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Cheree and Steve Gallant

Painting with a Twist franchise review: Cheree Gallant of Mason, Ohio

January 6, 2020

Intuition, good business sense and attention to detail helped this franchise owner find success

Cheree Gallant has had a wide variety of work experiences, from restaurants to office manager, but she was seeking an opportunity to be her own boss. After she and her husband, Steve, opened their first Painting with a Twist franchise in 2012 in Mason, Ohio, about 20 miles north of downtown Cincinnati.

They’ve learned some important lessons about paying attention to the details — and their intuition. “When you’re talking about a Painting with a Twist, you’re mainly talking about women. Women lead very busy lives and ultimately do not get enough ‘me’ time,” Cheree says. They are seeking places to meet their friends and have a couple glasses of wine. A relaxing place to unplug and catch up with the people they like to be with. They enjoy coming to a Painting with a Twist event because the environment is safe, they feel safe leaving later in the evenings, and they know they can attend alone or with just a few friends and have a great night out. We have found it is crucial to pay attention to the smallest details of every aspect of this business and know your audience.” Read more in this Painting With a Twist franchise review.

What were you doing before Painting with a Twist and what made you say, “Hey, I want to own one of these?”

I have a strong restaurant background and customer service experience, and I have always felt I was good in any industry that required good people skills. In the mid-90s one of my college buddies bought an engineering company and asked me to be the customer service rep, and ultimately I ended up being the office manager. I was there 10 years and thought I’d retire from there when it unexpectedly closed. To keep the schedule at home for my kids, I went from running a $6 million a year company to a part-time receptionist’s job. The owner of that company would pass my desk and never say hello, and while I knew what I was capable of, they didn’t bother to get to know me so I could have more meaningful contributions to the company. This motivated me a great deal and lead me to say, I’m going to open my own company!

When searching for the right opportunity, my brother had gone to the first Painting with a Twist in Mandeville (LA). I could not understand how he painted this painting as well as he did. I always loved art but had not done anything with art since high school. After some research, I saw that Painting with a Twist was franchising, and I had my husband look into it and we both agreed, it looked fun and seemed to be a great business model, so with blind faith, we leaped right in.

What made you feel that you could be successful?

I felt my past work experience had trained me to be able to do well with the predominantly female customer base, and I was willing to put my people skills to the test. You didn’t have to be a chef to own a restaurant. We viewed the venture as a partnership between us and our staff, and we hired professional artists to teach while we manage the business and marketing ourselves. Treating our staff as respected professionals and going out of our way to accommodate them as much as possible has proven to be one of the smartest business decisions we made. We are proud to have half of our staff members with us for at least 4 years, and several have worked for us for 7 years. Having long-time staff members helps the guests feel more comfortable when they see a familiar face, and it also helps with consistency in the way the studio operates. 

What’s it like to manage your staff of mostly artists?

Artists are completely unique and highly sensitive. They quite often struggle with depression and anxiety, but you can get the most talented wonderful staff if you are flexible and able to work with them and the uniqueness they bring to the table. To get the best results, you have to be able to walk a fine line between setting clear expectations and supporting them when they need it. 

How do you figure out the best location for your Painting with a Twist franchise? 

In hindsight, the best advice I have for location is to recommend that you figure out your own market. You have to invest time and energy into figuring out what your own studio should look like. And you can’t expect somebody to do that for you. Home Office gives us a lot of tools, and recommendations, but there is no “easy” button or replacement for understanding who is in your area and what they want to paint. 

I understand you have some guests coming back again and again. Why do they do that?

A good solid, frequent painter is maybe coming once a month and there’s only a handful of them. The women who truly just love this, they want to do it a lot. And they’re also going to come alone and love it. Once they know us, they don’t feel alone and we know them by name, and they end up friending our personal accounts on Facebook. This is the sign of a comfortable studio and staff delivering on a personal experience. 

Is that because they’re coming as a way to relax and unwind or do they really want to learn how to paint?

It’s a little of both actually, but it’s mostly relaxing and unwinding. I have a mother-daughter duo that doesn’t come nearly as much anymore. It’s because they’ve painted with me over a hundred times in my seven years. They really got quite good and the mom would tell me, “I can come here three times a month for six hours of relaxing painting versus one hour of therapy for the same money.”

What’s your art background?

None. I took three years of art in high school because I loved it. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t  produce anything that said, “she’s had three years of art.” One of my best friends was in the same class with me, and she could take her shoe off and put it on the desk and draw perspective scale of the whole thing. Some people are born with a fantastic ability to draw and paint, and others have to develop it as well as they can.

Like many of our guests, I gave up doing anything artistic because I had the perception that I couldn’t do it. What I tell our guests is, first off, art is like handwriting. It’s very unique to each individual. And this is true. So I was expecting my outcome to be exact instead of embracing the fact that I was going to be doing something that is unique to me. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood we lose that blind acceptance and become very self-critical. As I try to tell my guests, it’s not about thinking, it’s about feelings. 

What kind of experience do you think someone needs to be successful with Painting with a Twist?

Good intuition is what I notice as the most common thread between all the successful studio owners. Think about it: You’re making a calendar and asking people to sign up for these events. You’re trying to predict what people want and that is best achieved when you let your intuition guide you in combination to listening to what people want to paint.

This is also a customer service business. You have to be willing to be accommodating. I monitor my calendar seven days a week. It’s a moving target. And if you think that you can set it and forget it, you’re going to miss the boat. It does not work that way. You have to be willing to keep your finger on the pulse every day. Paying attention to what is working or not working is a major key to success.

Learn more

If you’d like to learn more about becoming a franchise owner with Painting with a Twist, we’d love to hear from you. You can explore more about our brand on our research pages, or download the form on this page to start a conversation.