You’ve done everything without even going to Bendigo. What was the process like from finding your studio to getting it open?
It has been actually very smooth considering we have never stepped foot inside the location or been able to visit Bendigo in the lead up. The local community of Bendigo is very special, which we already knew from being visitors to the region, often taken in as a local during our trips there. We did our initial search ourselves for our studio and found a few options we thought would be a nice fit. We contacted the real estate agent who was able to give us even more information about the properties that made our decision even easier.
Aaron was our go-to person for the studio and he sorted all the negotiations from there, scoring us a great deal for the location. We planned out our opening and fit-out, and had the amazing help and support from Phia, HQ’s Victorian Studio guru! Phia was our feet on the ground as the extended lockdowns in NSW not letting us out of the state anytime soon. She took videos, photos and helped find our builder for us. Phia also helped get our staff up and running! We had a vision for the studio and this was brought to life by our builder and his team of professionals.
Our studio mural was very important to us as we really wanted it to bring to life the history that is stemmed so deeply in Bendigo. Funnily enough, I had been on the search for a mural artist since our Hello days. However, I placed our ad up for staff and this very quirky and fun loving person applied and told me of her mural she had completed recently in Bendigo – and the rest is history! She brought our vision and studio wall to life, it really is a must see! There is no mistaking which studio you are in when you look at our mural!
We wanted people in Bendigo to have a city experience without needing to go to the city and we have many people comment to us that the studio definitely gives off that vibe. We decided to add to the Paint & Sip experience and deck out our studio with a luxe lounge area and a selfie mirror, all lit up by a gorgeous chandelier. Our partner florist brough this space to life with an amazing flower wall hang – it has to be seen to be appreciated!
Hiring staff was my biggest concern during the whole process – something I assumed would actually be my easiest task given my background in business and HR. Being so far away and not being able to meet people personally was more difficult than I thought, as I like to build rapport and have that individual approach to recruiting the right people. We did everything virtual in the end and we have the most amazing team made of local artists and creatives who are ready to bring this experience to Bendigo!
We had the devastating news the week before opening weekend that VIC was to head into Lockdown 6.0. We had already come to terms with the fact that we would not be attending the opening weekend with NSW in lockdown, but to hear we may not even open as planned was gut wrenching. So many people had invested so much time thus far, we wanted it to open for them as much as for us. We had 10 booked out sessions prior to opening, the community was abuzz with the news of our new studio opening in Bendigo, and our staff were excited to get painting with guests. We stayed positive albeit unsure of what would happen and to our excitement, Regional VIC was lifted and we were back into the opening planning mode as quick as we could say Pinot! Opening weekend was so much fun! All the sleepless nights, late nights working and phone calls were all very worth it.
What has the community been like towards your business?
We have been overwhelmed with the support from the local community. They have embraced us with open arms and are just as excited (if not more) to have us opening our studio doors in their local area. I was needing to add more tickets, sessions and even went to opening up October sessions due to the level of demand in lead up to our opening. We had sold out sessions for August and September and this mostly before anyone had had a chance to step foot inside the studio (and some of these even purchased during a lockdown!). We will always be forever grateful and thankful for their support.
As a way of giving back to our local community, we have commenced ‘Local Thursdays’ where $5 from each ticket sold will go towards that month’s local community group/charity. Our mission is to be immersed and connected with our community, always.
What’s been your favourite thing about Pinot & Picasso?
There is so much to love about the P&P experience but if I need to pick one, it’s the feeling of family. There is a real sense of community and family amongst the network. Aaron, James and the team have set it up in a way that although you are part of this bigger Franchise, you still feel valued – whether you have one studio or five!
We also have many opportunities to come together and learn from each other. I have had other Franchisees reach out to offer support which has truly been a blessing, especially when Lockdown 7.0 happened and I was able to get some hands on support from the team at Ballarat.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about buying a Pinot & Picasso franchise?
Go for it! We will not be stopping at one studio and cannot wait to get our hands on another studio in the near future. It’s been exciting, tiring, liberating, stressful, and fun all at the same time, but when you see those smiles and hear from guests to say how amazing their experience was, it is all so very worth it. We really are part of something very special – who wouldn’t want to make money while having the best time of your life!?