A story of hard work, ingenuity, and values-based business
Carol Gregg, Red Egg owner and “Chief Hen,” is a creative, in every sense. She approaches furniture, work-life balance, and business creatively. If you give her a box, she’ll do more than think outside of it. She’ll give it a tattoo.
Over 25 years, Red Egg has weathered quite a few major changes. In 2022, we call these shifts “pivots” and Carol’s story is layered with them. From importing 100% of its inventory to working with local artisans and manufacturers to bring unique home furnishings to life. From California to the furniture capital of the world. From a business made for two to a business that would accommodate many lifestyle changes after loss.
When we chatted with Carol, we discussed several topics including:
* How entrepreneurship found her
* How she incorporates creativity into every aspect of the business
* The biggest challenges she’s faced
* How being in the furniture capital of the world influence her business
If you’re ready to hear straight from Carol, buckle up because here we go!
WithIt: First questions first. What’s the story behind the name “Red Egg”?
Good question. When I started importing antiques, I had no name for the company but discovered while in China that they have an event called a Red Egg and Ginger Party that celebrates the first hundred days of a baby’s time on earth.
When the baby reaches a hundred days, they have this Red Egg and Ginger Party. Red is for luck. The egg is for fertility. And I just felt like that was luck and creativity and fertility and growth for a business. It was a good name … And it didn’t say “furniture” in case the whole furniture gig failed.
It was also a name that had a visual reference. So, while people maybe didn’t know what it meant, if they saw it, they remembered it.
WithIt: How did you get here, and do you feel like it was intentional? Or do you feel like you kind of fell into business ownership?
I think I was meandering into it. I was open to the possibilities and the opportunities. I think that’s why it wasn’t intentional.
I started the company with a partner, and we wanted to start a business that we could do together, create a lifestyle, and a balanced lifestyle business. That really was the goal. We had no idea what the business was going to be — a furniture business, it’s a fashion business, it’s a food business.
WithIt: Did you prepare when you decided to start this business, had you been preparing to own a business at all?
I think I’ve been preparing my whole life for [business ownership] because I grew up in my parents’ hardware store. I grew up in a small town. They bought the local hardware store. My mom went to work. So, being the youngest of five kids, I was suddenly a latchkey kid that had no idea how to do that. So, I went to work. I would leave school and go to the hardware store so I could hang out with my parents.
I was 12, and I loved it. I was a kid who liked to be busy making, doing, and so, yeah, you could just put me to work. It would be, “Go wrap presents. Go make bows. Go do inventory.”
Counting screws is not particularly creative, but running a small business is creative.
WithIt: You know, I don’t think of hardware stores as being particularly creative spaces. Can you tell us a bit more about that experience?
Well, counting screws is not particularly creative, but running a small business is creative. There were a lot of creative challenges my parents allowed me to participate in. And soon after buying the hardware store, they bought a gift store next door that was a little more creative. That included the bridal registries, gifts, hallmark cards, window displays, gift wrapping, and all that fun stuff.
WithIt: What is it about your work that keeps you inspired or focused?
Every day is different. There are always creative problems to solve. Every six months, we have a furniture market that pushes you to explore design ideas and showroom merchandising ideas that keeps a fresh creative take to the schedule. Sometimes the day-to-day is just the day, and I wanna fire myself, but I don’t because I know the next day is gonna be something new. And sometimes those day-to-day grind exercises are creative challenges.
WithIt: Now, Red Egg shows up on Instagram with energy and excitement. How do you come up with all your creative reel ideas?
That has been another way to stay creative and inspired. We started really digging into social media during the Pandemic. At that point, it was me and two interns, and we were working remotely, trying to figure it out, and none of us liked social media.
It took us a while to formulate how to make it fit with the brand. And when reels came about, I saw a potential to exercise creativity, be silly and goofy, and put it all out there. That’s when we really started playing more, and we would crack ourselves up, and roll on the floor, laughing. We just thought, “Well, okay, this is good for us, other people are gonna enjoy it, too.”
We’re not for everyone, but we are for the people who want us.
WithIt: How do you feel like that fits in with the brand?
I mean, I started taking vintage pieces I would find in China and painting them in crazy bright colors. Red Egg really became known for this kind of irreverent, quirky personality. That’s just who I am, and I gotta do me. At trade shows, I’ve always appeared in brightly colored kimonos and crazy silk fabrics as a way of branding and identification.
We’re not for everyone, but we are for the people who want us. That’s the fun way to do business, in my opinion, to be who we are because the people who love us. Love us.
WithIt: Red Egg is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Can you tell us about a major challenge you’ve experienced and how you have overcome it?
Okay. Which one? Yeah. It’s part of being an entrepreneur. As the young kids say, you pivot. You just do. A lot of times entrepreneurs have small businesses, and the pivot is a little easier because you’re not pivoting this giant machine. You’re able to massage and groove and figure it out.
I think one of the biggest challenges for me came a few years after my partner died, and I had to really wrap my head around how to go forward in the business. For a few years, I just went forward, I just marched forward before I was able to take the time to really figure out what it was that I wanted.
I think that one of the biggest challenges was figuring out what I wanted and how I wanted to change the business so that it fit me as a solopreneur, the lifestyle I wanted to live, and the balanced life that was always important to me. So, I picked up the business and moved it to High Point with very little plan. I knew that pushing myself and making that move would force the transition forward.
WithIt: How long have you been in High Point, and how has being in North Carolina changed your business?
Before 2014, Red Egg was in Northern California. We had a showroom in San Francisco and a warehouse in Chico, California.
Well, it allowed me to create a business that suited me personally. That changes included working with local makers on the ground in North Carolina to make more custom furniture for my already loyal, great designer audience. It allowed me to be on the ground with the manufacturers, which is a part of the business that I really like. I’m always inspired by watching people make things, and that always influences what I design
That was a big shift, but my customers (designers) followed right along. I always had designers saying, “I love this, but can I get it in a different color, and can I get it two inches longer? And I would have to say, “No, but it’s close.”
When I started making furniture here in North Carolina, my cost went way up, and I thought, “Oh, is this gonna work?” I tossed it out to some designers and they’re like, “Great, I can make it two inches longer and in the color I want.” That was a huge lesson for me to just go with my gut and try it.
This or That
In a final burst of quick-fire questions, we asked Carol about her design and work/life preferences. Here’s what she said:
Coffee or tea? (Mud Water. Tea.)
Form or function?
Custom or antique? (Both)
Online or in-store shopping?
Morning or Night?
We hope Carol’s words leave you inspired to keep building the life you want as a woman in the home and furniture industry.