Kip and Kim Miller's lifetime commitment to Anderson University through the Kim S. Miller Family Enterprise Institute of South Carolina
The Kim S. Miller Family Enterprise Institute of South Carolina is the natural outgrowth of an Upstate family’s commitment to philanthropy locally and globally.
Kip and Kim Miller, 1977 Anderson University alumni, own and operate The Eastern Companies, whose focus is exceeding customer expectations through God-honoring values of honesty, integrity, caring, self-responsibility and being positive.
The Millers are husband and wife partners in Eastern Industrial Supplies and other family enterprises that are renowned as one of the most successful family-owned enterprises in the South, serving markets in the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and Alabama.
Kip is president of Eastern Industrial Supplies, a full line supplier of industrial pipe, valves, fittings and commercial plumbing products. Kim is the president of Eastern Power Technologies, a division started in 2014 as a specialty products distributor devoted to serving the power generation field.
Kip said that for many years he has searched for ways to honor his wife, whom he describes as a “modern Proverbs 31 woman.”
“She is respected and trusted by all that know her, she knows how to operate a business successfully, she is uplifting and encouraging, she has a ‘serve first’ mindset, she is unselfish, she puts herself at the bottom of the organization chart, and she cares about our associates like she does our own family,” he said.
To Kip and their three children, Kim is known as a godly wife and loving mother. Their children, Anderson University graduates Meagan Miller Owen (’07, master’s ’12), Derrick Miller (’09) and Tricia Miller Daniel (’15), joined other family members in supporting a University initiative that was established recently and named in Kim’s honor.
Unique in the state, The Kim S. Miller Family Enterprise Institute of South Carolina (FEISC) is a membership organization whose mission is to provide education, networking, support resources and research to help family enterprises and those involved in or helping them maximize their overall health and sustainability. The FEISC fosters learning, sharing and creative solutions regarding the many critical issues and problems faced by family enterprises. “As Christian business owners, Kip and I are called to steward the business God has placed in our hands,” Kim said. “Family businesses have unique opportunities and challenges and we can all learn from each other.”
After graduating from AU in 1977 with an associate’s degree, Kip earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of South Carolina. After leaving UofSC, he began working in Eastern’s warehouse and greatly benefited from the mentoring of owner George Bagwell as he learned the business “from the ground up.” As they worked together, Bagwell expressed a desire that Kip become his successor someday if anything were to happen to him.
On New Year’s Eve in 1986, Kip was praying about an attractive offer he received to work for a competitor when he received a call that Bagwell had suddenly passed away. In July of 1987, Kip became president and majority owner of Eastern Industrial Supplies.
“I raised my salary just enough to cover debt payments incurred with purchasing George’s stock and made no more money over the next several years as I concentrated on growing the business and caring for our associates and customers,” Kip said.
For the next few years, Kip and Kim developed a roadmap for strategic growth and streamlining the company’s operations, establishing a location to serve as headquarters, building a second location in Anderson, building a strong corporate management team and implementing a new computer system to efficiently handle inventory and transactions.
Specializing in the quality distribution of pipe, valves, fittings and commercial plumbing products, Eastern believes people are always more important than profits, articulated as “PVF150”–People, Values and Faith, paired with the goal of being a $150 million annual enterprise in the next five to seven years.
When he applied to Anderson, Kip was asked to write a paper; he chose the title “Being a Christian Businessman in an Evil and Sinful World.” Years after becoming the president of Eastern, Kip realized that the paper he had written was actually God’s call on his life and he was challenged to lead Eastern from a biblical perspective as he grew the business and cared for its associates.
“Leading a company based on Christian principles is more about what you do instead of what you don’t do,” he said.
These Christian values are reflected in Eastern Cares, begun in 2002 and dedicated to four main C’s of caring: company, communities, country and other cultures. Eastern Cares embodies the family’s desire for a culture that positively impacts people. Eastern cares for its associates, as associates care for one another, whether through weekly chaplain visits in partnership with Corporate Chaplains of America or providing assistance in times of crisis. Also, a fund was established for awarding undergraduate scholarships to children and grandchildren of full-time associates.
Eastern and its associates are in the community participating in blood drives, supporting rescue missions, youth homes and children’s shelters. Among the many organizations they have helped are Special Olympics, Helping Hands Ministry, Miracle Hill Ministries, Campus Crusade for Christ (CRU) and Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). They have also established The Cares Fund for meeting specific financial needs within their communities.
Nationally, Eastern and its associates have taken part in national outreach efforts including Operation Rise & Conquer, National Breast Cancer Awareness, and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Awareness and have also been involved in hurricane relief. Outside of the country, Eastern associates have traveled overseas to Peru, Kenya, Guatemala and Tanzania. Among the projects overseas was the start of an orphanage in Tanzania, where Eastern and its associates provide the majority of their monthly support.
“We are convinced that our core values are the key to our success,” he said. “We understand that living out deeply held values sometimes comes with a price. Our associates are committed to taking this risk.”
“Giving back to our community is an honor and privilege that we do not take lightly,” Kim said. “God has graciously blessed us and we are called to be a channel of blessings to others.”