CD: Louisiana State University - Bachelor of Interior Design, School of Art and Design
RM: University of New Orleans - Bachelor of Communications
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Mandeville, La. residents Cathy Deano and Renee Maloney found themselves seeking work with more meaning – something new and inspiring that would also give them a platform to give a little something back.
The duo came up with Corks N Canvas, a paint-and-sip art experience aimed at helping the inexperienced painter create original work, and two years later, began franchising the business as Painting with a Twist. Now, they have 215 franchise locations across the country. “It is human nature to want to interact with others, to laugh, to sing, and to share creative experiences,” Cathy said. “All of that is achieved at Painting with a Twist.”
Both past fundraisers, Cathy and Renee also created Painting with a Purpose, a monthly fundraising event held at all Painting with a Twist locations, to help support local nonprofits in each franchise market and serve their original goal of giving back to every community they’re a part of.
We’re human beings; we’re wired to interact. But in this age of technology, we’re becoming more and more alone in a world full of people. It’s human nature to want to interact with others.
What inspired you to launch Painting with a Twist?
Cathy: In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, we wanted to start a business that not only inspired us, but gave us a venue where we could give back to our community, which was still reeling from the effects of the storm.
Renee: After Hurricane Katrina had passed and everyone was reevaluating their lives, I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue managing an orthodontic practice. I wanted to do something really inspirational or exciting… something new! Cathy and I would brainstorm ideas about a business we could start where we could utilize our fundraising skills, while also giving back.
What does a day entail in your positions?
Cathy: As one of the founders, I’m involved in all aspects of the business. A typical day would entail answering emails from franchisees and vendors wanting to partner with us, as well as meetings with our operations team. I also oversee all of the art and copyrights, so I confer with my team about to whom we should send infringement letters and which infringements warrant a look from our trademark/copyright attorney. I review and approve all art submissions from our franchise artists. I also usually meet with our manager of development to see what areas we will be licensing in the near future.
Renee: Interacting and organizing projects with our home office staff, along with meetings, brainstorming creative ideas and looking at ideas that come from our franchisees. I’m also in charge of the money side of the business, so I look at numbers and trends along with budgets and forecasting for future growth.
What are your favorite aspects about your job?
Cathy: I love facilitating a business that makes people happy. When our customers leave a Painting with a Twist studio, they feel relaxed and accomplished. Our franchisees love their work because they’re the conduits that are making this happen.
In the past, art was the domain of only the very talented or the rich. Painting with a Twist has exposed the general public to the joy and creativity of art. There are many heartwarming stories that come out of our studios — from marriage proposals to servicemen seeing their families for the first time since deployment. We’ve had cancer survivors painting together, as well as families celebrating birthdays and anniversaries.
Renee: I love the relationships and partnerships in this exciting, authentic business. These relationships don’t stop with the home office staff; they run deep with our franchise partners and incredible artists.
Why do you think the paint and sip business model has become so successful, and do you think it’s a fad?
Cathy: This business has tapped into the need in our society to reconnect. In the age of screens, when people who are sitting in the same room are texting each other and all communication is done electronically, people are looking to have a real connection and have somewhere to digitally detox. We’re human beings; we’re wired (excuse the pun) to interact. But in this age of technology, we’re becoming more and more alone in a world full of people. It’s human nature to want to interact with others — to laugh, to sing and to share creative experiences.
All of that is achieved at Painting with a Twist. In our system, we train our team on how to facilitate that in a class. It’s our “secret sauce.” We really do it best! Another reason is that women had no place to meet and gather. Bars aren’t conducive to the types of experiences women want and meeting in each other’s homes is inconvenient. What to do with the kids? The husband? The dirty dishes? We’re a meeting place for women and more and more for date nights and other social gatherings, too.
How do you consistently incorporate local communities and giving-back at Painting with a Twist?
Cathy: At Painting with a Twist, we’ve built in the program Painting with a Purpose. All of our corporate studios and a majority of our franchisees host Painting with a Purpose classes regularly. In these classes, the studio partners with a 501(c)(3) non-profit entity and anywhere from 50-100 percent of the proceeds is donated to the nonprofit. To date, we’ve raised over one million dollars for nonprofits in areas where we have franchises. It’s one of our proudest achievements.
Renee: It’s very important to become an integral part of the communities in which we do business. We become involved by partnering with local nonprofits that want to use our venue to raise money for their cause. This is something we do on a monthly basis in a majority of our studios.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
Cathy: Not too much, honestly.
Renee: Things that wake me up are usually things I feel I need to revisit. It’s always an “ah ha” moment if something wakes me up, meaning I need to reconsider a stance that I’ve taken on something or make a decision about something that’s lingering.
Is work/life balance ever a problem with either of you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
Cathy: Yes, work/life balance can definitely be challenging. I love my job, so I find myself staying late brainstorming with Renee and our development manager. To balance a hectic work schedule, I try to travel for fun as often as I can, and attempt to shut off “work mode” on weekends. I read a lot for pleasure too. It helps to have a VERY understanding husband who admires my work and never asks when I am going to be home. I also have a 17-year-old son who is used to my schedule and understands I am working hard to secure our future.
Renee: Work/life balance is a constant dilemma for me, and it takes planning and a lot of communication to keep things stable. My goal is to be the best boss, wife and mother I can be. A very wise person once told me that you can be all of those, just not all in the same day! I try to make plans and then communicate them to the people around me. I look at schedules and make sure that I plan a late night at work on a night my daughter is having dinner with her grandmother. When I’m out of the office doing family things, I do my best to totally disconnect from technology and work and dedicate that time to my family. The hardest thing for me is to remember to take time for myself. My best friend has to remind me to put the oxygen mask on myself first, or I’m of no use to anyone else.
What are some of the rules you live by?
Cathy: Truth and honesty are tied for the No. 1 spot. I try to follow it up with kindness, fairness and integrity.
Renee: Do unto others as I would have them do unto me. Always tell the truth even if it is hard. Family first. Don’t do anything that I would be embarrassed to tell my children.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful as an entrepreneur and franchisor?
Cathy: I think successful entrepreneurs and franchisors possess similar qualities, like a positive attitude, serious work ethic and concern for others. It’s important to think about how a decision will affect all that are involved, not just you. I also believe that being open to ideas and surrounding yourself with people who know more than you will improve your success.
Renee: To be a successful entrepreneur, I believe you must have some chutzpah! To be a good franchisor, I believe you have to love your concept, believe in the partnership that you’ve made with your franchisees, live the vision of the company and continue to innovate and collaborate. As a franchisor, it’s also important to balance growth and keep an eye on the unit volume increases year by year. Live the culture of the business and stay in touch with your partners.
What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 20-something version of yourselves?
Cathy: I would tell myself to think about the future, do what makes you happy, and not to be so concerned with what others think of you. Just be true to yourself.
Renee: I would tell my 20-something self that it’s okay to dream and that you can do anything that you put your mind to, as long as you have the right intentions. If you help enough people around you get what they want, it will in turn help you get what you want.