YOU are the reason we do what we do!
This week is a time of thanks. I think if most of us came to each week with a heart of thanks, the world would be a better place. I want each of you to know that I am thankful for each of you. I am thankful to those of you that attend and tag us each time. I am thankful for those of you who started off as customers and have become friends, sounding boards, advice givers, and soul encouragers. You will never know how much it means when you can tell I am having a rough day to see a positive message in my inbox, to get the email that says you appreciate what we do and have brought to your life, to get a good review, to be tagged in funny memes.
I am thankful for each of the people who have worked for me over the years, the ones that have left, and obviously the ones who have stayed. We have a good thing going, we love our painters, and we try to think of ways to make even our critics happy.
I never imagined I would be doing this in the way it has developed. I had a business plan, I dream a lot, I imagine the future but if when I opened you would have told me we are where we are now I would have laughed. I remember looking at the little space I found and thinking if I can just get x amount of people here a month I can pay my bills. And some months that didn’t happen. I had made a commitment though and I kept going, sinking more money in. And it is worth it and I am grateful for all that it has been and all that it is, and for whatever it becomes.
I am thankful for my husband who believed in me or at least pretended to when he didn’t. He was the only person that never looked at me like I was crazy when I first started out. He is the one who encouraged me to go to the bank and get a loan, who didn’t expect me to make money at first, who let me cry when the days were hard, who encouraged me to get out of bed when I went there to hide and wallow. Lots of people have been there for the celebrations, not as many for the disappointments.
I am thankful for my son, because it isn’t easy being the kid of a business owner. He gets told no a lot. He has to be pro-active and self sufficient a lot. But I know ultimately that will serve him well. He will have seen both sides. The ups and downs of working in corporate America through his dad’s journey and the ups and downs of working for yourself through my journey. I hope whatever he chooses he knows we worked hard, we played hard, and we loved hard.
Photo credit Mary Beth Wood Photography
I haven’t always made the best decisions (I had never managed anyone or owned anything like this before opening), but I have also made some really great decisions. We have a team I am proud of, who continue to improve, who love what they do. That made all the difference! Knowing to hire people that aren’t like me, aren’t always the obvious choice has been amazing. I know I am not for everyone, but I know amongst the staff there is someone you (yes YOU, whoever you are) will connect with and be able to learn from and enjoy.
So thank you! We have grown from a one woman show to a multi-woman show with a delightful and silly and creative cast of characters. We would love to paint with you, inspire you, build you up, make you laugh, teach you. Thank YOU!
If you ever feel like you don’t belong, that you are missing something, that you just need to add a little fun in your life, that you are struggling with life… I hope you will come visit us and see my many reasons to be grateful.
Six Years. A lot has happened in 6 years. I have seen customers come, go, come back again, disappear after being regular fixtures to the studio, move away, get pissed at the experience or at me, been yelled at, been treated like trash, been looked down upon by artists, been hugged, been thanked, helped people celebrate, grieve, get through hurts and illnesses, painted so many things, cancelled classes we loved, taught classes we didn’t love, shampoo, rinse, repeat. One thing that doesn’t change is my why. Why did I open Lush Art? It certainly wasn’t for a get rich (fast or slow) scheme. It wasn’t because I just wanted something fun to do, didn’t want to work my tail off, wanted a little side job.
Lush Art has been a labor of love since before we opened our doors. I worked 80 hours a week at the beginning, for no pay. I didn’t pay myself for two years. TWO YEARS. That first year I lost SO MUCH MONEY and it took another year to recoup those losses. I kept going. Even when it was hard, even when it wasn’t what I expected it to be, even when people didn’t believe in my mission. Why? Because I believed in this idea. I knew what painting had become to me as a person, a woman, a wife, a mother. I had never painted really. Then I moved across the country from Arkansas to North Carolina with a baby and didn’t go back to work as a hair stylist. I was slowly losing myself day by day. Missing a creative outlet, missing adult conversations, missing my independence, missing me. I started painting because it was an affordable outlet. I taught myself. Looking back my artwork was mostly horrible. But it wasn’t about the art. It was about me, about who it was making me, little by little I came back to me. I even became more than who I had been. Painting was something that had nothing to do with being a mom, a wife. It was just for me.
