The Creative Growth of Painting with a Twist in Michigan

By Yvelette Stines on May 25th, 2016 / Comments

At times, in life when we are going through natural changes, it takes us out of our comfort zone and creates an opportunity for us embrace our true calling. For Michelle Lewis her journey took her from architecture, to disaster recovery work, and now she and her sister Donna Lewis are entrepreneurs. The journey was unexpected, but the outcome is one that has created a community, experiences of a lifetime, a place for people to heal, and now he’s showing the world that it can be done and done well in Detroit.

It was 2005 and Lewis saw that the architecture industry was shifting, she was looking for a change. She was hired as a contractor with FEMA a few months after Hurricane Katrina and Rita happened. Moving to New Orleans, she was adjusting to her new town and also looking for fun things to do.

“A friend of mine knew I was creative and she encouraged me to go to a place called Corks and Canvas, the parent company of Painting with a twist. I thought I was going to a wine tasting. When I walked in, I saw a studio with canvases and thought we came out to paint?” she said. “When we got started, I fell in love within the first 10 minutes.”

This created an ongoing pastime for Lewis. She started putting her paintings on social media and many back home wondered if there was a concept in Detroit, and that’s when the lightbulb went off.  She thought about opening up Painting with a Twist in Michigan and saw there were no locations open just yet.

The first Painting with a Twist opened its doors within 3-4 months in Ferndale in 2010. The Farmington location opened in 2012 and most recently they’ve opened up in Downtown Detroit at 1420 Washington BLVD in 2015. The Ferndale location has held the number one place in terms of production for the last three years, and Farmington has held second and third from year to year since its opening.  With all of the success of the three Painting with a Twist locations in operation, Michelle gratefully looks to her sister Donna who is her franchise partner. Together along with other family members they create the culture, work ethic, and atmosphere, to have a thriving business.

When Donna started her journey with Painting with a Twist, she was at a job that she loved but knew it was time for a change.

“I worked at a place that people retired from but never quit. I was the first person to quit in the 21 years that I worked there,” she said.  Donna and Michelle collaborated, and decided the next move would be in Detroit. “We thought of a lot of places, but we knew this would be a perfect location. We worked hard to make it happen.”

The sisters are humbled and happy to have successful businesses that can help others, give people jobs, and change the impression of Detroit.

“We were the first Painting with a Twist in Michigan and in the North. The headquarters didn’t even have this region on the radar,” said Michelle. With all the success, the formula is caring about the customers and catering to their needs. Now that the locations are open and seeing steady customers, the two are focusing on the service they provide to all who visit.

“We deeply care and find out the needs and wants of our customers. We really pay attention to people as they walk in the door, communicate in a way that creates a personal experience for them, and that is one of the things that create an unforgettable experience,” said Donna.

Customers share testimonies of healing from depression, finding a place of peace, and a new hobby by practicing and learning painting. With the warm and communal environment, the sisters quickly create a family like culture with their customers. Many have held events, parties, and fundraisers on a continual basis.

With all the success, the next steps for the business is continued growth, including more potential locations.

“The Detroit location is doing very well, we opened in November last year and I would like to see the studio grow more. I would also like to reach the corporate level clientele so they can come in for team building exercise. We have special classes for activities for teams and corporations to come together and create, this would also grow our daytime clientele,” says Donna.

There is a lot of optimism for the future of Painting with a Twist and collectively both sisters are happy for the success, working together, and helping others find a creative place to call home.

Learn more about Painting with a Twist here. 

About the Author

Yvelette Stines

Yvelette is an author and freelance writer. Her blog Calming Corners helps readers stay calm and healthy. Follow her at @YveletteStines + @CalmingCorners.