Setting the BarPinot's Palette
Colleen Carlee Brings the Paint and Sip Concept to New Jersey
In the mid-90s, Colleen Carlee was working as an investment banker, commuting from her home in Montclair, New Jersey to nearby New York City. She enjoyed her job – it could be stressful, but it was also interesting and fast-paced. And when she had her first child she decided to keep working, balancing motherhood with a career that often meant spending 12 hours a day away from home.
When she had her second child, though, Carlee decided to take a break from her career.
“I just couldn’t keep up,” she says. “I loved my job, but it was just too much. I wanted to take time off and raise my kids.”
That was 15 years ago. Today, Carlee’s two sons are high school students with busy lives of their own – and Carlee has just launched a brand-new career as a Pinot’s Palette franchise owner. She enjoys the freedom and flexibility that comes with being her own boss, and she loves seeing her studio filled with happy customers who are painting, drinking, and having fun.
“When people come here, they have a great time – that’s one of the most rewarding things about this job. Artists are doing what they love, and people come with their friends and feel creative. It’s nice to work in an environment like that,” she says. “I like that I’ve brought the paint and sip concept to my area of New Jersey.”
“I Was Looking for Something Different and Unique”
Although Montclair is an artistic town with plenty of galleries and museums, there weren’t many opportunities for locals interested in pursuing their own creative endeavors. When Carlee discovered Pinot’s Palette, she knew it would be a perfect fit.
“We didn’t have anything like Pinot’s Palette in New Jersey,” recalls Carlee, who spent months researching potential franchises online before she discovered the paint and sip industry. “I was looking for something different and unique; I didn’t want to do something that had been done before. And when I found Pinot’s, I had a really good gut feeling.”
That good feeling became even stronger after Carlee called Pinot’s Palette headquarters and talked to company co-founder Charles Willis about franchise opportunities in Montclair. A few weeks after her initial phone call, she booked a flight to Houston to attend “Discovery Day,” the company’s information session for potential franchisees. The trip gave Carlee an opportunity to get a feel for a typical studio’s day-to-day operations, and,
more importantly, it gave her a chance to attend her first-ever painting class.
“I loved it. I wanted to go back and take another class,” says Carlee, who visited the company’s original studio in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood. “After that first class, I knew that this was a concept that would definitely work. I talked with the artist and the studio manager, and it just reinforced the feeling I had about the franchise.”
Carlee admits that she looked at several competing paint and sip franchises, but after her trip to Houston, she decided that none of them were quite as polished and professional as Pinot’s Palette.
“There was definitely a difference,” she recalls. “Pinot’s Palette had the best painting library, and their studios were more uniform – even though each studio is unique, you can always tell that you’re in a Pinot’s Palette. I didn’t get that feeling from the other franchises I researched.”
After her trip to Houston, Carlee signed a franchise agreement and began searching for the perfect location for her own Pinot’s Palette studio. She held her grand opening in August of 2013.
“Be the First One”
Carlee says the paint and sip concept has really taken off in Montclair. Her classes are popular, and people in the community enjoy having a place to socialize and be creative.
“I had a feeling that Pinot’s Palette would work in this community – and everyone has been really receptive to it,” she says. “People often come up to me after class and ask, ‘How did you ever find out about this?’ I’m glad that I trusted my gut feeling that it was going to be a successful concept.”
Since Carlee opened her studio, she says that a couple of other paint and sips have popped up in and around Montclair – but she’s not worried about potential competition.
“People see my studio as the first one. We’ve set the bar with Pinot’s Palette,” she says. “There are a few other paint and sip franchises here now, and a couple of independent studios – but I still feel that Pinot’s Palette is way above the competitors. If I could give advice to anyone considering opening a Pinot’s Palette studio, I’d say: Do it. Be the first one. Get out there before everybody else does!”