Then my friend Jodie and I cooked up (well more likely we drank up) this idea of painting things we liked for our friends. It was working, slowly. And then my husband lost his job. And we ended up moving to Georgia. I DID NOT WANT TO MOVE HERE. DID NOT, AT ALL. I was angry, and sad, and disappointed. Jon saw how unhappy I was and suggested going to the bank and getting a loan and starting a Lush Art here. So we did. On a hope and a prayer and a small line of credit. I made a list of what I wanted, I found the space, and I fought tooth and nail to make it happen. I cried. I yelled. I cussed. I remember signing a three year lease and couldn’t imagine living here for 3 years. I even had a clause put in the lease if we had to move before the time was up.
I happy danced when I sold those tickets.
My first class has two whole people in it. Every month we barely squeaked by. I saw other businesses come and go. I realized the power in hiring help, and made the sacrifice to pay others before paying myself. Even though I had never owned a business before, I knew the importance in building it strong before paying my pocket. I hired Nancy, so I wasn’t teaching every single class, which would strengthen our offerings. I slowly added more staff.
I also made the decision at that point to think completely outside of the box. I pay my instructors in a way no other studio pays. I pay them a commission of their class sales. This makes my payroll so much higher than the standard but it also helps them to feel invested. They want to promote their own classes and the others at the studio. It has created an amazing loyalty that goes both ways. We have very little instructor turnover. It allows me the freedom to not live at the studio, I trust them all to get the job done, and done well each and every time.
And now I feel at home in Warner Robins, in my studio, in my life, in my roles of wife, mother, boss, artist, owner. Are there still bad days, God yes. Is it rainbow and unicorns? God no. Is it just all about painting and drinking? No. There’s constant things to do that have nothing to do with painting, paperwork for days, never-ending bills, inventory, responsibilities, compromises. Is it everything I thought it would be? No, I never could have imagined all the lives we have touched. There are still tears and frustrations and worry and being scared. But the laughs, the friendships, the pride in building something so amazing make continuing worth it.
What will happen in the next 6 years? I have no idea. I am sure it will be full of 14 hour days, frustrations, and quite a bit of fun. I am sure it will be full of our crazy band of employees who are more like characters from The Breakfast Club who are all so different and full of anxiety, unlimited creativity, an unhealthy dose of self doubt which leads to very relatable and understanding teachers. I am determined to enjoy the ride. I am lucky to have a Heather who dials down my big dreams with her dose of reality and I hope I have helped her dream and create more than she did without me. I will keep throwing the big ideas to her so she can find tune them and make it all happen.
Has my business been affected by the new DIY craze in town? OH yes. Drastically. Will this new franchise moving to town kill my business like chain/franchises have done all over the country? I don’t know. If you ask me most days if you should start a business I would tell you no. What I really mean is not unless you are ready to devote your life to something that may fail, to work your ass off, to put your all into it, commit to all the work and no pay so you can reinvest in your idea, if you don’t want to hire people who are invested in what your vision is. We have had some hiccups. Like the employee who left on bad terms, the few mean customers, when I have been treated poorly. I have had to learn as I went with a lot of trials and a lot of errors. I have made mistakes, had so much stress over the years, gained 20 pounds because I don’t take care of myself so I can get all the things done.
But I do know Lush Art has something those other places or any places that may come will never have and that is something I will continue to be proud of. So I plan to continue to kick ass every single month to create the best creative painting options for Middle Georgia. I plan to continue to provide a home for those who need a fun place to escape from their reality. A place for people to improve and grow. I will be over here with my own brand of sarcasm and snark cheering on my tribe of employees and customers. I will continue to do it so that other wives, moms, empty nesters, singles, men, women, children can find themselves one paint class at a time.
So join me and raise a glass to cheers to making it against all the odds. Cheers to yourself. Cheers to dreaming. Come see us and be a part of our tribe of weirdos.
Let me say it again for those in the back. Life is like a painting.
We all start with a blank canvas and little by little we add to our canvas.
