"Junior Achievement helped me be unafraid of entrepreneurship."

 

Caroline Milton: Small Business Owner. It is not a title this JA Alum ever expected to claim. But life has a way of surprising you. After graduating with a Biomedical Engineering degree from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Caroline spent more than seven years building a career in manufacturing operations and supply chain management. Finding bottlenecks and improving processes came naturally to the Northern Indiana Native. “I’m a problem solver by nature. I like to think in patterns and analyze things to come up with the best solution.”

Caroline’s aptitude for understanding complex systems extended to building teams. “I love the goal setting process. I challenged my team members to take on full scope projects by themselves. I was eager to cultivate diverse teams.” Caroline quickly found that her leadership style influenced the makeup of her workplace saying, “By the time I got to middle management I had created teams that looked very different than when I first started. It was rewarding to shift the culture in a different direction.” But the further she climbed her industry’s ladder, the more she questioned if it was her best path to fulfillment. “There were things about that work that weren’t in alignment with what I wanted. The long hours. Middle of the night phone calls. Intense conversations about contract negotiations.”

The young woman embarked on a soul-searching mission to decide her next steps. “I thought back to high school when I played organized sports. Some of my teammates were very clear on the fact that they wanted to be coaches. I remember thinking I couldn’t do that.” But as the years passed, Caroline continued to have a passion for health and wellness, participating in half-marathons, triathlons, and Spartan races. The culture around these activities introduced her to a growing industry: Health Coaching. “I stumbled into the concept. Health Coaching is all about helping people set goals and build habits. That is what got me excited. I saw so many parallels between that and what I was already doing as a people manager!”

The final push to start her own practice came after sitting on a plane next to a bible-reading man during a flight to Sin City. “I was working in corporate still and I had a training in Las Vegas. I promise I wasn’t going to gamble,” Caroline laughed and continued, “I started talking to the gentleman sitting next to me on the plane. We talked about the importance of health and wellness. It turned out he had started a business when he was young, even though he was expected to take over his dad’s company. It didn’t go over well with his family, but he believed in his vision.” The two strangers bonded over the many things they had in common and kept in touch. “I’ve turned to him on a regular basis for advice, support, and prayer. When this all feels overwhelming, I appreciate having someone to talk with. I don’t have to hold back…I can be authentic with my questions.” Having the support of this unlikely mentor was the final piece of the puzzle.

In 2019, Caroline left the supply chain world to dive headfirst into entrepreneurship as founder and CEO of The Transformation Table, an organization that builds corporate wellness programs for employees eager to manage stress and improve their energy. “I use natural methods. Food, exercise, sleep, lifestyle, and environment management as a holistic approach to avoiding burnout.” As of February 2021, the company is celebrating its second anniversary. Caroline has no regrets about spending the first part of her professional career in supply chain. It helped her build the skills she needed to strike out on her own. “All of my time in engineering and manufacturing was not wasted. It truly projected me into this career.”

Though becoming a small business owner wasn’t the first stop on her career journey, the seeds were planted early in her mind after her experience with Junior Achievement as a young person. She still recalls the incredible impact it had on her thoughts about the future. “I had JA in my later elementary years. It was the first time I really understood working to be dependent on relationships. I realized that you can’t be successful in ANY field if you’re unwilling to develop relationships and lean into those relationships. It was a lightbulb moment for me.” Caroline also remembers how JA helped her grasp the potential of being your own boss. “It was the first time I understood the concept of exchanging money for goods and services. I think learning about supply and demand is why I initially went towards a supply chain route coming out of school. But Junior Achievement also helped me be unafraid of entrepreneurship. It made it less intimidating.”

Caroline has words of wisdom for JA kids to apply to their life. “Don’t get distracted. There are so many things people will tell you will solve your problems. The real problem is having a short attention span. Pick one thing you want to be proficient at and work at it. If you get good at it and it’s still not working out, THEN change directions.” Caroline encourages young people to persist, even when the going gets tough. “We tend to be impatient, to not invest in ourselves and become competent. But that is something really necessary for business ownership.”

Even though her company is still in its early years, Caroline is determined to create lasting change in her field. “My grand vision is to change the way of working in America, and in the global workforce, by understanding employee productivity. Instead of asking ‘how can we get more out of our employees?’ I want to build cultures that ask, ‘how can we invest more into our employees?’ Caring for their well-being will in fact produce more in the long-term.” Caroline acknowledges that she has her work cut out for her, “I know that it goes against modern capitalism. We try to get as much as we can out of every single resource. But the truth of things is that every living thing is a finite resource. We must treat employees as a finite resource too or else we are not going to sustain it. That’s the grand vision.”

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