Caroline Little left her Birmingham hometown to attend college in Maine, then moving to Boston and New York City. “New York was amazing, but I craved the ease of life in a smaller city and the beauty of Birmingham’s natural surroundings I had previously taken for granted,” she says. “So, I left New York and have been in Birmingham ever since.” Now, as President of Shoal Creek Properties, which was founded by her grandfather, Caroline spends her days managing a beautiful community that offers all of the luxuries of Birmingham she admits she once took for granted. We talk with her about her career, new developments at Shoal Creek, carrying the family legacy forward and more. Meet Caroline Little.
Tell us about your professional journey. Were your sights always set on property development?
After receiving a Visual Arts and Art History degree at Bowdoin College, I landed in the marketing department of Court TV — not necessarily a natural jump from the arts, but it was certainly entertaining! Once I returned to Birmingham, I got a job in the marketing department of Bayer Properties. At Bayer, I realized I was eager to do much more than marketing and began work in their real estate department as a tenant representative and a Summit property leasing agent. Meanwhile, my dad, George, had been working with my grandfather, Hall, at Shoal Creek. After working in commercial real estate for four years, I left Bayer to join my family. At the time, I had no idea how my previous experience would help with my new job, but I jumped right in and tried to identify areas of opportunity for both our real estate business and for the community of Shoal Creek. The rest is sort of history. While technically, we are property developers of Shoal Creek, I’m not sure I see myself that way. I really see myself as a guardian to a beautiful property and special community. I look at the property development as a way I am furthering the legacy of a beautiful community by adding new homes for more families to enjoy.
Tell us a bit about Shoal Creek’s history. Where did the concept originate?
There are many stories out there about the origins, but the simple truth is that my grandfather, Hall, loved golf and loved a project. My grandmother will tell you that he annoyed her so much about building a golf course that she finally told him to either quit talking about it or do it! So, he did! At the time, the residential component was secondary to my grandfather’s desire to build a world-class golf course in Birmingham’s backyard. The location of the residential component was actually informed by where the golf course would go, something contrary to what other community developments have done in the past. Also contrary to other developments, all the available land was platted at the very beginning so that prospective Shoal Creek residents could take their pick of lake, mountain, wooded or prairie lots. Property development of this kind is almost unheard of in other communities, but it has allowed our community to always feel wooded, secluded and less dense even as we continue to develop and as more communities pop up around us. Interestingly enough, while the residents of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s chose to live in Shoal Creek to be close to the golf course, many families now choose Shoal Creek for the security and the peaceful, wooded neighborhood. Once they are introduced to the amenities of Shoal Creek’s lakes, stables, golf, hiking and privacy, they find the special place they are looking for to call home.
What does the future look like for Shoal Creek?
The future of Shoal Creek is exciting. We continue to have new families choose our community as a place to live. In some cases, they want a quiet community to raise their kids, and in other cases, they want a place that feels secure to them as they approach retirement and want to spend more time traveling the world. We continue to stay true to the original vision of Shoal Creek while adding elements to make the community more and more attractive.
Describe your typical day.
Honestly, every day is different — which I love! Between the security, landscape and equestrian employees, there are always various projects happening. We are always dealing with different situations and project needs. It certainly keeps work-life entertaining and interesting!
What is most challenging about your role? Most rewarding?
The most challenging part about my role is that in a way, I never truly take a break, so it is often difficult to find balance. I think most people running companies of any size probably feel the same way. Even when everything is running right, my mind is always working on something. And with security employees working 24 hours a day, issues often come up before or after traditional work hours. The most rewarding part of my role would be working side by side with my dad and the relationships I have developed with both our employees and our residents.
What do you like to do when you are not working?
Spending time with my husband and children is obviously top of my list, but I also enjoy playing tennis.
Do you have a mentor or role model, and if so, why do you admire them or what have they taught you?
I have many role models in life. I admire my dad’s kindness, patience and ability to listen to others, and I admire my mother’s tenacity. I admire my husband’s intellectual curiosity. And I admire those around me who seem to get the job done despite what hardships they encounter.
If you could go back to when you were younger, what advice would you give yourself?
Be confident and don’t worry about what people may think about you, because no one is thinking about you as much as you think they are.
If you weren’t in your current job, what career would you like to have?
I think I would have a small atelier working on drawing, painting and sculpture.
What is your favorite thing about Birmingham?
My favorite part about Birmingham is that our community offers the amenities of a larger city, without the congestion that you would find in those same places. Our botanical gardens, zoo, museums and parks, just to name a few, are all amazing.
Favorite local restaurants?
What is your proudest accomplishment?
I think I’m still working on it; I’m focused on the long game with both my family and work. I have three beautiful and amazing children whom I hope to be molding into kind, respectful and contributing citizens; and I’m proud of the work I’ve accomplished thus far at Shoal Creek. But I still have a list of goals I want to meet. Each day I’m navigating through life, trying at both parenting and work. I guess my proudest accomplishment so far is having the opportunity to call this my journey.
What is something people might be surprised to learn about you?
I really consider myself a shy introvert; although, I am pretty certain none of my friends would say that about me.
What are your must-have style staples?
Anything black, comfortable shoes — age is getting the best of me! — and a little bit of makeup.
Any guilty pleasures?
Anything chocolate and, unfortunately, a few reality TV shows.
What is your best piece of advice?
Be sure to listen and be open to new ideas, but be firm in your decisions and try not to second-guess yourself.
Name three frivolous or lighthearted things that you can’t live without.
Chocolate, coffee and my Samsung phone
Thank you so much for sharing with us, Caroline, and thanks to Eric and Jamie Gay for these beautiful photos!
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