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New studio ignites creativity

Posted: November 27, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: November 27, 2013 2:00 a.m.

The mother-daughter team of Kathy Guccione, left, and Stephanie Sewell co-own Pinot's Palette in Valencia. The small business offers a sip and paint experience by teaching art and selling wine and picture frames to its customers.

Pinot Palette’s opened Nov. 22 in Santa Clarita offering customers an experience – the chance to learn to paint and taste the various wines and beers sold at the store.

After years in corporate America, and with a toddler in hand, co-owner Stephanie Sewell had one of those “aha moments,” she said.

Working in human resources for Westfield and Princess Cruises, Sewell said she managed the employee benefit programs for thousands of employees. With the cruise line company, she handled the programs for employees around the world – for those on land and based on ships.

Inspired by her daughter, Sewell wanted her child to grow up and see that work can be fun and personally rewarding, she said. So she struck out on her own, with the support of her husband and her mother as co-owner, to open a small business.

“Business ownership was always a goal of mine to achieve,” she said.

When pursuing her education, Sewell almost went to art school but “her right brain said ‘No, you’ll never make it,’” she said.

After giving in to the dictates of her right brain for 15 years, Sewell took a step back and accepted that she was not following her own passions.

After looking into several franchise opportunities that allowed her to balance parenting with work, Sewell opted to buy a franchise.

The business model includes a “paint and sip studio” where customers come in for art classes – conducted by artists with degrees in fine art.

“I decided use the business experience I’ve accumulated over the years and marry my passion for art, wine and fun,” she said.

The Granary Square studio in Valencia is 1,500 square feet and can seat up to 46 practiced or aspiring artists.

Paying a flat fee and ongoing royalties for the franchise, Sewell and her mother/partner, Kathy Guccione, also signed on for a five-year lease and that’s when the reality of owning her own business hit home.

“It was very scary, very frightening,” she said.

Franchisee Pinot Palette states over half of their studios are women-owned businesses because of the flexibility in schedule the business allows. And entry requirements are moderate, requiring only a minimum of $80,000 in liquid assets. Opened in 2009, the Texas-based business began franchising in California this year.

Budding artists or friends out for a collective experience can buy beer or wine by the glass or bottle. Classes can be reserved online, or while in the store or by phone.

And the spirits don’t hurt in loosening up peoples’ creative juices, Sewell admits. But the studio also encourages people to come in early so they can relax while the owners and artists work to make customers as comfortable as possible. Pinot’s Palette also holds themed art classes like the upcoming one planned Sunday for “football widows.”

After class, customers can purchase frames for their artwork if desired.

While Pinot’s Palette combines the appreciation of art and wine, it caters to lots of people who have never painted before as art instructors lead customers through each stage of constructing a work of art onto canvass.

“We turn up the music, mingle, socialize, take breaks and serve snacks to make sure everyone is really comfortable,” Sewell said.


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