Are you choosing to add all one color? Are you staying just in one area of your canvas? Are you playing it safe? Think of the relationships in your life... Is everyone around you the same? Does everyone in your tribe think, act, dress, and look alike?
Are you ever reaching outside of your comfort zone and choosing a paint tone that may shake things up a little?
This can also work the other way. Did you know if you mix too many colors at once, you will get muddy tones? Are you adding so much to your canvas of life that you aren't able to enjoy anything. Are you doing too much? Have you left any white space to make the other aspects of your life pop? Think of the relationships in your life... Do you have people in your life that are so dark and life sucking that they are dulling your colors?
My friends also tease me because I don't play. Some people I find so life sucking I just don't interact with them. It isn't that I want to be mean. It is just they aren't for me and I have enough self respect for myself and my happiness that I won't put up with it. (Also I don't have a poker face and can't train my WTF face.) I also don't like uncomfortable clothes, shoes, situations. Life is short, friends. And I want to be as happy as I can when I am here.
Or are you choosing a chaos of different tones? Is your canvas vibrant, full, with some white space balanced to allow room for your eye to enjoy it all? Is your painting subject all on the canvas or does it move off canvas to allow breathing room and room for imagination?
Some things I have noticed in my travels and people watching, in my businesses and interacting with so many different types of people over the years, and also learned about myself in therapy. We often add so much to our lives we are miserable instead of living this one life we have to live as we are, who we are, why we are.
So the next time you are unhappy, overwhelmed, miserable think about the root cause. Is it something you can change, is it someone you can edge out of your life, is there a way to approach the situation with a better attitude? Do you need to gesso over a section and start over?
I learned in therapy most of my unhappiness stems from my high expectations. The ones I put on myself and on those around me, so whenever something or someone didn't live up to what I had dreamed, expected, wanted I become sad, depressed, disappointed. I battle with this everyday. I can tell you that once I learned that about myself it was the biggest ah ha moment in my life. Am I still hard on myself? Yep. Do I still get disappointed by those around me when I don't feel like they are giving all of themselves? Yep. But knowing this about myself has helped me with resetting my expectations, live a bit more in the "it is what it is" mindset. And also move on when when something truly makes me unhappy.
What it also makes me aware of is the energy I see sucked out of people who are so busy doing all the things, they aren't enjoying any of the things. Take some time each day to turn off the noise. That may mean waking up earlier (ew) or staying up later (this is me). I read at night when everyone else is in bed to quiet it all out. I paint to quiet it all out.
Are you involved in too many activities? Are your kids? Are you allowing time to be or are you afraid of what you might find out about yourself if you quiet down? Are the things you are involved in filling your cup or are they draining you down.
Do I have it figured all out? Nope. I keep wanting to add businesses, or move to a new town, or change my hair to deal with things when they get stagnant. I recognize it. I am a ennegram seven. I like new shiny things, I like the process of thinking of new things and having new experiences. I have learned I physically need to travel to keep that fresh and new aspect in my life because exploring new things is what lights me up and fills my cup. I also have learned it often a healthier coping mechanism when I get bored.
So take stock of your life canvas. What do you need to add? What do you need to take away? Are the people you are surrounding yourself with helping or hindering your progress? Get in there, get messy, and live life to the fullest on your terms.
Why LOCAL LOVE is important!
I talk often about supporting local business and try to post about it often, calling out my favorites on social media both professionally and personally. I know some people who follow may wonder why I do that since “it has nothing to do with my businesses”. I do it because I know how important it is.
Do you know the difference in locally owned independent business, franchise businesses, and big box corporations?
A brick-and-mortar is a traditional business model where the retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers deal with the customers face-to-face in an office, a shop, or a store that the business owns or rents. My business Escape Artists War Town fits under this model. We have some one on one time with the customers but the experience is booked online and then the room is completed without someone physically in the room with you.
A High Touch locally owned independent business, such as my business Lush Art, is a model which requires lots of human interaction. The relationship between the brand and the customer has a huge impact on the overall revenues of the company. The companies with this business model operate on trust and credibility. While the initial booking is done online, we are there very hands on during the event and a lot goes in to prepping the event before you arrive.
