April 25, 2024 | Spotlights

Paris Gholston, Mattress Recycling Council

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Recycling Mattresses And The Importance Of Scholarship Opportunities

Paris Gholston is a woman dedicated to giving back as an homage to those who have helped her in the home and furnishings industry. As Customer Relations and Compliance Coordinator at Mattress Recycling Council, she’s spent 9 years in the industry working her way up and building relationships with folks all over the U.S. She joined WithIt 9 years ago when she first entered the industry and has since become heavily involved in the scholarship side of the nonprofit, serving as the Vice President of Scholarship for several years now.

We sat down with Paris to learn more about her passion for helping young women in the industry. Read our full interview below.

Q&A

How did you find yourself in this industry?

I moved to Washington D.C. because I was into sports. I graduated from the University of Tennessee in sports management. I came to D.C. and realized I enjoyed my freedom more than working every weekend. I put in for a job and I didn’t know anything about it. I got a phone call saying we’re looking for someone to do this and that, and I said, ‘Sounds good to me.’ It’s really been something I didn’t know I would enjoy. Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve met tons of great people, and it kind of kept me. 

What does a typical day look like for you?

In a single day I’m trying to maintain the relationship with our program participants, make sure our participants are in compliance, and search for new participants to make sure it’s an even playing field. Compliance is a tough word, but it’s more of a, ‘Help me help you before the state gets involved.’ I can make it as easy as possible to make sure you’re doing everything right.

What are some of the folks you work with?

We have mattress manufacturers, distributors and retailers, wholesalers, anything dealing with the mattress industry. It’s like a fraternity or sorority, everyone knows everyone. I think that’s what makes it kind of enjoyable. 

What makes you passionate about your work? 

It’s the people. It’s a very fun industry; it’s a helpful industry. Everyone wants to see everyone do better. Right now the buzz word is sustainability, so everyone is doing what they can to make sure they’re taking care of the earth and making their products more sustainable. And the advancements in innovation – it’s a very cool process to see that happening. What people use to make beds these days, how they break them down to repurpose them, the technology, the machinery – it’s nothing like I’ve ever seen before. Now we have multiple options to recycle beds. We have a lot of researchers in our line of work that are looking to repurpose the beds, etc. We have a lot of students doing research, and seeing what they propose is incredible. 

When did you get involved with WithIt? 

It happened when I got this particular job. I came in as a younger person in the industry. When I got to this job, a few women told me, “You won’t enjoy this unless you make a network of your own.’ They suggested getting some professional development and a way to make connections. They set me up with the membership, I went to the first conference and now I can’t imagine my career without it. 

You’ve been particularly involved with the scholarship side of the organization – how did that come about?

I’ve always been pretty passionate about education. Amy Van Dorp approached me during Covid when there was little hope in the world and she asked me to help out. Any opportunity to provide more resources to students, especially women in a male-dominated industry so we can showcase our own abilities, was and still is interesting to me. During the first round of scholarships, I saw there were incredible women out there with great ideas and they deserve everything they can get to showcase those ideas and their brilliance. It’s a giving back for what was given to me. There are so many opportunities and they just haven’t been shown how to take advantage of them.

When I got to this job, a few women told me, “You won’t enjoy this unless you make a network of your own.’ They suggested getting some professional development and a way to make connections. They set me up with the membership, I went to the first conference and now I can’t imagine my career without it.

Paris Gholston

Can you explain how the scholarship process works? 

As VP of scholarships, we have a certain amount of money donated to the organization and we have a fund that we disperse to the applicants every year. I form a committee and we get the applications from students and they have an essay, transcripts, three reference letters and a few other things. We go through and assess each application on a scale. It’s a month-and-a-half of looking over scholarships and assessing them. We then award each student a scholarship to help with expenses in their upcoming school year.

What are some of the things you’ve gotten out of your WithIt membership? 

Specifically I can say growth. I am not a public speaker; I don’t like doing things in front of people, and this has gotten me out of my shell a little bit. I have to get up and announce the winners at the WithIt Annual Professional Conference and been invited to go on panels to talk about mentoring.

For me, it’s about giving back and paying it forward.
Interested in learning more about the WithIt Scholarship Foundation? Click here.

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