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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Caroline Eager, Founder and President of American Made Dorm & Home Our Coverage Sponsored by Maine Woolens

Caroline Eager

Maine Woolens is a weaver of blanket and throws located in Brunswick, Maine. We work primarily with natural fibers, like cottons and worsted wools and are committed to using renewable natural fibers from American growers whenever possible. We do piece dyeing and package dyeing in house and the combined experience of our excellent employees exceeds 300 years. Our wool and cotton blankets and throws are 100 percent machine washable, soft and luxurious to the touch, cozy warm and comfortably light. We have many styles to choose from. Our clients are very positive about our products and happy to support a Made in Maine, USA company. Visit our website at
We have been highly recommended by Whom You Know: 
Maine Woolens, affordable luxury and tradition. 

With two college-age children, Caroline Eager was well aware there were limited options for quality bedding made in America. While taking their youngest child to SMU for his freshman year (August 2011) Caroline spent a frustrating afternoon shopping for dorm-sized twin XL bedding. Everywhere she went the needed “twin XL” size was sold out. About a week later, a news feature on a catalog company that sold bedding to college students caught her attention. It was all made overseas. That’s when the idea for creating a “bedding bundle” made in America and conveniently delivered to school originated.

After extensive research and networking, Caroline found a mill to manufacture bedding, a source for fabric made in the USA, and suppliers of sheets, towels, pillows and mattress pads. Working with the mill, she designed the dorm bundle and began production. Having a marketing research background, Caroline knew that focus groups comprised of college students would be a valuable resource. Caroline added a business partner, Carol Ann Anderson (2/12), and together, with the input of over 65 college students, they launched American Made Dorm® just in time for summer 2012. Later, due to customer demand, they added home bedding. In February 2013, the company will debut a new line of American made baby bedding under a new name, “Liz and Roo”, Caroline and Carol Ann’s daughters’ nicknames.

Caroline is the Founder and President of the company. The company recently joined the Venture Connectors and is a member of SWaM (small women and minority owned businesses). Caroline’s typical day is one of juggling dozens of varying tasks, from inventory to sourcing new fabrics to networking in the Made in America “community” and speaking with customers. She feels one of her strengths is shifting gears “frequently and seamlessly”.

From 1979-1984, Caroline was with Meidinger, Inc. in the Asset Planning Services division. Meidinger was bought by Wm. M. Mercer in 1984, and at that time, she was Director of Investment Management Research. She traveled extensively interviewing and profiling investment management firms for their use in managing tax-exempt funds. She traveled frequently to New York City, one of her favorite destinations. In 1985, Caroline left Mercer to start Eager & Associates with her husband, Dave. Eager & Associates consults to and conducts marketing research for investment management firms. She was a partner and COO of the firm. In 1996, she decided to retire to be a stay at home mother, spent the next 15 years involved in church, school, and community service. She became involved in her childrens’ school, serving as Parent Assocation President and heading numerous committees, served on several boards, including Actors Theatre of Louisville, Chaired the Actor’s Theatre Ball, “Fly Me To The Moon”, served on numerous committees at St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church, including the Vestry, and continued her love of photography by volunteering as the photographer for the annual Kilgore Garden Tour. 

Caroline and her husband own a second home in Lake Toxaway, North Carolina, where they have spent every summer with their children for the past nine years. There, she loves hiking, golfing, and gardening. Caroline is frequently seen with her camera in hand, and together with her daughter photographed the area and created two books, “Summers In Toxaway” and “Scenes of Lake Toxaway”, both sold to raise money for Lake Toxaway Charities.  We are so pleased to present Caroline Eager as our latest Mover and Shaker!  Peachy Deegan interviewed Caroline Eager for Whom You Know.  

Peachy Deegan: What is your first patriotic memory? 
Caroline Eager: 
My father teaching me to put my hand over my heart during the singing of our national anthem. We were attending my first baseball game. 

What do you know about being an entrepreneur now that you wish you knew at the beginning of your current business endeavor? 
It doesn't matter how great your idea is, how motivated you are, or how hard you work. What matters is making smart decisions each and every day that impact the bottom line. Above all, the focus for a small business must be generating sales.

What colleges are your best customers? 
There is no single college or group of colleges that are better than the other due to the fact that our customers hail from all over the country. 

What should people in the Northeast know about North and South Carolina, respectively? 
Life marches at a slower pace (but that doesn't mean lower productivity!). The customer is our most important asset and we strive to make sure we answer every question and every request in a timely and friendly manner. That's just part of our culture. Manufacturing in the Carolinas, you can expect high quality workmanship from people who take their time to create a custom bedding set and who take pride in everything they sew. 