For both businesses I create my own marketing materials, ads, posts, rooms, paintings with help of my staff.
A franchise can be a manufacturer, distributor or retailer. Instead of creating a new product, the franchisee uses the parent business’s model and brand while paying royalties to it. They are spoon fed what to do for marketing and have less say over creation of the product or service.
A retailer sells directly to the public after purchasing the products from a distributor or wholesaler. This could be locally owned (such as Abreanne’s or Southern Crush boutique) or franchise (such as Dress Barn).
A big box retailer is a retail store that occupies an enormous amount of physical space and offers a variety of products to its customers. These stores achieve economies of scale by focusing on large sales volumes. I think we all know who they are.
I recently talked at a local middle school for Career Day. Since my businesses are so niche I focused mainly on telling the classes about the importance of shopping and supporting locally owned businesses whenever possible. One of my examples is if it is Taco Tuesday and you want tacos instead of rolling through Taco Bell, go to Tacos and More or Taco Shed. Both of those are local, independent businesses. They have created their own menus, marketing, branding.
After one of the classes a sweet boy came up to me and thanked me for what I was teaching. “My parents own Tacos and More and it does make such a difference to our family when people choose us over fast food tacos.” I got chills. It is so true. Does the owner of Taco Bell know you when you come in? Does the owner of Taco Bell know your order, ask about your kids, wonder how your mom is doing? NOPE.
In the same vein, at Lush Art we create a new and exciting calendar each and every month for our customers. Each of those paintings we have painted with our own hands. We curate the designs in such a way each month to provide a variance of options created directly for our audience based on their preferences. We put literal blood, sweat, and tears into building the businesses from the ground up. We created our ideas and through A LOT of trial and error are finally to a point we feel pretty comfortable with what we are providing and doing. Do we still make mistakes? Sure. Do we still create ideas that fail and bomb? Yep.
I still happy dance for every order. I still celebrate every good review. I still despair and get upset over every failure and every bad review. I take things personally when I shouldn’t but it is because I have put SO much of myself into this entrepreneur lifestyle.
Independent, locally-owned businesses recirculate a far greater percentage of revenue locally compared to absentee-owned businesses or locally-owned franchises. In other words, going local creates more local wealth and jobs.
I hire local artists to create paintings. I pay them better than any other studio that I have come across, in the entire world. I am on multiple groups and each time pay comes up I am giving back more to my employees than anyone else. It creates a longer lasting relationship between my staff and how they take care of our customers. We have lower turn over and can create a more home-like atmosphere because someone new is not always at the helm. We love getting to know our customers, finding out what they like and why they come to us.
I love seeing what our staff can bring to their families with the supplement income from the businesses. Aside from Heather (the manager) and myself each of our employees work other full time jobs or are going to school. We get to be the passion project that also brings extra income to all of these households. Each are there because they WANT to be, and love our mission of making art accessible to everyone.
So here are some other examples of ways I try to choose LOCAL LOVE over chains and franchises.
I use a local accountant and bookkeeping service, Works Bookkeeping and Payroll where the owner does my taxes, payroll, and answers my questions instead of some big company exec that I don’t know.
I use a local cleaning company, Robins Commercial Cleaning, where the owner cleans for me instead of some chain who sends different people every week.
What is important about these two businesses? I am doing business with people I know, like, and trust. They are owned by women, who live here locally in our community. It is empowering women to provide for their families on a schedule that works for them and they in turn put it back into the community. $68 for every $100 stays in the community when spent at a local business. When spending the same at a non-local business like a national chain, only $43 stays in your community. This is important!!
It is America, free will is always there for you when you make choices. Next time you think about buying, shopping, eating please think what choice you can make that will make the most impact on your community.
I love to read. And love community. So I decided to start Club Book: Lush Lounge’s new book club. We will select a book each month and then plan a time to meet and discuss the book. These will take place in our Lush Lounge. Please park in back and come in through Suite 600 for these events.
Our FIRST selection is The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. Find it at Sams, on Amazon Prime, Target, or Kindle. Gottwals books may have it? Libraries might have it?
