Carol Pine, Pioneer

Carol Pine, author, journalist, adjunct professor, entrepreneur, mentor and a pioneer as each of them.

As a young girl, growing up in her particular family and in the environment of that time, she believed she was never enough. She learned to persevere, always to persevere, and then she pushed herself more and tried harder; hence, the pioneering, risk-taking, long-working hours and a fully-subscribed life.

She started her first business in 1973 without a single client and when there were very few women entrepreneurs who were out there trying to make a serious living (not starting a business as a hobby and expecting hubby to make up the losses). “This was a huge, risky deal, though I didn’t realize it at the time,” she says. “ I had no role models. I had to make it all up as I went along. I learned a lot from my mistakes, from writing about business and learning from my subjects,” And that led to a best selling book, Self Made: The Stories of 12 Minnesota Entrepreneurs, and an award-winning, monthly column on entrepreneurship in Corporate Report magazine. .

Carol has had four businesses, beginning as a freelance writer and then expanding to owner of communications firms specializing in corporate history and corporate culture. She learned early to make the most of her talents and to serve a specific audience.

When Carol decided to limit her writing career to the very specific niche of corporate history and culture, she never wavered from this specialty for any reason. Even a good one like cash flow. And this time she was selling a product that almost no one knew was needed. Nevertheless, she was able to build her company, Pine & Partners, by nudging corporations that valued their histories to chronicle them. Her clients have included 3M and Medtronic. Today, she has competition but there is no other firm in the country that has the track record of Pine & Partners. (Website address:

Her work also led to a weekly column on corporate culture that ran for five years in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press Sunday Business section. The column was frequently picked up and run in other Knight-Ridder newspapers around the country.

Carol received the Minnesota Maverick Award from the Minnesota Women’s Press for her pioneering work involving women in entrepreneurship. Additionally, she was a finalist in the INC Magazine/Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for her work as Chair of the Governor’s Council on Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

As a girl and as a woman who tried so hard to be enough, supporting women and girls is a major part of her life. And as a person whose guiding principle has been to “tithe,” to always give back, and because she didn’t have a husband or children, she felt she could always do more. She served on thirteen boards at one point, including being the first female Chair of the Hazelden Foundation Board of Directors and Vice Chair of the prestigious Minnesota News Council.

When Carol served as President of the Journalism School Alumni Board at the University of Minnesota, she launched a mentoring program for the school’s junior and senior students—specifically because graduates were not prepared enough with hands-on work to be hired. There were four constituencies in the J-School who needed to be sold on this new idea: administrators, the professional community that needed to supply the mentors, faculty who thought they were already doing a fine job of preparing their students, and of course, the students themselves. Within Carol’s one-year term, all of this was not only accomplished, it was spectacularly successful.

Year after year, the program kept growing; more and more students wanted to participate and more and more mentors needed to be found. Soon other schools at the University took notice and adopted the J-School model for their own undergrads, as did universities across the country. The mentoring program is 25 years old and still going strong.
Continuing this mentoring role, Carol was an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communications for 15 years.

Carol also founded the Smooth Sailing Program for the Greater Minneapolis Girl Scout Council. It was designed to involve girls-at-risk in understanding the importance of being a team member and knowing the thrill of accomplishing something powerful. For five summers, Carol took groups of Girl Scouts out to her sailboat on Lake Minnetonka to show them how to sail and how to feel good about themselves and their abilities. She successfully recruited a dozen other female “skipper/coaches” to give their time and donate their sailboats to the effort. Over the life of the program, more than 130 girls -- who were considered at-risk -- were served by this volunteer effort.

She’s accomplished so much in business and community service, and that makes Carol feel good and capable and true to her principles, but her passion is sailing. “When I worked hard to learn to sail and then to handle a boat alone, single-handing for weeks at a time out on the Atlantic, that was a true affirmation of what I was capable of. Sailing was the medium for me and it demonstrated that by learning and stretching and daring, I could take this sport seriously and be one of the very few women single-handers around,” says Carol. This is true Carol Pine—taking her passion as far as it’s possible to go. Her closest female, single-handling buddy lives in Australia.

In her mid-50’s Carol did something that had never been done before with a sailboat. She built, inch by inch, the first women’s team over the age of 50 to ever compete in the Rolex International Women’s Keelboat Championship held in September 2001 and September 2003 in Annapolis, Maryland. The name of the team: Hot Flash. They will compete again in late September, 2005. The event attracts more than 60 all-woman teams from around the world.

Carol had three objectives other than racing her heart out in Annapolis. First, to transform the way women over 50 see their potential. Second, to inspire women to pursue their passions. And third, to challenge stereotypes associated with “mature” women.
Building the Hot Flash team was the challenge of her life. Training three nights a week and practice racing every weekend, making every sailing mistake in the book on Lake Minnetonka—in a very public way—was excruciating for the team, but more so for Carol because she was the one who had put her whole being on the line. And to continue this manic pace (on top of long working hours) all spring, summer and fall traveling to Florida to train in the winter, for two years before their first race, is hard to imagine for just about anybody but Carol. So to find three other team members with this level of commitment, and massage their various skill levels and attitudes into a cohesive unit, was painstaking for Carol—to be outdone only by having to replace crew who couldn’t take the grind and then starting to build the team all over again.

It’s no surprise that Hot Flash received a Special Merit Award from the Minnesota National & Women’s Sports Day and that Minnesota Women’s Press picked the team as one of ten change makers in 2001. Carol is asked to tell various women’s groups the story of Hot Flash and there’s no doubt that she’s fulfilling those long held objectives, inspiring middle-age women to believe in themselves, to know that by persevering, always persevering, they can reach for their own dreams.

It seems that Carol’s pioneering spirit is soul-deep. She can’t stop herself from pushing against the norms—even in her home life, which will no longer be on terra firma. Perhaps it has been done before, but it is certainly atypical for a woman to give up her home in an elegant Victorian on Crocus Hill to move to, what else? —a houseboat!

Of course, Carol’s long trail of accomplishments did not just come along smoothly and unbroken, without life’s tragedies and personal anxieties getting in the way. She’s not superhuman even though it seems that way most of the time. It’s her deep faith in God and, at long last, in herself which keeps her going strong. That and a whole lot of physical fine-tuning.

“It’s not easy taking a team of geezer girls and showing up at the starting line with 65 other ballsy, women sailors,” Carol says. “But I have never in my whole life been more fit and strong than I am today, about to turn 60. Here’s my mantra: My body simply has to keep up with my plans! So I do the work to keep the ole bod strong, flexible, fed properly and rested. I know that this in and of itself is an inspiration to other women. They have told me so.”

She’s given her all to raising the presence of women in the boardroom and at the helm at sea. But Carol’s story is not nearly finished. For the immediate future, she’s working to compete in the 2005 Rolex. After that, all we know is that whatever path Carol decides to take, she’ll be paving the road for those who follow.