Then and Now: Wine & Design Continues to Thrive 10 Years Later

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During Harriet Mills’ first post-baby trip to Charleston, South Carolina in 2010, she and her girlfriends took a paint-and-sip class. She had such an amazing experience that she reached out about opening one of her own, but the owner wasn’t interested in licensing or franchising the concept. Never one to give up, Mills took matters into her own hands and opened the first Wine & Design studio in Raleigh, North Carolina later that year. In 2011 Mills hired husband-and-wife team Marianne and Craig Burt as studio artists, and they eventually became the brand’s first franchisees. Since then, the paint-and-sip concept has had a truly impressive run, growing to feature over 80 locations in 22 states and experiencing national exposure after being featured on ABC’s Shark Tank in 2017, where it ultimately secured a partnership with famous
entrepreneur, Kevin O’Leary.

“Wine & Design has grown steadily and slowly as we’re always building within our inside trust,” said Mills. “Over the last 10 years, we’ve strictly grown organically, through word-of-mouth, social media or our feature on Shark Tank, without needing to spend any money on advertising. This
has been a huge benefit and advantage for franchisees.”

So, how did Wine & Design get here? When the brand opened in 2010, it started with a blank canvas — just like every other painting franchise does. However, the franchise quickly began expanding its services, taking an innovative approach to a buzzworthy two-hour class that includes five divisions, each with its own logo, branding and revenue stream. With a localized offering in every market it operates, Wine & Design brings consumers the creative outlet they crave.

Started in 2012, the first of these five divisions, Art Buzz Kids, is a kids program that includes summer and teacher workday camps, morning classes, birthday parties and after-school programs. The mobile division, On Wheels, was started in 2013, and includes off-site painting classes for wine bars, retirement homes, breweries and any other venue. In 2014 Paint it Forward
was started, the philanthropic division where studios partner with nonprofit local or national organizations to host fundraisers. The Team Building division, which was started in 2015 and features classes designed to build camaraderie among co-workers, has been used by companies such as Google and Apple. Lastly, in 2018, the brand started offering D.I.Y. painting classes for
just about anything besides a canvas, such as wooden pallets, wreaths, wine glasses, potteries or chunky knit blankets.

“Wine & Design has one of the lowest initial investment levels and a leaner operating strategy than other brands in the paint-and-sip industry, but what really sets our concept apart is that we offer our five divisions under one franchise fee,” said Mills. “Other brands charge additional fees
and royalty structures for different areas of the business, but every Wine & Design franchisee has access to all five revenue streams at no additional cost. Our sales revenues have grown between 35 and 47 percent annually since 2011, which means that our unit-level economics are not only
strong, but are growing consistently.”

In 2015 the Wine & Design team developed a new website, creative assets, color palettes and a furniture package, and revamped the five divisions to where they are today. This was a major step for Wine & Design, giving the four-year-old concept a modern, chic and family-friendly look and feel, and the corporate team a path to scalability. Wine & Design also started a partnership
with ALS — a cause close to Mills’ heart — in 2016 in conjunction with Project ALS to expand its Paint it Forward program.

In 2017 Wine & Design experienced a major brand milestone when it was featured on Shark Tank. After causing a stir with the sharks by bringing on a nude model for the mock class, Mills received competing offers from Robert Herjavec and Kevin O’Leary. She ultimately selected O’Leary, who remains a partner in the brand.

“Going on Shark Tank had been a dream of mine for so long, and it was an incredible opportunity to showcase our brand on a national scale,” said Mills. “Just being on the show put us in the spotlight and led to several new franchise deals. We held a Discovery Day at our Burbank, California studio, and Kevin came to take a class, which built great buzz around the brand. It’s
been a huge driver of franchise leads and gave us the opportunity to expand to the West Coast. We still receive quality leads from that episode, with viewers and entrepreneurs contacting us to be in business. It definitely helped our franchisees in their local markets, giving the stores that ‘As Seen on Shark Tank’ credibility.”

In recent years, Wine & Design has continued to focus on developing new divisions, including the upcoming Art & Wellness program, which will feature a partnership with the American Art Therapy Association. This year, in response to the coronavirus crisis, the brand is working on rolling out Virtual Classes, which consist of paint kits and supplies sent to the home and pre-
recorded step-by-step tutorial videos. These new offerings are still in the works, with five locations in the process of filming.

“Every year, we’ve added new services for customers and revenue streams for franchisees,” said Mills. “Customers remain our number one franchisee — that’s how we started. The first franchisee started bringing in a lot of customers, who then told their friends, who told other friends and so
on, eventually spreading the word on social media. Existing customers, employees and franchise owners have really been the driving force behind the Wine & Design system and brand.”

Mills and the Wine & Design team work to cultivate relationships and provide in-depth training and support for each franchisee to position them for continued success. “Our branded divisions ensure that franchisees have access to recurring revenue streams,” she said. “In addition, new
franchisees receive one-on-one, virtual training throughout the entire pre-opening process, and ongoing support that includes help on the business side of things as well as community involvement.”

Wine & Design had a year of successful expansion in 2019, in large part due to its low franchise cost, easy-to-follow business model and multiple revenue streams. Wine & Design opened six new studios in five new markets in four states in addition to signing seven new franchise deals in markets including Boise, Idaho; Madison, Wisconsin; Warner Robins, Georgia; and Madison and
Montgomery, Alabama. Plus, last year saw Wine & Design debut a brand-new headquarters facility in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Looking towards 2020 and beyond, Mills and the leadership team are excited to continue rolling out new offerings and partnering with qualified franchisees to make Wine & Design a modern, chic and family-friendly destination across the country. “Since day one, our mission has been to create the greatest art experience we can for anyone wanting a fresh, surprising way to connect
with the people in their lives,” she said. “After 10 years, it is clear that paint-and-sip is not just a trend — wine will never go out of style and the design world is always evolving. We can’t wait for what the future brings.”

For more information about available franchise opportunities with Wine & Design, visit

By: Luca Piacentini

1851 – No Limit Agency

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