Discussion for those that have read the month's selection will be February 24 at 1 pm. Free to participate. Drinks available for purchase. Look for the event page on FB to rsvp.
This post was originally posted on another site and moved here.
Why is my favorite number one? Because we were named the BEST Paint and Sip Art Studio in Georgia! Number ONE, my friends. Which is amazing. I work SOOOO hard to make sure everyone has a good time. My staff works SOOOOO hard to make sure everyone has a good time. I have no idea how we were chosen, who did the choosing, etc. In my heart we are number one, always. Now it is nice to have proof from an outside source. Thank you to Best Things Georgia for the ranking! We LOVE it! Want to check out the rankings? Click here: https://bestthingsga.com/paint-and-wine/
Lush Lounge is now open! Come out and check out our new digs on Wednesday, November 15 at 6 pm for our Grand RE-opening of Lush Art just in time for our 4th Anniversary Party and the Grand Opening of Lush Lounge. What is Lush Lounge? It is a common use space for customers of Lush Art and Escape Artists. We sell beer and wine, have board games to rent for a small fee, tables, chairs, sofas, and a big tv. It is a space to relax, to connect with your friends, to hang out and enjoy our great creative vibe! We will be having some fabulous prizes to give away the night of the event, followed by and invitation only FREE paint class for our VIPs, Very Important Painters. Plus our friends at Just Tap'd will have a beer they brewed just for us, after a drunken conversation with Jayme the owner. It is called Lu Shart. Get it?!? HAHAHAHAHA. If you don't get it, we had a photo backdrop in our old studio and if we took the photo and didn't get all the letters in the photo it looked like it said SHART over our painters heads... SO many people got a laugh out of that, and we prefer to laugh at ourselves and embrace our awkwardness. So come out and taste our Lu Shart beer, register for prizes, check out the space, and hang out with our tribe.
This post was originally posted on another site and I moved it here.
One of my favorite things is seeing Facebook friends of mine interact and tease and comment on each other’s posts and realizing they met at Lush Art. That I met them at Lush Art. I love the little community of smart, strong, (obviously brilliant since they came to Lush in the first place), creative women (and a few also obviously brilliant men) we have helped join and unite. Color, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, age doesn’t matter and never will. ❤️❤️ I love that we have created a network of people who comment, support, and boost each other.
Another favorite thing I did this week is meet someone for a brainstorming session. I love other fellow business owners. It is great to meet up for coffee and hash out issues you and they are having, offering each other solutions or just some moral support. I met up with Lindsey of Inner Sanctuary: Be Inspired. It is helpful to meet with another creative and figure out ways to collaborate and incorporate the businesses for a future event. We can't wait to share our ideas!! I will put a little hint here, mark Jan 6 on your calendar. You have heard of a staycation right? What about a retreat, you don't have to leave town for and you get to sleep in your own bed? More info to come soon!
I love to get in my head, and think about things I like to do and try and incorporate those into my business. I love filling a niche. So the purpose of Lush Lounge was born. Some of my favorite things are board games, being with friends in a casual low, key comfortable place, drinking (duh, I am the Lush after all), and vegging out in comfy clothes. Lush Lounge will provide a place for all that and much more. We will bring you info to better your life, simplify your life, encourage you, relax you, and live a lush life. I was so happy to work with Kelli with Lettered Grace to create the new Lush Lounge logo.
This post was originally posted on a previous blog and reposted here.
One of the most given excuses I hear from people of why they don't come to paint class is their fear of not having someone to go to class with them. It is also a frequently asked question. Does it matter if I come to class alone? What if I don't have any friends that want to come paint with me? Does anyone ever come to class alone? The short answer: YES! Almost all of our regulars come alone, frequently. People new to town come alone. People traveling in the area come alone. People that have been to class before and have seen others there alone, come alone.
While the classes are about having fun, they aren't dependent on someone else being with you to have fun. Also I have often seen the groups that come in and have the Debbie Downer with them. She brings the negativity and the mood of the group down. Leave Debbie Downer at home, and come enjoy yourself. Interact with those around you, make new friends. Or keep to yourself and trust your process. Many of my friends currently in my personal group of friends aka my "tribe" are painters I have met through Lush Art. I didn't know them before they came to paint. But my tribe can also repeat something I have said maybe a few too many times "This is why I vacation alone."
