Big Interview with Carole Nolan

Carole Nolan, National Sales Controller at Maze, talks about the day job, what products are proving popular, gender diversity and what’s next for the company.

Let’s start with you. Can you share a bit about yourself and your background?

I entered the Furniture and Furnishings wholesale industry back in 2008, initially in an administrative capacity. However, as time passed, I found myself drawn to product development and negotiations. This led me into creating furniture and accessories tailored for major nationals, eventually transitioning into the world of outdoor living. Interestingly, my upbringing played a sort of role; with parents who ran a green grocers and a newsagents, I spent many school holidays lending a hand in their shops.

What is your current job role and key responsibilities?

Following my redundancy from the company who previously headhunted me from Maze, I’m very happy to say I have returned to Maze this year to take charge of the running of the Wholesale side of the business. This includes overseeing purchasing, product development, quality control, and the development of customer-exclusive Maze ranges.

What do you love about your job?

I have a passion for product development and thrive on growing relationships with factories; I see them as valuable colleagues, maintaining connections even after our business transactions conclude. Exploring manufacturing processes and witnessing the creation of products fascinates me I love product development. At Maze, we’re more than just a business; we’re a tight-knit family. I’m fortunate to have an exceptional team on the trade side, making my role incredibly fulfilling. I love my job and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

What time is your alarm clock set for?

My husband serves as my alarm clock, rising at 4:30am each morning to walk his dog. I then take this time to check my emails and WeChat to see what faces me for the day ahead. When he returns it’s a rush to get ready for the gym, aiming to leave by 6 a.m. After our workout (well he swims and I exercise), we typically get back home around 7:45am, giving us just enough time to enjoy a quick coffee before heading off to work.

Why did you choose to work in the furnishing industry?

Initially, my motivation was to secure a Monday-Friday job that aligned with my children’s school schedule. However, in the process, I stumbled upon a genuine passion and talent for sourcing and product development. Since then, I haven’t turned back, embracing this wholeheartedly.

Who do you most admire in the industry and why?

Ed and Francoise, the owners of Maze, are more than just great bosses; to me they’re my friends. I’ve witnessed their generosity firsthand over the years, as they’ve supported numerous staff members, including myself during a challenging time. They’ve opened their home to employees in need, bought cars for staff who were struggling, and always offer a helping hand to anyone facing difficulties. The story of how Maze began is great….it all started with just one container.

Have there been any special moments during your career?

Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to experience numerous memorable special moments. One such instance occurred recently when I was made redundant less than a month before Christmas. I reached out to Ed that day, and he swiftly responded, inviting me back to Maze. Thanks to this, unlike many others who were not so lucky, my period of redundancy was short-lived, and I was able to enjoy a fantastic Christmas.

What is your favourite item of furniture you own and why?

I own one of Maze’s Corner dining sets with a Fire pit in outdoor Fabric, perfect for enjoying the garden. There’s nothing quite like relaxing with a bottle of wine alongside my husband, soaking up the sun. As the evening cools down, we light the fire pit and enjoy the sunset. It’s my idea of heaven.

What do you think is trending within the industry at present?

The demand for sustainable products and eco-friendly packaging is on the rise. Additionally, our outdoor fabric ranges at Maze are incredibly popular, often selling out through pre-sales even before the containers arrive.

What would you change in the industry?

I believe it’s time for a change in the industry’s “Boy’s Club” mentality and see more women occupying higher roles. Having dedicated myself to this industry and earned recognition, I advocate for greater gender diversity in senior positions. It’s crucial for maximizing talent potential.

Can you share an insight into your future plans?

Maze has consistently led the outdoor industry, frequently pioneering new designs and models in the marketplace. This commitment to innovation remains unwavering as we continue to work behind the scenes on numerous new ideas and designs, I love working on new designs and I am lucky to know some very good designers who help put my ideas onto paper, I’m very excited at what’s on the horizon. Stay tuned for exciting developments ahead!

What do you enjoy most outside of work / free time?

I have an appreciation for food, drink, and travel. I am very fortunate to be married to an amazing cook who is very good at pairing drinks with our meals. We make it a priority to travel as much as possible, exploring new cultural experiences. My kids always look forward to visiting, knowing that my husband will cater to their dietary preferences.

What might someone not know about you?

I have five kids! I don’t know how I managed to juggle raising them while travelling and not letting it affect my job. There were moments of doing homework over FaceTime early hours in the morning in the Far East, but somehow, I made it work. Now, with the youngest two at university, I hope they can be inspired to be able to have a career as well as a family.

If you had a different career, what would it be?

I would be a Midwife; I love the thought of being there at one of most precious times in a couple’s life and handing a mum her newborn.

Finally, if you were an item of furniture, what would it be and why?

If I were a piece of furniture, I’d be a lounge chair with a footstool — perfect for basking in the sunlight and embracing a laid-back vibe.

Five Fun qs:

1) If you could hack into any one computer, whose computer would you choose and why?

To be honest, that’s not something I would do. I’m not a nosey person and I’m not inclined to snoop into someone else’s computer.

2) What fact amazes you every time you think of it?

That LEGO bricks withstand compression better than concrete.

3) What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?

While sitting in a beer garden, I was reminiscing with a friend from Ireland over the phone about our missed Saturday nights. Next thing I had packed a change of clothes, grabbed my passport, and within three hours, I found myself enjoying a drink with her.

4) What is the most important object you own and why?

My Father’s Rosary Beads; they have been with me through the toughest of times, I pass them over to my kids during their times of need too.

5) What did you think was cool when you were young but isn’t cool now?

Hair Crimpers! I thought I was so cool in the 80s Ha!

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