Wood Industry Market Leader: Caroline Hipple, Norwalk Furniture
October 23, 2019 | 3:47 pm CDT
Caroline Hipple, President, Norwalk Furniture

Caroline Hipple’s success in the residential furniture industry can be attributed in part to her “well-rounded” management experience in retail, domestic manufacturing, importing and consulting.

“I don’t think there are any little cracks and crevices anymore to look under in our industry – I think I’ve covered it,” she said.

Starting with This End Up Furniture, where she helped grow and reposition the vertically integrated manufacturer and retailer, Hipple’s extensive resume includes spearheading the turnaround of importer Storehouse Furniture and the co-founding in 2007 of HB2 Resources, a home furnishings consultancy. She has been the president of domestic upholstery manufacturer Norwalk Furniture since 2016.

And if that’s not enough, she also co-authored “A Pathway to Profit,” a guide for improving business performance and creating an engaged culture of caring for employees.

“At every company I’ve been a part of, I’ve wanted to bring that spirit of honoring the people that are part of the company, and helping them feel that they are a part of it. Not just a cog in a wheel, but really an important part of the whole, which I believe they are. That to me is the most important thing I’ve learned  in my 40 years in the industry.”

Also important to her is creating a structure and business format at the 116-year-old Norwalk that will ensure the Ohio-based company sustains for generations to come.  “It’s a privilege to me to be part of Norwalk and help craft its future with the team that’s there, because they’re really, really good at it.”

That ties into her simple, but powerful mantra, to work with nice people with talent. “When you work with nice people with talent, you can make things happen...you can really thrive.”

And thrive is what Norwalk is doing. Combining handcraftsmanship and technology, Norwalk produces approximately 40,000 pieces of furniture a year, “one at a time, with a lot of pride, and a lot of skill.”

Hipple also takes pride in giving back to the industry. She is on the board of directors for the American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame Foundation, and on the executive advisory council for Withit, a leadership development network for women in the industry.  She also serves on several educational boards.

Outside of work, Hipple enjoys spending time with friends and family, along with art, golf and travel. “I like to learn – and I learn a lot by going places.”

Quick Glimpse:

  • Education: BA American Furniture and Architecture, Hollins College, plus executive and industry-related courses
  • Number of years at the company: 11 (4 as president, 7 as a consultant)
  • Number of years in the industry: 42
  • Word that best describes you: Curious
  • Business mantra: Work with nice people with talent
  • Best advice: (From her mentor, Stewart Brown). Prior performance predicts future behavior. The other piece of advice is to work really hard to be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. Once you understand your strengths you can play to them, and once you understand your weaknesses you can minimize them.
  • Who have you tried to emulate: Stewart Brown. His advice lives on in all of us who worked with him.

About the Wood Industry Market Leaders: This marks the 11th year Woodworking Network has paid tribute to outstanding men and women that have made an impact, not only at their companies, but within the various wood products industries. Since 2009, more than 70 industry professionals have shared their influencers, insights and strategies.  Read more about the 2019 and past honorees at WoodworkingNetwork.com/Market-Leaders.

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About the author
Karen Koenig | Editor

Karen M. Koenig has more than 30 years of experience in the woodworking industry, including visits to wood products manufacturing facilities throughout North America, Europe and Asia. As editor of special publications under the Woodworking Network brand, including the Red Book Best Practices resource guide and website, Karen’s responsibilities include writing, editing and coordinating of editorial content. She is also a contributor to FDMC and other Woodworking Network online and print media owned by CCI Media. She can be reached at karen.koenig@woodworkingnetwork.com