Snowball of Success: Pinot’s Palette Franchisees Embrace California LifestylePinot's Palette
Being stranded in a blizzard can really put life in perspective. It did for Scott Lockerd, who experienced the frightening weather event while working as a geologist in Wyoming. So, while stuck in that storm, Scott did the logical thing for blizzard survival: He called his wife Cherisse and told her that he wanted to quit his job and open a paint and sip studio with her.
Cherisse, who worked in human relations in Denver at the time, thought Scott was joking. But he was serious, reminiscing about the date night they enjoyed at a local paint and sip studio. Cherisse chuckles about the conversation now, “He told me ‘My eyelids are freezing shut. I don’t want to do this anymore. Owning a paint and sip studio sounds like more fun.’”
Scott escaped the blizzard, and the Lockerds started researching paint and sip franchises and markets. They knew of Pinot’s Palette from visiting Scott’s family in Houston (where the franchise is headquartered), and they were impressed with its upscale feel. After locating a Pinot’s Palette in Fort Collins, Colorado, and peppering those studio owners with questions, Scott and Cherisse were sold on the franchise.
Heading West for Paint and Wine
Next came the problem of determining a prime location for their new paint and sip studio. They felt the Denver market was saturated but hadn’t seen as many paint and sip studios near Cherisse’s hometown of Irvine, California. Figuring drastic dreams call for drastic measures, Scott quit his job, and the couple sold their house and moved in with Cherisse’s dad. Cherisse continued working remotely in human relations while they started construction on their Tustin, California Pinot’s Palette, which opened in 2014.
Scott found the Tustin weather much better than his blizzard days, but the entrepreneurs encountered other challenges. In those early days, the couple even brought sleeping bags and cots to their studio so that they could be there for nighttime construction crews. “The most challenging thing, in the beginning, was time management,” Cherisse recalls, “We’re not working 20 hours a day anymore, but it’s still a significant time commitment.”
But other parts of business ownership proved surprisingly smooth. Cherisse found that her human relations background helped her understand California’s challenging employment laws. And she was surprised how well she and Scott work together as business partners. “Scott and I make a good team running a business together,” she says. “He’s deliberative and thoughtful, and I get up and get stuff done. We complement each other.”
Unrelenting work ethic forms the basis of their partnership, a trait that Cherisse and Scott both developed in years playing competitive sports. Cherisse played on a national championship team in college lacrosse and Scott played college soccer and participated in an Olympic development program. When they started their Pinot’s Palette franchise, they held onto their old sports mantra, “Failure is not an option.”
Treating Customers Like Queens and Kings
The Lockerds say that their proximity to Disneyland has had a big impact on their studio. “Disney is a very big part of Orange County culture,” Cherisse says, “In this market, we need a classy, upscale place with clean comedy.” So, the Lockerds created an unforgettable studio experience complete with uncompromising, Disney-quality customer service. “A lot of our customers haven’t painted before, so they feel self-conscious. They need to feel like our studio is a soft place to land and also a fun place to be,” Cherisse says. “That customer service becomes the expectation every time someone comes in through the door.”
Cherisse appreciates that Pinot’s Palette headquarters also maintains a commitment to customer service. She particularly appreciates customer service help that headquarters extends to franchisees, such as the Customer Service Center. “That’s huge,” Cherisse says. “We’re a busy studio, and our phone rings a lot. Now I have six hours a day to get stuff done while they answer the phone. That’s probably my favorite support–I love that team.”
Scripting Success, One Smile at a Time
All of the couple’s hard work, stubborn resistance to failure, and exacting expectations for customer service paid off. Their impulsive venture embarking on Pinot’s Palette franchise ownership became a financial success even without them obsessing over the numbers. “If you focus on providing the experience where people have a good time and laugh, they’ll come back,” Cherisse says. “And you’ll have word of mouth advertising that will snowball and bring more customers. The money will come if you focus on the details.”
In fact, the Lockerds’ studio has become lucrative enough to allow Cherisse to leave her human relations career and manage their studio full time.
“I feel so blessed to get to make people happy for a living,” she says. “When I teach, people give me hugs. People say things like, ‘I haven’t been able to smile since my mom passed away. I finally smiled today.’ It feels good.”
Scott and Cherisse feel good about their Pinot’s Palette decision each time they step into the studio. A snowball of success that started with a blizzard: even Disney couldn’t have better scripted the Lockerds’ Pinot’s Palette journey.