Interview with Phyllissa Shelton on PopUp Painting’s Third Birthday!

Interview with Phyllissa Shelton on PopUp Painting’s Third Birthday!

PopUp Painting turns three. I put forward a few questions to Phyllissa Shelton, Managing Director of PopUp Painting. From being one of the first business managers in the NHS, a hospital board director, and a leader in transformation across healthcare, ultimately making her way to today: Popping up across bars and restaurants in London for exciting themed painting and wine events.

Phyllissa Shelton is a leader to watch out for. Read on to find out the story behind PopUp Painting and how it came about.

What is your professional and educational background?

I spent six years in industry and then for the next twenty five years, worked in health care. I have a diploma in management and a Masters in health services management and marketing.  My main career has focused on innovation and change management for various health companies putting forward major new change programmes in health services which had never been done before.  For example I brought cartilage transplantation technology into the country whilst at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore.  As a result of my reputation for innovation in the NHS, I was head-hunted to lead a private sector health care company, (now owned by Bupa), that introduced Predictive Risk Stratification across the NHS (this is a tool that identifies patients that are at risk of being hospitalised).   Later, working as MD for Wellness at Tribal,  I introduced ‘Healthy FE’, a platform for managing wellness amongst students and teachers across the country. Other experiences include working on the national Fit For Work Programme with GPs; leading major fundraising campaigns and redesigning healthcare systems. My last role in healthcare was as a leader in one of the world’s biggest companies, but in December 2011 I chose to leave the big corporate world and am now in one of the country’s smallest companies!

What was it like to leave healthcare after a quarter of a century? 

I’ve retained my interest in healthcare by acting as a mentor and adviser on occasion. Surprisingly, I use the same skill set today as I’ve used throughout my career. Ultimately my work today is about bringing a new product to market and delivering outstanding customer experience – that is exactly what I did in healthcare.

How did the idea of PopUp Painting come about?

A close friend, who is an American fighter pilot by background, suggested it to me.  I had worked with him in implementing change leadership in the health service when I was doing service transformation and performance improvement work across the Norfolk Health & Social Care System. We remained friends and he became a part time commercial pilot for United Airlines and every time he would fly to London we would meet for dinner.  In 2011 when we met in a restaurant in London he said ‘Hey Phyl have you heard about the latest craze in America – it’s called sip and paint?’  He explained to me what the concept was and he said ‘I’ve just invested in one of these, in Denver Colorado, why don’t you think about building a business like this in London.’  I basically said ‘Heck no! I’m a health care executive – what would I know about that?’ and he said ‘No Phyl you’re an innovator.’
He left that with me and I thought about that during the summer whilst taking some me time and watching the Olympics.  By October I decided I would go for it and I set up the company in January 2013, launching fully in April 2013.

Describe your daily routine for PopUp Painting?

As you would expect for a small start up, it’s much more hands on than what I used to do when in a big corporation where I would have a whole team of people.   A typical day can consist of handling private and corporate enquiries, monitoring sales and registering guests, planning for events and all the necessary logistics, liaising with and sourcing venues and managing supplies and staff.  Doing all that in the day time and then going out in the mid afternoon and actually running an event in the evening.   (Sounds like full on stuff!)

Over the years, how have you seen PopUp Painting grow?

We started in April 2013 with between four and six events a month. A year after that we were doing a dozen a month, and now in our third year we’re running thirty events a month and hiring new staff to expand. In that time we’ve had nearly eight thousand guests. Our canvases typically come in boxes of sixteen, so that’s five hundred boxes of canvases to order and transport and thousands of paint brushes to wash!!!

With no artistic background, what is your motivation for running PopUp Painting?

The fact that I’m not an artist gives me an incredible advantage because I can focus on running the business and not getting too bogged down in artistic elements. It’s even more of an advantage because we are all about making art accessible for everybody. Because I’m not an artist I’m living proof that anybody can come along and do these events. My motivation is that I’ve always focused and had a passion for empowering. For example when I was a junior manager in health care I was empowering my staff so that they could take more responsibility and be more confident. As a senior leader in care management I was doing that with health care professionals so they could control and manage their delivery better as well as with patients so that they could manage their own health better and be more independent.   I see PopUp Painting supporting people to be creative and see that as a kind of empowerment, ieh elping people develop and nurture their creativity and therefore helping them grow. This extends to businesses too not only through the team work we do with them but as unleashing creativity helps innovation and innovation supports productivity.

What is it about PopUp Painting that you think attracts customers?

PopUp Painting is unique. There are a handful of very small companies doing little bits of this in England but nobody doing it at the scale we are doing it and nobody doing it with our product integrity.  We are not about just turning up with a pot of paint and slapping paint around. We are about themed experiences, and that is unique. There are thousands of companies like this in America and not one has a themed playlist that we know about although some are now copying some or our painting ideas!  I wanted to take what I saw in America but make it a more integrated, sophisticated experience in England and my ambition is to enhance that further, so that the customer will be completely immersed in a particular artistic genre.

Where do you see PopUp Painting in five years?

We will certainly be a national brand and are likely to have a fixed premises which would be our showcase space. We will still continue with our social painting experience, which is our core PopUp Painting product, but will likely have other products too – for example, this week we launched our Street Art offering.

How do you feel about competition?

I’m glad to see it, because it helps develop the market. I’m not frightened to see it because I know how hard I worked to get the company to where it is today, and not many people work harder than me!

What do you like best about PopUp Painting events?

The receptiveness and contact with consumers is better than when I was in healthcare.  It was hard work making healthcare change happen and you get a quicker reward in this line of work!  Also I meet some absolutely fascinating people;  we might have a ballerina from the English National Ballet one event, a musician from a well known group, or a production crew from a top TV programme, a news reader, banking executives, humanitarian lawyers, people from the European Parliament; vets, students, policy makers, doctors, advertisers, fashion designers.. you name it!. The spread, breadth and richness of what people do and going around and finding out what people do and how they feel about their painting is fascinating!!

If you could be a painting or artwork what would you choose and why?

A brunette Marilyn Monroe because I got the curves!! or maybe a plump Audrey Hepburn. I think it would be fun to be a Pop Art piece!


Phyllissa is an entrepreneurial woman of many hidden talents, her innovative mind has enabled many to experience great change and develop skills they would initially dismiss. With PopUp Painting it allows creative abilities to shine whilst also being entertained.  You can catch Phyllissa at most of our events, if you can’t see her (above the canvas!) you will definitely be able to hear her.


Thanks for supporting us!


  1. […] Been to a PopUp Painting event?  Then you would have seen Co founder Gareth. Together with Phyllissa, Gareth has built up the PopUp Painting brand for over 3 years. Whilst not an artist himself he has […]

  2. […] Been to a PopUp Painting event?  Then you will likely have seen Co founder Gareth. Together with Phyllissa, Gareth has built up the PopUp Painting brand for over 3 years. Whilst not an artist himself he has […]

  3. […] States. In February 2013 we flew over to Boston (USA) to try an event. None of us (neither myself, Phyllissa nor Rick – the founders) have an artistic background. I was personally really surprised by how […]

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