What products are you proudest of and why?
Our custom bedding. We select the fabrics in conjunction with our fantastic college reps, create the manufacturing standards, meet often with the head seamstress at the mill in "working sessions", and then watch as they cut, quilt, and sew prototypes. These are our own creations, and we have very high quality standards. We want to showcase the quality you can expect when your textiles are manufactured in the USA. We couldn't do that if we imported comforters and pillows from China or Pakistan. It's not enough to "get what you get". We want to be a part of the creation of the products and we want oversight of quality every step of the way. 

What did the world of Wall Street teach you about business and do you miss it? 
How to handle numerous tasks at one time without stress. Flexibility. Perseverance. How to survive in a whirlwind.

What should most people know about Investment Research that they do not know?
It's important to look beneath the surface and understand the method of research and the validity of the data. Interpreting the data correctly is important, as is the validity of the sample size, research and question biases, and data collection. Most people don't want to look at reams of numbers, so it is critical to be able to accurately analyze data in order to present clear conclusions.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence? 
The strong desire to do everything to the best of my ability came from my father. He constantly challenged me to reach one rung above what I was capable of accomplishing. He began with nothing and everything he accomplished was from his own will and strong desire to succeed.

What are you proudest of and why?
Our children. Each has strong and admirable qualities that I greatly admire. I like to think that what we have modeled as parents all these years is what we see in them today. 

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do? 
Publish a book of photography --- I have an idea for a book of everyday life in the state of North Carolina. From our home in the Western Carolina mountains to the surrounding waterfall country, up the Blue Ridge Parkway to the rural towns, I constantly capture scenes with my camera that i hope to bring together in a book one day. I keep a running wish list of photographs I wish to capture. 

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
In our first year in business, we've only been awarded one honor: The U.S. Jobs Project Award for Innovation. We've made the first cut for Forbes Entrepreneurs but have not heard back.

What one word best describes you and why?
 Determined. When I believe in something, I won't give up, even in the face of adversity.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan? 
Central Park on a sunny morning. 

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan? 
Scully and Scully.

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why? 
If I could hire anyone, it would be Jonathan Adler. We'd love to tap into his brain on style, trends, and fashion in bedding and linens. Our college-age and young adult customers love Jonathan Adler designs, and we do, too. 

What is your favorite drink? 
Bourbon and water, of course!....closely followed by a not-too-sweet Cosmopolitan.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party? 
We were having a cocktail party in our gardens at home one July. The yellow lilies (hundreds of them) were in full bloom. I organized everything around the lilies, using yellow in all the decor, the napkins, the bar table linens, and more. Everything was set up the night before the party. The following morning I walked outside to look at some final touches, and the lilies were gone....every last one of them. The deer had apparently enjoyed them for breakfast. At first, I felt the entire setting for the party was ruined. We scrambled and bought some of those big metal sunflowers, staked them amidst the half eaten lilies, and made it a conversation piece for the party. 

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan? 
Any of Daniel Boulud's restaurants. Our latest discovery was late night dining at Bar Boulud after seeing a performance at the Lincoln Center. 

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature? 
Eloise at the Plaza, because it reminds me of our trips to the Plaza with our daughter when she was very young. She was delighted to think that Eloise actually LIVED at the Plaza Hotel.

Who would you like to be for a day and why? 
Barbara Streisand, on stage, singing. It's my secret dream.

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why? 
I'd rather not have anything named after me. I can think of a hundred things to name before me. 

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? 
I have not had any formal athletic experience. Would walking all the way from Greenwich Village to Midtown Manhattan after dinner count?

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? 
Going to Ellis Island and spending the day reading the letters and looking the memorabilia. That's not "Manhattan", but it is my favorite thing to do when in NYC.

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why? 
C.S. Lewis. I would love to hear him tell the story of his life in faith and his return to the church in his 30s,Tolkien's influence, and other influences in his life and faith.

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? 
Seeing the Lion King when it first debuted over 15 years ago with our daughter, who was 6 years old at the time. 

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world? 
I strive each day to give more than I take. 

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?
My favorite column is Manhattan Tips. Because we travel to NYC only once or twice a year, it is hard to stay on top of the restaurants, boutique hotels, etc. It's great to get an insider's view of places to go and stay.

Have you tried The Peachy Deegan yet and if not, why not?
 I am dying to try it! Next trip to NYC. Unfortunately, the Peachy Deegan has not yet caught on in the South. (With your permission, I can introduce it to a few local places where I know the owners). 

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
 I have been blessed in life with wonderful friends who have filled a void of having a very small family. I love photography, travel, gardening in the mountains of North Carolina, hiking the Blue Ridge Trail, playing golf, cooking, and organizing anything. My faith is more important to me than anything, and I've been really blessed to have been in a weekly bible study for the past 17 years with six wonderful friends, one of whom we lost to cancer last fall. 

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers? 

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