Carole Marsh is both an internationally-recognized children’s author and the founder and CEO of Gallopade International, a multi-million dollar educational publishing company.
But don’t let that teensy little fact about Carole fool you; in person, she’s as down-to-earth as they come. A self-taught, boot-strap entrepreneur, Carole will be the first to admit that her life isn’t about jet-setting and three-martini lunches.
“Recently, a woman came into Gallopade and I was the only one still there, sitting half in the dark at my computer hunkered over about a gazillion Civil War books, and would be for hours more,” Carole says. “This is the real me, struggling for the right word, the best interpretation, the most elucidating fact, not the lady in the red suit and heels autographing books at Barnes and Noble.”
Carole’s famous among the elementary-school crowd for her Real Kids! Real Places! children’s mystery series, whose characters include fictionalized versions of herself, her husband Bob Longmeyer, her children and (nowadays) her grandchildren. She was honored as Georgia’s Author of the Year for 2009. But Carole’s real-life story—from financially struggling divorced mother to hugely successful writer and business owner—contains all the drama, heartbreak, courage and inspiration you could ask for in any novel.
As a child, Carole’s most prized possession was her library card. “I always wanted to be a writer,” Carole says. “The more my parents and teachers told me what a bad idea that was (the poor, starving writer thing), the more determined I was.”
Although Carole continued to develop her writing abilities throughout high school and, after graduation, was accepted into Georgia State, her career plans were temporarily sidetracked. She got married at the age of 18; by the next year, she and her husband had started a family. Between several relocations for her husband’s job and the demands of being a mother to two young children, Carole’s dreams of being a professional writer were on hold.
Over time it became clear that her marriage wasn’t working out, and Carole eventually found herself divorced and broke, with two young children to support. “Mostly I just suffered along as if nothing [jobs, money, fun and travel] was for me,” she explained to The Citizen in 2009, “but one day, well, I just turned around and I was older, wiser, cuter, savvier, stubborn—and a writer.”
At the time, Carole was living in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. She began writing articles for the local newspaper and then moved on to bigger things, starting a public relations/corporate communications company. Her business’s success gave her the validation she needed to move forward, eventually selling her company when its demands seriously infringed on the time she was spending with her children. Around that time, she met Bob Longmeyer, who would later become her husband. “Right away, he just got what I did,” Carole explains. “He’s been so helpful and supportive—my perfect right-hand man.”
In 1979, Carole wrote her first children’s book, The Mystery of Blackbeard the Pirate. “I took my manuscript to a New York publishing conference and learned that the way to have control over your work and to make money was to ‘do it yourself,’” she says, adding, “It was the best business decision I ever made. Today I have 30 years’ worth of work still in print, and own all copyrights. Who knew ‘intellectual property’ would be such a good investment?”
The path wasn’t always smooth, though; getting started was a slow and arduous process, and about five years after she’d started Gallopade, Carole almost lost everything as a result of an economic recession and other events. “At one point, the only thing left was a small warehouse filled with my early mysteries. But I figured my customers didn’t know I was out of money and out of business so I just kept writing, selling, shipping, and billing,” says Carole. “In a short time, things turned around.”
It may have all started with one book, but today Gallopade has thousands of books and other educational products, sold all across the U.S. and around the world. In addition to Carole’s mysteries, many of which take place in various real locations of historic significance (such the Grand Canyon, Jamestown, Niagara Falls, the Rocky Mountains), the company publishes a vast array of educational materials, including books and curriculum products on each state in the U.S. and African American and black history. Carole is proud of her company’s ability to stay current. “Within four days of 9/11, we had products in the stores and in the schools to help the kids. When kids were struggling with Georgia’s curriculum, we created a workbook that helped them,” she says.
And, when asked to consider what has made her so successful over the years, Carole is quick to give credit to her family—her husband Bob and her children, Michael and Michele, who all play instrumental roles in Gallopade. “This is a family business, and I think that women shouldn’t overlook that opportunity. You raise your children, and having a family business is a good way to keep that family intact. It just gives you a support system.”
Finally, Carole credits her persistence and determination: “Do you what you must and let fate overtake you. Ignore the doubts. It’s part of the nature of entrepreneurs to be ahead of their time. You don’t know why sometimes, but you’re almost always right.”