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Meet Stephanie Thornton Plymale of Heritage School Of Interior Design in Rhino

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephanie Thornton Plymale.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Stephanie. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I owned an independent design firm for twenty years, serving hundreds of residential and commercial clients. While I loved being an interior designer, I was ready for the next chapter of my life. I went back to school to study business and became certified as a Master Life Coach and Makeup Artist. I routinely volunteered at Dress for Success and enjoyed supporting women in gaining the confidence to transform their lives. So indeed, it was serendipitous that the opportunity presented itself in 2014 to purchase Heritage School of Interior Design. I felt a strong purpose in helping others achieve their dreams and to do so via education in interior design seemed a perfect and natural next step.

At the time, Heritage was an outdated, struggling school. I literally loaded what remained of it into the back of my truck and drove off with a strong vision in mind. I relocated Heritage out of the suburbs and into the heart of Northeast Portland – on Mississippi Ave. I began to bring together who is now our exceptionally talented faculty and staff and redeveloped the entire curriculum to bring it into the twenty-first century. Within our first year, Heritage – Portland was seeing great success.

A couple of years later, a standout graduate, Rhonda Larson, showed interest in launching the second Heritage location. Rhonda had been looking for an excuse to move back to Denver, so the decision to open the next location in the RiNo District was easy! Heritage – Denver, opened in January 2017 and has since been a huge success. In March 2018, we opened Heritage – Seattle, located in the Seattle Design Center. We now have our sights set on California! Heritage embraces each local student and has also proven to be a destination education – people are moving from all over the country and from abroad to attend our schools in Portland, Denver and Seattle.

Has it been a smooth road?
It’s been quite smooth overall, but no new venture is without its roadblocks! The biggest challenge in the beginning and as we grow is finding faculty and staff team members who have the same values that I do. Thankfully, we now have an incredible and committed staff at all three locations. The interior design industry is ever-changing, so another ongoing focus is keeping the curriculum current and cutting edge.

Please tell us about Heritage School Of Interior Design.
Heritage School of Interior Design provides a unique alternative to a traditional Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree in Interior Design. We empower the creativity of aspiring designers and professionals with an elevated, accelerated, and affordable hands-on education that is immediately relevant to the responsibilities of a real-world designer, or of a professional in other capacities within the interior design industry. Our graduates are winning awards and getting press attention. They love what they do and it is our pleasure to serve them.

As CEO, I ensure that our faculty, staff and students have what they need to be successful. As Heritage becomes more established in our communities, we see an increase in organizations and firms reaching out to us to hire students and graduates. I provide additional career coaching to help them land their first role in the industry. We love to see our students and graduates succeed and we base our marketing efforts on promoting their success – it benefits them and our school.

Tell us about your childhood, what were you like growing up?
I loved interior design before I knew it was a viable profession. Growing up, I never experienced a sense of home. My mother was mentally ill, I was without a father, faced chronic hunger, truancy, homelessness, and ongoing sexual violation when in foster care. Even as a young child, the concept of creating a loving home was a beacon and a drive within me that helped to get me and the school where we are today. I’ve always seen so much beauty in the living world and tried to make the best of any situation I was in, quite literally making something out of nothing.

My first memoir, American Daughter, releases on February 11th, in which the secrets of my childhood and my journey to healing and overcoming are revealed. My intention with this memoir is to share my story and encourage others to share their own as a pathway to healing and growth.

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