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Paula Blankenship of Heirloom Traditions Paint: Why We Need More Women Founders & Here Is What We…

Paula Blankenship of Heirloom Traditions Paint: Why We Need More Women Founders & Here Is What We Are Doing To Make That Happen

An Interview With Ming Zhao

Put together a Business Plan to ensure you have a real plan that is bankable and profitable so you can move forward to start the process.

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Paula Blankenship, Heirloom Traditions Paint.

Paula Blankenship, Founder and President of Heirloom Traditions Paint, founded the company in 2013 when she took her experience as an interior designer and desire to revamp her unloved pieces of furniture around her home to task and developed her own paint formula. Heirloom Traditions Paint’s mission is simple: their products are designed with the painter in mind, simplifying the process of painting home furnishings, cabinetry and other interior and exterior surfaces by reducing complexity and cost. They have combined what once were multiple steps into one product and took the guesswork out of choosing the right products.

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Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Heirloom Traditions Paint was founded in 2013 in Paula Blankenship’s kitchen, originally created as a means to keep her teenage son Braden occupied after school. Paula was a busy commercial interior designer traveling to New York City to work on large scale commercial design projects in the greater New York area. Prior to doing commercial design work, Paula had owned and operated retail furniture stores with her sister Sherry in her small, southern hometown in Tennessee. There she developed a love for home interiors, DIY, and a passion for furniture & design. “Our family has been in the furniture business all of my life. My parents were retailers, and I grew up in and around the business.” Paula took her desire to revamp her unloved pieces of furniture around her home to task and developed her own paint formula that would later become Heirloom Traditions Paint.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I made many mistakes when starting out and none of them were particularly funny. I can look back now at some of our original content we shared on social media and laugh at how cheesy it was, but it worked, thank goodness. I learned and refined my skills creating, editing, and producing content that is good but not perfect. My best lesson is to be real. Trying to refine you and your process is good but don’t overthink it. Just do the best job you can and let it go. Don’t be Pinterest and Instagram perfect because no one lives in that unrealistic world.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Everything I have accomplished has been a team effort. I would not be sitting here writing these words to you if I had not had a great team around me. Early on, the team was small, just me and my son Braden, then later my husband Craig came on board. About 6 months after starting the business I had what I like to think as a serendipitous moment. I was looking to move my business into a larger space as we had already outgrown our warehouse. Our landlord took me into another larger office/warehouse suite that was coming up for rent soon and that is where I first met Melissa Osborne. Melissa was a bookkeeper for a weapons builder in a machine shop there and she took us on a tour of the space. It came to my attention that Melissa was a wonderful bookkeeper and soon enough she was working for me part time. That was the miracle in itself. Her joining me was very pivotal in our success today. I trusted in her opinions even though I didn’t always like them because I needed honest objections and she was able to give me her thoughts without holding back. It proved to be a very valuable union of two people who respect each other but still have their own set of beliefs and skills that help us see both sides of the coin every day. It has been the most successful work collaboration I have experienced to date. Today, Melissa runs the business and manages both the employees and manufacturing sides of the business as well as doing marketing with me and our team and she’s still overseeing the books. Invaluable.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

“They Way I Heard It” by Mike Rowe. The book shares how Mike started from a very humble beginning on Home Shopping Network and how meeting with Joan Rivers was very influential in his success even today. I believe everyone you meet has something to offer you. If you take the time to listen to their journey, it can help shape your own journey.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

Yes, mine is from my fellow Tennessean, Dolly Parton. “If you don’t like the road you’re on, start paving another one.” I started my business in my kitchen when I was looking for something to keep my teenage son busy. I was working in NYC as a commercial designer at the time, but I was hoping to find something I could do that would allow me to be home more with my son who was an age I needed to be home every night.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

In 2021 we created a ESOP (employee stock ownership plan) to allow our 31 employees to become owners of our business. This opportunity will allow our business to carry on in our absence and continue to provide a living to many who live and now work in this small, rural community into posterity.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

Lack of self-confidence and the fear of failure.

Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?

I try and teach and lead by example. I share my personal story of starting my business in my kitchen with thousands of our women followers, hoping to encourage someone to take the leap of faith and start their own business.

This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

Most women are empathetic and can handle stressful situations. Being in business today requires heart and giving a piece of yourself to your audience and your business. Consumers today want to know and like who they spend their money with. Women are well suited for growing and cultivating an audience today making them great candidates to becoming founders of their own brand fueled by passion and a desire to help others.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share 5 things that can be done or should be done to help empower more women to become founders? If you can, please share an example or story for each.

  1. Educate, Understand your key audience. Flush out your idea with business incubator groups.
  2. Seed Money, SBA loans and PayPal loans.
  3. Foundational Steps, understanding what steps you need to take to get your business started.
  4. Internet URL. Understanding what roles the internet plays in your business success and your website. Determine your market strategy
  5. Put together a Business Plan to ensure you have a real plan that is bankable and profitable so you can move forward to start the process.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Our paint products are all about helping users (98% Women) refurbish and restore their homes keeping what they already own. This keeps so many items out of the landfills cutting down on waste and helping to save our planet. Our products are green, and the green initiative is important to us and our brand. We manufacture paint here in Kentucky and we use recycled plastic containers produced in Troy Alabama. Made in the USA is very important to us and if I could start a movement, it would be to encourage everyone to buy products made right here in our country, supporting businesses and taxpayers here in America.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Dolly Parton.

How can our readers further follow your work online? Follow us on our app on HTP Painters Place, available on Apple and Google as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tiktok and Youtube.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

Paula Blankenship of Heirloom Traditions Paint: Why We Need More Women Founders & Here Is What We… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.