Pinot’s Palette Owner – and Franchise Council Member – Lends a Helping Hand to New FranchisesPinot's Palette
“When we first opened, I was filling the calendar with the paintings that I liked . . . I had to learn to focus on the community. People talk to you and tell you what they like. In the last four or five months, I’ve gotten into a groove with my calendar. Our class size has increased, and we have a steady, regular clientele now.”
It was February of 2012, and Alana Padgett was looking for a fun and romantic idea for a Valentine’s Day date night. When she came across an ad for Pinot’s Palette, she was thrilled. She knew that a trip to the Houston-area paint-and-sip studio would be just the thing to re-awaken her husband’s passion.
His passion for art, that is.
“My husband Gene is an accountant, but his first love is art,” Padgett explains. “He’s a phenomenal artist — but he put that passion aside in college and got into the whole ‘corporate America’ thing. That’s why we chose Pinot’s Palette for our date night – and we just fell in love with it. The energy there was amazing, and Gene and I decided that night that we were interested in opening a studio of our own.”
From there, Padgett says things moved pretty quickly. As soon as they got home from their class that night, Gene visited the Pinot’s Palette website and requested information about opening a franchise. By the end of the week, the Padgetts were talking with the paint-and-sip’s corporate team. By the end of the month, they were making plans to attend a Pinot’s Palette “Discovery Day” to meet the team and learn more about becoming franchise owners.
Padgett admits that she and Gene briefly considered a few other paint-and-sip studios – but not for long. “There are really two main paint-and-sip franchises in Houston,” she says. “I talked with several people who had been to both Pinot’s Palette and the other franchise – and everyone told me that Pinot’s had a nicer studio, the artists seemed like they had received more training, and that the locations just looked better. We could just tell that Pinot’s Palette had the better model.”
A little over six months later, in September 2012, Alana and Gene were opening the doors to their very own Pinot’s Palette studio in the The Woodlands, Texas.
Reaching Out: The Birth of the Pinot’s Palette Franchise Council
For many new Pinot’s Palette franchisees the build out process can be a little intimidating at first. Franchise owners come from all sorts of backgrounds and industries – from oil and gas to healthcare to event planning – and they aren’t always familiar with the ins and outs of building and renovating a retail space. The Pinot’s corporate team is always there to lend a hand and assist with the more technical aspects of the build out, but many new franchisees have questions about the process.
New Pinot’s Palette franchisees sometimes have a hard time explaining the paint-and-sip concept to people who aren’t familiar with it. “Nobody knows quite how to categorize paint-and-sips,” says Padgett. “Some people think you’re going to be a restaurant with a full kitchen. In some states, it’s mandatory to have a bar and there are questions about insurance and permits.”
Padgett says that, as a new franchisee, she often reached out to other, more established Pinot’s franchise owners when she had questions and concerns about the process. Eventually, after her studio had been open for several months, new franchisees began to reach out to her for advice. They were asking about everything from navigating BYOB laws to choosing the right kind of insurance.
This informal support network paved the way for the creation of the Pinot’s Palette Franchise Council, which kicked off in early 2013. The Franchise Council provides a vital link between the corporate team and the paint-and-sip’s rapidly growing network of franchise owners.
Potential council members were nominated by other Pinot’s Palette franchisees, and the company held formal elections to determine which nominees would join the council. Padgett says she was thrilled to be among the nominated and elected members. One of her first projects as a member of the Franchise Council was working with Charles Willis to create a mentoring program for new franchisees. The mentoring program includes the Pinot’s Palette New Studio Forum, which provides guidance and mentoring to new franchise owners.
As moderator for the New Studio Forum, Padgett is responsible for leading weekly conference calls with new franchisees. During the calls, new Pinot’s Palette owners can ask questions, share best practices, and seek advice on issues like local BYOB laws, permits, and, day-to-day operations. Padgett is also in the process of compiling detailed information about each studio to assist with the build out process.
“Everyone wants to know what the other studios look like, and they can’t get out and visit all of them,” says Padgett. “So I’m creating a spreadsheet that includes the square footage, length, and width; whether they have a bar or a kitchen — things like that.”
“You Have to Listen to the Community”
Between the day-to-day responsibilities of running her Pinot’s Palette studio to the demands of heading up the New Studio Forum, Alana Padgett has a lot on her plate (Gene indulges his passion for art by helping out when he can, but he still works full-time at his “corporate” accounting job). As a council member, she participates in a mentoring program and she is currently working with six new franchisees, providing guidance and answering questions as they begin the build out process.
Additionally, Padgett and the other council members are in the process of streamlining the review and approval process for new paintings. They are also creating a “painting scorecard” to help franchise owners determine if a particular painting will be popular with customers in a particular location or demographic.
“You don’t always know which paintings will work – you can have a really great painting, but it might not work for the location you’re in,” she says.
Padgett admits that she learned this lesson firsthand in the early days of her studio. “When we first opened, I was filling the calendar with the paintings that I liked,” she says. “I had to learn to focus on the community. People talk to you and tell you what they like. In the last four or five months, I’ve gotten into a groove with my calendar. Our class size has increased, and we have a steady, regular clientele now.”