Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Molly Blankenship and her daughter Margot during a photo shoot at their home on Friday, June 4, 2021 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Editor's note: In keeping with our theme of social media this year, we asked each of "the 20" to submit personally curated photographs and answer questions that offer a sneak peek into their private, as well as professional, life. We also had them choose a location for their lead photo shoot that ties into who they are.



Chattanooga 2.0 executive director; Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce vice president of talent initiatives; The Lavinia Project founder and board chair (2015-2017); Writer Corps board member (2015-2017); Harvard Graduate School of Education By All Means Consortium community lead (2019-present); Read20 board member (2020-present); Chattanooga Rotaract member (2020-present); U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Leads Fellow (2018-2019); Leadership Tennessee Next, Class II (2019-2020); a Forbes '30 under 30' (2020)

Age: 27

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20 Under 40: Molly F. Blankenship


* Facebook or Instagram?


* What would your personal hashtag be?


* What would you list as your top 3 likes? And, dislikes?

Woah, in general?! That's broad! Likes (excluding my child, because obvi): Sharing a bottle of wine and talking all night with someone I love, an excellent interaction with a waiter, a day spent on the river. Dislikes: Political division that prevents progress, violence — especially among youth, when someone leaves toothpaste in the sink bowl.

* How old were you when you got your first cellphone?

12. It was a pink Motorola Razr, in case you were wondering. *hair toss*

* Piece of tech you couldn't live without (or wouldn't want to)?

My dear, beloved, almost-always-there-for-me Apple Watch.

* Social media — love it or hate it?

Leanin' toward "hate" these days.

* What was your last post (about)?

A series of pictures from my Memorial Day weekend spent boatin' and floatin' on the Caney Fork River with my family.

* What do you consider your biggest accomplishment?

Raising a daughter who, so far, models kindness, empathy and optimism in her interactions with the world around her.

* What is the biggest challenge or hardship you have overcome?

From the time I was 10 until I turned 20, I was offtrack and at risk in every conceivable way — academically, socially, spiritually, you name it. But aided by the transformation that is motherhood, I managed to find my path, my purpose and some other "p" word I wish I could think of right now for the sake of alliteration. Anyway, I'm proud of my continuous growth and learning. More than anything, though, I'm grateful. Really, really grateful.

* What kind of influencer would you be?

I have endless content about funny ways I've fallen or hurt myself, interactions in the workplace, and all the ways in which I think the world can be a better, kinder and more hopeful place. So, a self-deprecating, corporate executive influencer peddling optimism, I suppose?

* Any goals for this year?

Heal from 2020. Lead boldly and thoughtfully. Find balance. Seize opportunities to learn new things. Say 'yes' to enriching experiences.

* What's one thing you would change about Chattanooga and why?

The real answer, magic wand-style? I'd end the tale of two Chattanoogas. In an instant, I'd permanently address the social, educational and economic disparities that continue to hamstring our overall economy. The more lighthearted answer? Easy — downtown Target. And you can tell Charles Wood at the Chamber I said so.

* Why did you choose this location for your shoot?

Like for most of us, the past year was defined in many ways by difficult change, grief and transformation for my family. And as a result I'm coming out of the pandemic a changed person, one whose life and perspective are different than they were when I was sent home to quarantine in March 2020. I purchased this house at the end of 2020 following a divorce from my longtime partner (and surrounded by a network of supporters, advocates and helpers I am forever indebted to). I purchased this house for a new version of my family: a family made wise by the lessons of the past year, a family that is grounded in love and connection in the present, and a family that is blessed to be at a new beginning. Our home exists between Margot and me, no matter where we are. But this house? This house brings our home out into the open. And that's why I chose it.

* Tell me about one of your favorite memories.

OK, this one's easy: thIN spring 2019. I took a trip to England and Scotland with my dad and siblings. You ever seen the Christmas movie "The Family Stone?" My family is sort of like that — riotous, intense, always down for a good time. So, we ate like royalty and got back to our roots when we stayed in a castle built by our ancestors. We partied with the "Wehgies" in Glasgow. We fell in love with Oban and its "whisky drrrankin." And involuntarily spoke in nondescript Scottish accents the entire time (mostly just me and my dad, who actually got stuck in the accent at one point, I think). It was an adventure I'll always remember, despite the many, many pints and drams we enjoyed.

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