Pinot and Paint. What else does a creative mind need? Not Much! We interviewed Craig Ceccanti, CEO and Charles Willis, President of Pinot’s Palette about what makes their unique company so successful.
Pinot’s Palette is an upscale BYOB painting studio in Houston that is now franchising nationwide. They are here today to tell us about what makes their company tick, and why this Sip and Paint Industry is expanding so rapidly!
MO: Awesome idea! Tell us about the initial concept for Pinot’s Palette, and how you made this idea into a reality?
Craig: The symbiotic combination of wine and painting has been embraced for ages. Like many “good” ideas, our challenge was to craft a real commercial viability out of the pairing. Pinot’s Palette did not materialize overnight. There was a lot of research, planning, re-planning, and hard work that went into growing it into the franchise system it is today. We are very passionate about breathing life into this idea and making it a reality across the country via franchising.
Charles: I think we’ve made believers out of some naysayers we encountered when we were first starting out. We were able to take on the challenge of a declining economy head on and bring in employment for local artists while building a thriving business. Our team is really great at turning challenges into opportunities and we like to dream big!
MO: Many people advise NOT to go into business with your best friend. Why do you believe it has worked for you two?
Craig: Charles and I are both ambitious and hard working. We work in the same direction. Working in different directions would be much like tying a rope to two Clydesdale horses and having them run in opposite directions; it’s not going to end well. At the minimum we have a formal goal setting meeting at the beginning of the year and review those goals each quarter, benchmarking as we go. We’re excited to infuse our franchise system with these same strategies.
Charles: All of us have worked towards the same goal from day one; it’s the #1 goal of making the business successful. Along the way we have developed a few key strategies that keep us moving along smoothly, like setting up business goals and open, honest and direct feedback.
MO: Tell us about the experience and culture created by Pinot’s Palette and how you plan to franchise this experience nationwide!
Charles: The atmosphere we’ve created at Pinot’s Palette is embraced by everyone in different roles from artistic to corporate; everyone collaborates and treats Pinot’s Palette as if it was their own business. I think this level of ownership is visible when our customers attend a night out at Pinot’s Palette. They automatically tune into the energy of the brand; we are all here to create and make the most out of life. It makes a tremendous difference. We have recently expanded our franchise offering nationwide and are excited to see the Pinot Family grow into an even more dynamic culture and collaborative team.
MO: Tell us about the ongoing investments you have made in technology to make managing a studio efficient and to keep your product research ahead of the trends.
Craig: Technology has truly given us a real competitive advantage in the industry. As Pinot’s Palette’s business boomed early on, we quickly realized that managing reservations with 5-star hotel grace was going to take 5-star hotel reservation management software. With 10 years of custom software development experience, I recognized the opportunity to build a proprietary reservation and operations management system that would be extremely beneficial to our studios as well as franchisees. There are franchise competitors who have claimed to have “cutting edge” software, but we know it is inadequate and their franchisees are drowning in manual clerical work and suffering from low customer service scores. Our technology manages everything from reservations, classes, marketing promotions, private parties, to payroll and more. The investment continues to pay off and proves to be a major decision maker in joining Team Pinot’s Palette.
Product research and innovation is one of Pinot’s Palette’s core values. Innovation never rests at Pinot’s Palette and with the amount of creative talent at our fingertips, we turn out new ideas each month. The key here is to align all parties to work towards a common goal. With a strong culture, sound procedures, and aligned incentives we have discovered the winning recipe to make Pinot’s Palette a trend setter in the industry.
MO: You mention that communication is everything to your business. Tell us some of the ways you have made sure to maintain great communication in your company.
Craig: You have to be open and honest about who you are and receptive to the other’s needs and communication styles. Charles and I have a few coined phrases to help maintain healthy communications. For starters our business partnership has taught me I can be pretty sensitive and like things to be a little sugar-coated. We stumbled upon the phrase, “I like sugar in my coffee” when one of us is being too direct or curt. Being open and self-aware has served to help us create fun ways to communicate and correct our communications when needed. Although there are other critical ingredients, good consistent communication is definitely the backbone of a successful business partnership.
MO: What type of people do you think would succeed at owning a Pinot’s Palette franchise, and how can they take the next step to making this a reality?
Charles: Pinot’s Palette is looking for the next Pinot Star, someone who has the motivation of an entrepreneur and the drive of an entertainer. Our franchise system is compiled of doctors, consultants, engineers, IT project managers, pharmaceutical sales, proving the background doesn’t matter as much as the character. We are looking for the next new great addition to the Pinot Team. Finding out more information is easy – just go to pinotspalette.com and click on the franchise tab.
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