The sun filters through the window panes, highlighting the smooth edges of the candles and bottles lining the shelves. White bins packed to the brim with makeup and jewelry line the perfectly wall-papered wall, waiting to be packaged into their pristine white boxes. A young, blonde woman sweeps her hair into a bun, sits at her desk and admires the pieces that make up her brand: Support Her Story. There is a long workday ahead, yet her heart feels full. This career is her passion.
Brittany Merrill Underwood, Tinsley Merrill Paul’s older sister founder of Akola Jewelry, supports 250 marginalized women in Uganda. Her passion is creating a brand supporting a deeper cause ignited a passion in Tinsley. April 2020 marked the start of Coronavirus, and businesses everywhere were struggling. The world of retail was changing, and Tinsley took note of this.
Merrill Paul and her co-founders at the time were not trying to start a company. However, the brands for which they were working were struggling. The sweep of COVID-19 took no prisoners, killing the world or in-person retail and events. Small businesses in Dallas especially were struggling. Brittany Merrill Underwood watched as her life’s work of building Akola slowly slipped from her grasp. She tirelessly worried her company would not survive.
“I always grew up knowing I wanted to do something meaningful,” said Merrill Paul. “I loved the idea of start-up and how you got to wear so many hats. Support Her Story was born from a need for support and a need for businesses to continue to grow and survive in this time.”
A call to action was needed, and Support Her Story was born. The question arose about how exactly one can support these businesses, whether through engagement, inventory or navigating the online retail world. Support Her Story allowed these female-led brands to come together and support each other. The team crafted a genius plan to create a gift box available for purchase. The boxes contain beautiful luxury products from these struggling businesses.
“It truly was a passion project to help those in need during this time of COVID-19,” said Merrill Paul.
The boxes launching around Mother’s Day in 2020 were an instant hit, selling over 150 units within the first launch. The news spread throughout Dallas like wildfire, with more female-led companies itching to be a part of the project.
“This is more than just a solution for now, but one for the future,” She explained when remembering this moment’s impact on her business.
A bright student, Tinsley Merrill Paul, sits in the front row of her digital marketing class at Southern Methodist University. Professor Steve Lee excitedly teaches the day’s new lesson. Seeing potential in Merrill, it was Lee who fostered her talent for digital marketing and inspired Merrill to use these talents to venture into entrepreneurship.
Tinsley Merrill Paul grew up in Atlanta, the youngest of five children. Following in the footsteps of three of her older siblings, she attended SMU and immediately fell in love with the vibrancy of the campus. Upon joining the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, Tinsley was introduced to entrepreneurship. Through this venture, Merrill Paul pursued a double major degree in Public Relations and Corporate Communication.
After college Merrill Paul interned with the popular dating app Bumble and before its launch, she learned the fundamentals of creating a campus ambassador program and how this can promote a brand to a younger audience. In addition, she learned the ropes of starting a company from the bottom up and gaining inspiration from the team of women in the start-up space.
Reward Style, known today as LTK, took Merrill Paul on as an influencer marketing analyst. This time, Merrill talks of how amazing the world of marketing was. Marketing dollars started moving away from advertising and spearheading the new idea of influencers and their ability to market through social media. Merril watched her female leaders like a hawk. Becoming a multibillion-dollar cooperation, Reward Style offered Merrill an experience like no other.
Glasses clink throughout the busy restaurant as Tinsley takes a sip of her martini. Two gentlemen are sitting across from her, their voices eager as they share their ideas for a new company. Soon dubbed the PAIRR Experience, this company offered a solution for the experimental marketing industry. Showing interest in Merrill straight out of college, the pair initially met to start a campus ambassador program. Merrill Paul jumped on their idea to create new opportunities for influencers to monetize based on experiences. Hastily, she took a risk and left her current position at Reward Style. Starting as the Director of Marketing, she was quickly brought on as a co-founder and chief revenue officer. This recognition was an exceptional feat for her, who was only 23 years old.
Today, Tinsley Merrill Paul indeed does it all. She bounces from one phone call to the other, hopping on a plane to facilitate an event promoting her business while making time for her recent, extravagant destination wedding in Cabo San Lucas. Moving into the following year, Tinsley gushes over her excitement for the company’s growth. Highlights of the company’s expansion include the addition of many products from new female-led businesses and the launch of an online marketplace.
When asked which brand they support is her favorite, “that is a tough question because it’s like choosing your favorite child,” she said.
When it comes to choosing brands and products to sell with Support Her Story, its mission is the same as when it was initially founded which is to support as many small businesses as possible to get maximum exposure. She explains how these brands are profiled when looking at them to bring on to Support Her Story. Anchor brands she defines as small businesses created in the United States that desire a more significant impact in the world; Artisan brands are creating one-of-a-kind collections and products. However, these products are difficult to distribute in the United States. Support Her Story creates a platform for this business to thrive and grow, no matter how small. It is also crucial that these companies believe in the mission and values of Support Her Story: women supporting women.
“We are so passionate about supporting Women-Led businesses worldwide. When we can make a difference for their brand, it is truly the most rewarding feeling out there,” said Mayce Marshall, event coordinator for Support Her Story.
“The best part about my job is that we go above and beyond to support businesses who need us most,” said Marshall. “It is so rewarding to see these brands worldwide become successful overnight, and they are just so much fun to work with.”
It is remarkable to look at Tinsley Merrill Paul’s career and all she has created. However, she has never lost sight of her humble character and drive to succeed while helping others her success.
“Dive into every opportunity. Do not be afraid to get your hands dirty,” she said. “Create a mission statement in your early 20s for yourself.”
Tinsley’s recipe for success is simple: check in with yourself and ask, “is what I am doing today still my passion?” She believes one is only as good as what they are passionate about. If you can create a career for yourself where you wake up each morning fueled to work your hardest, you will never work a day in your life.