Women in Business: Beth Willis - Co-founder and CCO of Pinot's Palette

Beth Willis is a founding member and Chief Creative Officer of Pinot's Palette. Beth is regarded as the leading visionary for product development, represents the customer's perspective, and identifies key consumers trends. Within this role, she collaborates locally and nationally to develop multiple new paintings every month for the Pinot's Palette library, including any custom paintings requested by Pinot's Palette customers, and plans the monthly calendars according to customer demand.

In the first days of Pinot's Palette, Beth presented key evidence for consumer market sustainability of the Paint and Sip business which provided fuel for Charles and Craig to put their plans into action. She is both credited with scouting the Montrose location and designing the Galleria location, including the stylish Picasso room.

Outside of her work with Pinot's Palette, Beth is a full time Clinical Pharmacy Specialist and mother of three.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I never really considered myself as a natural born leader, but it's something that evolved naturally for me. In my previous work experience, I wasn't satisfied with doing things "the way they had always been done" if it meant inefficiency or suboptimal results. I had the courage to speak up and bring ideas to the table on how to do things better, and that led to gaining more responsibility and eventually being put in a leadership role.

Moving ahead to when we started Pinot's Palette, it was an entirely new concept and new experience for me. I was coming from a pharmaceutical background and opening an entertainment art studio. We had a great business plan to get us started, but on some things we were writing the rules as we went. For the first six months, I pretty much worked at every class and private party that we had so that I could truly get a feel for what would make every class truly amazing and make the customer experience top notch. While that experience was invaluable to the start of our company, it also helped me gain the trust of our employees. They began to see that I not only had our best interests in mind, but that I also had the expertise to lead and make the right decisions.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Pinot's Palette?
My previous work experience taught me how to work with people from different backgrounds and with different personalities - how to respect those differences and even use them to the advantage of the task at hand. Working in healthcare with people with different disciplines, it could be hard sometimes to remember that we were all on the same team with common goals. I found that I could be the glue that brought those team members back on the same page to move forward. It was nothing that I learned in college or in my training, but was just something innate that I could do and that gave me a lot of satisfaction.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Ever since we started Pinot's Palette, I've established a new normal that is insane, but at the same time, so fulfilling. We have two girls - 4 and 3 years old - and a three-month old boy at home. My children absolutely make my world go round. As challenging as it is to juggle it all, I find so much joy coming home at the end of the day to them. I'm also extremely blessed to have a great support network of family and friends. My group of girlfriends makes a concerted effort to make something happen every couple months - girls' dinner, spa day, brunch or something else fun and just for us. It's amazing what a few hours with your girls can do for the soul - I come back home being a better wife and mom and feeling like a better version of myself back at work.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Pinot's Palette?
We started the company as just one tiny studio. Watching it grow in just a few years to the size we are today- it's just unbelievable. I remember the excitement of our first customer sign-ups and first sold out classes like it was yesterday, and now to look at where we are: more than 80 studios across the U.S. Each week on average, 6,000 people visit Pinot's Palette studios and that number continues to grow - it's just awesome. I absolutely love seeing the videos of people getting engaged at our events! It's an awesome feeling to know that people in all different locations would choose us for a special occasion, and then Pinot's Palette is a part of their story for the rest of their lives.

As with any business, we've definitely had our share of challenges. Pinot's Palette is pioneering a whole new industry. When we started, we found that the technology we needed to make our business run smoothly didn't exist to the standards that we needed. Craig and Charles built the software from the ground up with custom reservation management and point of sale system being the biggest of those.

What advice can you offer women seeking a career as an executive?
Don't think that you should hold back your good ideas and innovative thoughts because you're not an executive. A good leader knows that the best ideas come from the people with boots on the ground because they are the ones with the real perspective. Sharing your ideas and innovative thoughts are probably the best way to gain responsibility and to lay the groundwork for the path forward to roles with more leadership.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
That's a tough question for me to answer because we actually have more women working throughout our system than men, both on our headquarters team and also throughout our franchise system. So I can't speak globally, but from the working mom perspective, as much as I strive for this great work-life balance, the toughest thing is when both of my worlds - work and life - hit rocky points at the same time. It's absolutely impossible to give 110% to both or either. I go for a while with everything in this perfect routine and feeling like I have everything under control. Then a day hits when daycare calls and one of the kids is running fever right as I'm going into a meeting that I just absolutely cannot move or cancel. No matter which way it goes, I feel guilty - I'm either having to rely on someone else to take care of my sick child, or rely on someone at work to fill in on something that I should be taking care of - guilty feelings either way. Talking with other women, I feel like that's a common theme for women in the workplace, this internal guilt that we put on ourselves because we can't be everywhere at once and can't be the best at everything all the time. But I think it really is internal - I don't feel that pressure coming from anyone but myself. In the moment, I just have to remind myself of that, give myself a little reality check and power through it.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Like anyone else, my very first mentors were my parents. Their strong work ethic definitely had the biggest impact on me. My dad took me to school everyday, and he'd talk a lot about work. He managed people for a living, and even as a kid, I really grasped his method for treating the people that worked for him with the same respect that he wanted to be treated. He held himself to the same high standards at which he wanted to see his employees perform. Looking back, I realize he wasn't having those conversations with me by chance; it was his way of leading by example. It's something I want to make sure I can pass down to my kids as well.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
One of my favorite women of all time is Mother Theresa. I just started one of her books, and reading about the experiences that she had really makes the things that I sweat on a daily basis seem so small, but at the same time, she writes about it so humbly. And on top of all that, she also had a really good sense of humor, which I totally didn't expect. I've found myself laughing out loud at parts of it.

I've also been a huge fan of Ellen DeGeneres. Her positive attitude is absolutely infectious. In a world that can sometimes be overwhelming with tragedy, she focuses on the positive and spreads that outlook in a really successful way from a major outlet.

What are your hopes for the future of Pinot's Palette?
Our growth has been outstanding, and I hope to just see that continue to skyrocket so that we reach every major market and become a household name. Before the end of the year we expect to award our 100th studio location. Two years in a row, Pinot's Palette ranked on Entrepreneur's prestigious Franchise 500 List and has also received the FBR50 Franchisee Satisfaction Award by the Franchise Business Review. We've surpassed huge milestones in five years, and I'm looking forward to reaching many more milestones in the years to come.