Meet Caroline Lindley, Vice President of Marketing at Lindley Mills, and a current MBA student at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill in North Carolina. As a tenth-generation Lindley and miller's daughter, Caroline's passion for her family's business runs deep. But she also cares a great deal about improving her local community. Through her involvement in NCGrowth, a cohort of graduate students from across the UNC system who assist with projects for local government and growing businesses in rural North Carolina, she has been able to use her skills to make North Carolina a better place to live, work, and do business. I recently sat down to ask Caroline a few questions about school, her work, and family business.
1. You grew up in a family business. Can you describe what that was like?
It was a lot of fun! I got to know the business at a very young age and had the opportunity to get to know a lot of our employees, some of whom have been here since before I was born! I have been lucky enough to get a unique perspective on our business and see it evolving over more than 20 years. I also have wonderful memories of helping my Grandfather label bags and naming products like our seafood breader ‘Fish Delish’ when I was about 4 years old.
When did you know you wanted to be involved in the family business, not just as a family member?
I have always been interested in the history of the mill and how things are made. When I was in college at UNC Chapel Hill I attended Kenan-Flagler Business School and was involved in the Family Enterprise Center. While I already knew I wanted to be a part of the business, these classes helped me see the value I could add as I learned more about other peoples’ family businesses and their impact(in their communities). I wanted the opportunity to be a steward of my own family business, help it grow, and preserve its history for future generations.
2. As VP of Marketing, what are you excited about for Lindley Mills’ future?
So many things! We have a lot of new products and initiatives that can make a big impact for our customers. Starting the e-commerce business has been a long time dream of mine and I am so excited to see it grow. We have always wanted to be able to ship directly to our customers who can’t travel to the mill to pick up in person and the online business finally allows us to do that. I think there is a lot of opportunity for us to grow our retail business and provide our customers with organic options of the highest quality, especially our Super Sprout™ products. I am also excited about Super Sprout™, one of our newer products that is totally revolutionary. Our proprietary process allows us to create the sprouted whole grain flour, which has such a high bioavailability and nutritional value that it can and should change the way we eat whole grain products, but that is a whole blog unto itself!
3. What are some of the challenges Lindley Mills faces as a leader in the organic flour production industry?
One challenge is the supply, especially in NC. We would love to see more farmers in our state switch to organic. Not only do we believe that organic farming is more sustainable and better for the environment, there is a lot of demand for local NC products and we would like to be able to provide more NC flour to our customers. We are a very old mill, but new to the online and e-commerce business. While we grow our e-commerce business we could use your help! If you know people who might be interested in our product share our posts on Facebook and check us out on Instagram and LinkedIn to help us spread the word.
4. What is one characteristic you believe every leader should possess?
Good listening skills. No one can be everywhere, or know everything and leadership is about listening to the experts on your team and making the best decision based on that information. I think a good leader can listen to his or her team and put all of their competing information together to chart the best path for everyone.
5. Anything else you’d like to share? Maybe something most people don’t know about you (hobbies, interests)?
I love to bake! Baking allows me to better comprehend our customers’ needs, speak their language, and understand some of the challenges they face. When I’m not at the mill or baking, I enjoy working on learning to play the guitar and spending time outside in beautiful NC!