Lower Windsor entrepreneur's all-women painting business gives personal touch
It might be a man's world when it comes to contracting, but not for Tanya Leftwich.
The Lower Windsor Township woman started her own painting business, Painting by Tanya — employing only women — because she thought women could offer a unique perspective in the male-dominated industry.
Her team, wearing black yoga pants and red shirts, doesn't look like traditional painters. They often paint homes while families are there with their kids and pets, and Leftwich always gives clients a short bio to get to know her, as well as a thank-you gift when the job is done.
"Whatever you do in life, you have to connect with people, " she said, adding she wants people to get to know her as a person and not just as a contractor.
It's that personalization that Leftwich employs in her work.
"I think that women are a little bit different" than men, she said, suggesting women have an eye for detail and color and often make the decorating decisions.
Leftwich offers a free walk-through of clients' homes, noticing how they decorate and the colors they wear, so she can offer informed suggestions.
"If they have all neutrals in their closet, more than likely they don’t want bright colors in their house, " she said.
A longtime painter, Leftwich worked with her husband flipping houses until the market took a dive in about 2007 or 2008.
It didn't take her long to start her own business.
She thought about it for about a week and realized that if she was going to be doing something for a long time, it should be something she really loved.
Her husband was extremely supportive, she said. He taught her how to maximize her time as a painter with new skills and tools, and when she told him she was going to start a new business, he bought her a whole new set of tools.
She began as a one-woman business, asking for referrals from her initial clients and tapping into her past experience doing door-to-door sales.
"I printed off flyers ... and knocked on doors with pamphlets, and that dominoed," Leftwich said.
She's now approaching 10 years at her business and works with two other women, neither of whom had prior painting experience but took a leap of faith.
While contracting might not be something women think about initially, she encourages them to "think outside the box. I do that with everything."
"Women are strong," Leftwich said. Wives and mothers are multitaskers who can handle a lot, and the job can be very liberating, she said.
As women contractors, Leftwich's team also can put families at ease more than men.
"I’m a mom, I’m a wife, so I use that when I go in, " she said, because families trust women more than men to be in their homes working.
Her team loves kids and animals, which is a big plus for families. Leftwich has two kids — a 14-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son — as well as eight dogs, seven of which are Great Danes.
Kids love to watch them work. Depending on their age, they stare and follow her around, she said, or sometimes they will get a paintbrush to practice on their own.
Leftwich meets customers through Angie’s List, Facebook, her website, flyers and by introducing herself to neighbors, but she hopes to branch out beyond her local network.
Her goal is to become a traveling painter who works on vacation homes while touring the country and the world, and her team is on board.
"We all have our passports," she said.