Nancy Bigley, CEO of Bottle & Bottega Talks Paint and Wine

For obvious reasons, social gatherings are more festive when there’s a bottle of wine to share. Unsurprisingly too, it turns out that non-painters can paint better, or at the very least, with less self-consciousness, when they have a paint brush in one hand and a wine glass in the other. One part artistic adventure and one part cocktail party, pairing paint and wine can unlock anyone’s inner artist.

I recently had the chance to talk to, Nancy Bigley, CEO of Bottle & Bottega, a franchise cashing in on this trend.

Q: Good morning, Nancy. Where did the idea for Bottle & Bottega come from?

One evening in 2009, shortly after my business partner Stephanie King-Myers and her husband were laid off from their jobs at a luxury spa, they were at home painting. A friend came over and said, “I wish I could paint like you.” Over some wine, Stephanie proceeded to guide her friend step-by-step through painting her own masterpiece and Bottle and Bottega was born.

Q: How did you bring it to life?

Stephanie’s first event was a private fundraiser that not only sold out, but also captured everyone’s attention. From there, Stephanie continued to host events and partner with restaurants and wine bars around Chicago. In 2011, I came on board and we opened our first studio. By the end of that year, we launched our franchise program.

Q: Where do you see Bottle & Bottega in five years?

We doubled our size this past year and are projected to do the same for 2015. With the help of our high caliber franchisees and high performance corporate team, we have a strategic plan to expand our franchise presence throughout the country, as well as globally. As we continue to establish ourselves as the country’s elite, unique paint and wine concept, I want our franchisees experiencing even more success than they have now.

Q: If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Although I am proud of the growth we experienced in three short years, I would have invested more focus on building consistency into our business culture. If we had done so, I am sure we could have retained more great people early on. I underestimated the ambiguity and fear that can occur with start-ups. As an entrepreneur, I find it exciting; but for employees on a budget, maybe not so much.

Q: What does your typical day look like?

There is usually a lot of travel involved. However, I always start with a workout. I learned early in my career that I could do a lot more when I’m fit and healthy. Then, I have an hour blocked out each morning to work on my number one project that I feel will drive the greatest results for our company. From there, I usually have three to five regular conference calls throughout the day with my team, franchisees or vendor partners. Otherwise, I’m moving through my daily task list, which is prioritized the night before. As for the end of the day, I focus on finance, goal measurement and strategy planning….followed by a glass of wine and a good book.

Q: What is one trend that really excites you?

Same store sales increases. As a numbers and analytics junkie, I am always looking at our business trends, while game planning along the way. I get so excited when I see year-over-year increases rising. It tells me we are continuing to get better, as evidenced by our high level of repeat guests and referral business.

Q: What is the worst job you’ve ever had and what have you learned from it?

Two years out of college, I worked at an exclusive high-end designer clothing boutique. I quickly discovered there was an unhealthy work environment in place for the employees. I realized that I needed to thrive in a workplace that had values, morals and respect for their team. For this reason, I left after six months and started at an entry-level job at a franchise organization that changed my life. After working there for 12 years, I worked my way up to the Vice President of the company. Within that experience, I learned starting over doesn’t have to be a bad thing – it’s all about following your heart and making the most out of every opportunity.

Q: As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do, too?

First, it’s important to frame a clear-cut set of goals and budgets. From there, constantly measure progress against those goals and making the necessary adjustments. If you don’t know where you are going, don’t have the entire team focused on the same goals, or know if you are on target it’s going to be tough to grow.

Q: What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Focusing more on setting and living the culture of the company every day. We lost a couple of great people in the earlier stages of the business that I would have liked to see grow with us. As the CEO, I’m responsible for communicating the vision and values of our company and ensuring we are living up to them. There should always be a strong correlation between how we work every day and our values.

Communication is the key to all locks, and Bottle & Bottega has invested much time and energy in achieving this. It’s my first focus every day as a leader to hold all of us accountable to what we’ve said we want to be. We now have someone on our team who is in charge of corporate communications to ensure we are living up to our promise and not getting too far into the weeds.

Q: What is one business idea that you are willing to give away to our readers?

Find a top-notch meeting coach who can orchestrate effective brainstorming sessions with you and your team. Our Marketing Director is also a certified meeting coach and facilitator who ensures our quarterly brainstorming meetings dive deep on all levels. It is important to have this organization so we can push harder in the areas of the business that need it. It has been a game changer for us, to identify amazing new ideas that keep us moving forward and staying innovative.

Q: If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

Well people ultimately change the world one person at a time. So, finding better ways to empower others to take risks to live their dreams or improve their situations would be a great start. People can be empowered through small business ownership, better access to education and funding. It is important to me that Bottle & Bottega is a part of this movement, as we work on helping others follow their dreams and achieve success through business ownership.

Q: What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

  1. Skype: It’s such a great quick way to stay connected with people and get answers fast. We set all of our franchisees up in our onboarding process so they have access to the HQ team whenever they need us. It’s also great to do a quick screen share to give a visual if needed.
  2. Any Meeting: It is a free conferencing site where you can do webinars or video chats. Half of our team lives in different states so I implemented video conferencing earlier this year to help keep us more connected and it’s made our meetings much more fun and productive.
  3. Uber: Being based in Chicago, it’s great to call up a ride, wait inside where it’s warm, and not have to carry cash or wonder if the cab takes credit cards. It’s so time efficient and helpful, especially when you find yourself at a neighborhood where cabs don’t come by often. I’m also eager to see how they revolutionize the transportation space.

Q: What is one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

“The One Thing” by Gary Keller. As a small business owner, you always have more to do than you can get done and so many ideas to implement. This book simply helps you hone in on the top goals to drive the greatest results for your business. It also helps you stay focused on that one project until completion. Our team just went through an entire exercise on this and now time block an hour a day for our “One Thing.” We have all promised to respect that hour for ourselves and each other. Because of that, it’s been amazing to see how much faster we are moving the needle. It’s a great and simple way to think and impact all aspects of your life.

Q: Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?

  1. Ted Talks; @TEDTalks: I love the TED videos they are always so inspiring and often lead me to read a longer list of books than before.
  2. Fortune – Most Powerful Women; @FortuneMPW: There are a lot of insightful articles about business and women in business.
  3. Wall Street Journal; @WSJ: I like the variety of news they post from business, economics, technology, world news and food.

Q: Who is your hero?

Anyone who has risen from great adversity and turned their situation into a positive is my hero. I try not to live in a world of excuses, and always get back up after any fall. Even so, when I look at others who have been through it all, such as death, disability, abuse, divorce, addiction, illness or war, it is amazing to see people rising and becoming even stronger than before. There is nothing more inspirational than hearing these stories; they help me frame my own challenges into the proper perspective, making me even more grateful and determined.

Q: Do you (or did you ever) have a mentor?

Yes I have had many formal and informal mentors throughout my career and still have several to this day. Launching a successful franchise almost necessitates that you have a board of mentors to talk to and learn from.

I am a mentor for the International Franchise Association’s Franship Program so I believe in the power behind mentorship programs. In fact, that is precisely how my business partner and I connected in the first place.

Q: Tell us a secret.

I own an art entertainment business, but I can’t draw a stick figure. Even so, I have a ton of fun trying!

Where can we find out more about Bottle & Bottega?

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