Many of the business owners I have met to brainstorm and collaborate with have been met because I tried something on my own. Rachel at Homegrown Yoga (Yoga, duh), Kelli at Lettered Grace (a great hand letterer who made our new logos for the businesses who I contacted through Instagram), Lindsey at Be Inspired (Reiki who I contacted through Instagram), Montine at Paint Awake (Intuitive Art retreats), all the fabulous women I met at Inspired Retreat, Lori with Awareness Counceling, Donna at Donna Downey studios (where I go to take art classes)
to name a few. Reach out, make a connection, but most importantly find yourself.
I frequently do many things by myself. I prefer to shop alone, I often take trips alone
, I don't plan self care with others (I don't coordinate massages, mani and pedis with others). Does this mean I don't like others? No, but when I am ready to relax and decompress I often need to do that alone. I spend my life planning the fun of other people, so I have found to plan MY fun... it means I often do it on my own.
Have I always felt comfortable doing things alone? nope. But I am always glad I did it. You know why? Sometimes it is nice to have a time where the only person you have to worry about is you. You are important. Sure, often to get to that point I have had to make sure my family is taken care of, my businesses are left in good hands, etc. But then when I go, I enjoy. I read books, I go to retreats, I learn, I improve, I make goals and plans.
So I challenge you to do something alone. Take a trip, book a paint class, go to a coffee shop and read, go to yoga. Pick something you have wanted to do, and the schedule of your friends or family always keeps you from going, and DO IT. Have a drink, relax, and enjoy!
You will learn so much about yourself, you will find that you are a good time charlie all on your own, that you get to enjoy whatever the experience is because you are doing YOU. It isn't selfish (or weird). It is important self care. Keep learning, keep growing, keep being you.
Originally posted on another website, and moved here. Lush Life is about how living your best life often starts with living outside your comfort zone. What if I didn't open Lush Art? I mean, it scared the bejeezus out of me. What did I know about running a business? Not a hell of a lot. But what did I do? Did I wait around? Did I keep it on my dream shelf to think about every once in awhile? No! I did it. I opened on a wing and a prayer, and a unsecured line of credit. I found a place I had to do minimal to as far as getting it open. I had the walls painted and started painting ideas. I turned my dreams into plans and my plans into a purpose. My purpose was to create a safe and relaxing place for women to paint, to play, to forget about all the stresses and responsibilities of life, if only for a short while. I can say after 4 years of building this purpose, I am very proud of what it has become.
Sure, I have days I cuss the day I decided to do this. I mean it was pretty easy being a stay at home mom, comparatively. Not that being a stay at home mom is easy, it is hard, but it had less pressure than opening and running a business. I didn't open because we "needed" me to work. I was lucky, my husband's job provides for us to live. There are difficult customers, bitchy social media trolls, inventory issues, there is always something. But I needed more. MORE. I needed a purpose, I knew I had a passion and I wanted to share it. But some days it is REALLY HARD.
But then I get a good review raving about Lush Art, I have someone run up to me at a restaurant and say "You're the Lush Art girl, I love you on Instagram!", or I have someone send me a message about how they are bringing their friend to paint because she recently lost her mother and needs a place to let loose and have a break from her grief for just one evening.
That my friends, is why I do what I do. That is why I keep adding to it. We opened Escape Artists War Town last year to reach a different group of people, to provide another safe space for people to play. Adults need to play too. And I have decided to add to it again. Enter the Lush Art expansion, Lush Lounge. Lush Lounge is a multi use facility that allows ideas I have had, and didn't have the right space for, to happen. We have a comfy seating, tables and chairs, a bar. We have board games, trivia nights, Fan nights, special guests, a book club (Club Book), Monthly Mimosas with Cara, smaller and more intimate class options, and so much more. The Lounge is a fun relaxing space for our customers to use.
What is my motto in 2018? Be the 2%.