Sometimes it takes just one great idea.
As Beth Willis tells it, she was aware of a similar notion elsewhere, but when she and her sister went looking for something like it, there was nothing in Houston. With her husband, Charles, and their buddy Craig Ceccanti, they decided this was a great idea.
I am a professional skeptic (or grump, but skeptic is swankier) and even I see how cool it is: Their business, called Pinot's Palette, conducts fun evening art classes, involving wine consumption, at the end of which the student has produced a version of the featured painting.
The first Pinot's Palette opened on Taft Street in Montrose in 2009. Soon the waiting lists told the trio that it was time to expand, to a second location in the Galleria area.
"When it started, all three of us had day jobs," says Beth Willis. But soon, Charles Willis and Ceccanti, who both have MBAs, were concentrating on Pinot's Palette. Beth Willis, however, having just recently completed seven years of higher education, kept her job as a pharmacist.
Let's pause for one minute to consider the busy life of Beth Willis. She is an entrepreneur. She is a pharmacist. She is mother to Addie, 2½, and Camille, 15 months. "It's a little bit chaotic, but it's our normal," she says.
Here's how the classes work: The paintings that will be reproduced are featured on the website. An artist conducts the class (I mentioned the wine, right?). "It's structured to be a lot of fun," she says. And yes, there's an implicit acknowledgement that this will attract a kind of "girls' night out" crowd.
The idea has taken off in a big way. After the first few Pinot's opened, the founders decided it was time to franchise. Now a total of 13 are open around the country, six in the Houston area, with that total set to more than double, including markets such as San Francisco, Manhattan, Oklahoma City. "Our goal is to be in every major U.S. market," Beth Willis says.
"Our growth is fantastic and we are so happy that other entrepreneurs are choosing Pinot’s Palette," she says. Upcoming will be kids' classes so that parents can "drop and shop" and an expansion into corporate events, but the focus will always be on the adult evening classes.
"It's fun doing something we all love so much," Beth Willis says.