Growing Franchise Offers Art Playtime for Adults

Two moms from Louisiana started a business they hope offers creative adults some playtime, incorporating art lessons and … wine. In this week’s American Franchise Spotlight we channel our inner Picasso at Painting with a Twist.

Co-founders Cathy Deano and Renee Maloney opened their first location in November of 2007, they say the concept spawned from one of Maloney’s childhood memories.

“Mom used to travel with dad, who is a physician,” Maloney said. “The wives would do things, like drink Mai Tais and paint coconuts.”

With the Mai Tais and coconuts replaced by wine and a canvas, Deano and Maloney say Painting with a Twist offers clients a collegial atmosphere where they learn how to paint from a selection of almost 2,000 pieces of copyrighted art.

What started with two stores in southern Louisiana grew to 64 franchises in 16 states, thanks in part to a couple who were not quite ready for retirement.

After attending a few Painting with a Twist classes, Leslie and Marvin Gay approached the owners about franchising the business in St. Petersburg, FL  , their soon-to-be retirement destination.

“It has been a total life change,” said Marvin Gay, “I was a CPA and Leslie was an accountant too. Our exposure to the art world and creativity of art was quite limited, until we got into this.”

According to Deano and Maloney, the company does not expect franchisees to be artists. It does, however, expect that of the instructors. When Jon Hahn and his wife Lydia opened their Fairport, NY location in March of this year, corporate assisted in the hiring.

“All of our artists have a Master’s in Art,” said Hahn, who is still working his other job in industrial sales. “Corporate did the initial interviewing with us, and as a team we decided who to hire.”

Location is another factor that “corporate” likes to weigh in on. The founders attributed one of two store closings to poor location choice.

“Finding the proper location was the longest process,” said Hahn. “Corporate ran demo stats for us and gave us their advice as to demographic standards for population and income levels. They also like to see you close to the road and in a 2,500 square-foot facility that allows for a private party room.”

In addition to classes and private parties, franchisees are encouraged to find additional revenue streams by going out into the community. The Gays, who opened a second location in Tampa, signed an agreement to teach a class once a week at a local hotel in Clearwater Beach.

The founders also created a fundraising class called Painting for a Purpose, of which 50% of gross proceeds go to a designated local organization.

Franchisees can expect to put up an initial overall investment of approximately $70,000, which includes a $20,000 franchising fee. They pay out 6% of weekly gross sales and are expected to have $2,000 for marketing expenses at their grand opening and to spend $1,000 on monthly marketing thereafter.

The company recently expanded into New York and Pennsylvania and is now looking to head west. “We would love to get into California,” said Deano.

As the ladies get ready to grow their business beyond the Murray, UT location, they say they are also making sure that franchisees focus on creating the right atmosphere.

“We had a group of pediatric ICU nurses in and they told us that for two to three hours we helped them not think about what is being left at the hospital,” said Deano. “People really relax when they come in and that is the engine that drives the business.”