Painting With a Twist Franchisee Spills Her Secrets to Success

Painting With a Twist pairs instructional art with friends, wine and a lively instructor to produce individual works of art. In just five years, Painting with a Twist, along with its 236 franchise locations, has produced and owns the copyright to over 3,500 pieces of art. Each artwork was conceptualized and executed by the instructors with the idea of being an easy to follow piece of art for the inexperienced painter. 

We recently spoke with Michelle Lewis, owner of two Painting With a Twist franchises and a third one opening later this fall. Lewis dishes on the secrets to her success, what she would do differently and she shares the story of one of her most special customers.

How long have you owned a franchise?

Since September 2010. My first location was Ferndale, Mich. — 2010; second location was Farmington, Mich. — 2012; and third location in downtown Detroit coming this fall 2015.


What were you doing before becoming a franchise owner?

I was practicing architecture with several local firms. My career led me to a temporary stint in New Orleans following the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster where I was involved in disaster recovery. While in New Orleans, I discovered Painting with a Twist (formally known as Corks n Canvas) with a good friend and became a frequent customer.

Why did you choose your franchise?

I enjoyed painting at the studio, so while in New Orleans it began to feel “right” for me. It felt like my destiny, I was at the right place and it was the right time for me to become this franchisee.

What were some of the challenges you faced when starting your franchise? 

The most challenging obstacle was local municipalities/cities that were not accepting to our BYOB concept. Also, it was a challenge being the first establishment in Michigan of its kind with this concept and spreading the word to educate customers about who and what we are. 

Where did you research or get advice about starting a franchise?

Before I pursued this endeavor I was a frequent painter at the corporate studios in New Orleans. This gave me insight on what Painting with a Twist was about. Often I would chat to the wonderful studio artists who suggested I talk to one of the nearby franchisees regarding their experience.

How much did you spend before your doors were officially opened? 

I invested about $60,000 to open my doors.  

What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day does not exist for me! Every day is filled with a variety of items/tasks. Some new, some old, some outrages, some fun and some not so fun and some mind-blowing (but in a very good way). But all in all; it’s nothing but rewarding.

What is your secret to success? 

There are no secrets in my success, but I will say a few things that I feel contributed to my success are:

1) Being a student of the studio. Frequently painting and enjoying every minute of the experience that I possibly could before I thought about investing in a franchise.

2) Hard work, although I’m still learning how to work smarter at it. I’m willing to do whatever the studio needs to be successful, i.e. staying up all night to create a PWAT newsletter, assisting in the studio and washing brushes to even teaching a class if caught in a pinch and there is no artist available.

3) Being observant, watching and listening to customers likes, dislikes, feedback, patterns etc. Also doing the same with staff.

What would you do differently if you had to do it all over?

Not much. However, I would truly be more organized and would have built an early team relationship with the corporate office.

Where do you see your business in five years?

I honestly don’t have an answer for that. I hoped but never actually envisioned my business to be quite this successful. The success of my business is light years ahead of my business plan so at this point I can’t fathom what the next five years may hold.  I do hope and anticipate that within the next five years my business will help to positively change the lives of my family as it has my life.

What is one trend that really excites you? 

There are too many to just pick one.

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

1) Facebook — I love it because it is the new form of word-of-mouth. It reaches so many people in such a short period of time and allows exciting interaction that our customers seem to enjoy.

2) Constant Contact — This is an effective advertising tool that also reaches many people in a short period of time.

3) My handy-dandy picture collage app from my iPhone. I don’t even recall the exact name of it. It is very useful for putting together an ad or creative image when you need it quickly and you are a little technically challenged with all of the apps, programs and technology out today. It’s simple, fast and easy.

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

Formally, I did not have a mentor. However, I have since been fortunate to come into contact with individuals that I can look up to and hopefully become part of their professional/business circle.

What advice do you have for others looking to own a franchise? 

Make realistic goals; make unrealistic goals. By doing this now you have a gauge to measure yourself. Determine what you want out of the franchise, determine if you’re willing to give what it takes to the franchise.

Would you recommend others be franchisees? Why?

Yes, there are still untapped markets waiting to explode with the PWAT concept. Similar to my market when I first opened, it could be very successful if someone is willing to put in the work.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Since opening my studio doors it has been heartwarming to see how we have touched so many people in such a special way. I hoped but never imagined that our studio would create such joyful and awesome experiences with our customers. It’s almost like my customers are a reflection of me and feel the special things that I felt when I always painted in the New Orleans studio. This makes me feel a special connection with my customers that paint with us.

I remember one Halloween when we had a small group painting in our studio for an open class and there was a mother with her son and daughter painting together near the front of the room. They were very quiet and a bit reserved. I was a bit silly this day as I had on my Halloween costume and tried to engage them in the class. Following this day the mother enrolled in future classes sometimes with her mother, children, husband or even by herself. My staff and I got to know her well. She became a frequent painter and has even held several fundraising events at our studios. One day she wrote a lengthy message on Facebook that is one of the most touching stories of all our customers. She had been very depressed and withdrawn because of her recent diagnosis with breast cancer. Her first visit to our studio was like a breath of fresh air for her. It was the start of her coming out of her depression. She came back to our studio for more and what she found was happiness, solitude, friends, fun times and laughter. This made a positive change in her personal life with her husband and entire family. Now our staff considers her a part of our PWAT family.

Where can people get more information on Painting With a Twist franchise opportunities?

Visit the website here.

Where can people find Painting With a Twist on social media?