visit the Norwalk Furniture facilities. So where do I begin? Ms. Hipple let me paint on furniture – and didn’t get upset! I left spatters of pink and dusty rose all over, and I think some footprints too, and never mentioned another word about it. I roamed around and explored nailheads – got about 700 smiles by countless sparkling eyes that worked in the massive 225,000 square foot facility in Norwalk, Ohio where this heritage brand has been hand-making custom furniture since 1902. Their secret to surviving the changing tides of the furniture-making industry? It is: adaptability, sticking to their motto "whatever it takes" to align with the dynamic flow of a changing industry, and of course a little bit of magic. Actually, specifically 12 families’ worth of magic. The magic of this place is not that they make everything right there in Norwalk and have been for generations. It’s that the company almost went away and 12 local families came together and saved it. There are 12 trees that are planted in the front of the building, each one representing one of those families. (Read the entire story here.)
The Plaque and trees at the entrance to Norwalk Furniture.
Historical Pictures of Norwalk Family and team.
It is with honor, pride, and a sense of gratitude that I write this blog post. To be able to orbit with such an institution- an American dream really- puts little stars in my heart, and also makes me want to work harder. I met a lot of people
in that office, in the factory and in the shop. Each one was more gentle and sincere than the next. A few of them floated around and watched me paint. One or two helped me find extension cords, drop cloths. Each one was filled with light. I hope that all of you attending the High Point Market will come see our showcase at The Point.
We, Caroline and I, teamed up with High Point Market and Fashion Snoops to launch Innovation Square, which celebrates authenticity, innovation and craftsmanship through an interactive experience. I'll be painting live with special guests – including Ms. Hipple among others. on Sunday April 15 between 11am–2pm at The Point on Commerce Ave, just one block over from the Transportation Terminal. Click here to see schedule. Not to be missed!
Tools of the trade…
In between painting, Caroline and I sat down to dish on what's key to being the ultimate girlboss in the furniture design world.
AS: How do we know each other?
CH: Market, I guess...and bright sparkly things in the middle of a creative world.
AS: Love that. What do you do exactly at Norwalk?
CH: I help marry market strategy to using our capacity wisely as makers- we make things. And my job is to find people that need our things that we make.
AS: How many women presidents of furniture companies might there be in our industry?
CH: Well, I think in manufacturing, maybe 4. In retail, there may be another 3 or 4. Of any size. There are lots of women entrepreneurs, which is really interesting, that own their own companies. But to be on a board or to be running a company of 200 or more people, there are not many.
AS: Congratulations. I feel proud to be able to speak to you about that. As a woman on her journey who might be an entrepreneur, what would you say are the things to keep close as you're trying to make your way in the world? In other words, what advice would you have for someone who is just starting off, or reevaluating, redefining what her path is?
CH: I think we're in a very creative field. With the home, we get to make things beautiful, comfortable and really important for family life. But as designers, we also have to learn business. Because you have to have good business skills in order to bring good design to the world.
Ms. Caroline, what an honor to visit, and collaborate with you and your Norwalk family of makers. Remember those nice people that were helping me and watching me paint? They were running the place. Only you would never know that, because they were such down-to- earth gentlemen - I saw their eyes sparkle and I felt proud. I saw Ms. President’s eyes sparkle too and I knew in that moment that she and I deciding to work together as two American makers was the moment the magic began.
Buckle in, Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re just getting started. You’ll see what we mean when you come by to see us in High Point in a couple of weeks. You’ll see us throwing magic around together at The Point and the fabulous teepee Ms. Hipple gave me in my showroom… stop by for high fives and hugs.
Come by our showroom at High Point Furniture Market:
IHFC | Interhall 606 April 13-18 | 210 E Commerce Ave, High Point, NC
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