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Why This Serial Entrepreneur Opened a Painting With a Twist - In the Middle of the Pandemic Dee Clemmons had experienced the brand as a customer, and it made her feel at peace. Now she's out to share that feeling.

By Stephanie Schomer

This story appears in the September 2020 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Painting with a Twist

Dee Clemmons is never not working. The serial entrepreneur has spent nearly 30 years operating a combination of childcare facilities, a business consultancy, and a janitorial supplies company. And in 2016, she joined the Board of Commissioners in Henry County, Ga., where she recently won a reelection campaign. So last year, when her two daughters took her to Painting with a Twist on Mother's Day, Clemmons was shocked to find herself ignoring the outside world for two hours of escape. She put her phone down, focused on her painting and her kids, and had an experience she calls "magical." Before she left the studio, she'd googled the business to find out how she could get involved; one year later, she was ready to open her own location in McDonough, Ga. Covid-19 interrupted her opening, but she says it's still been one of her most rewarding entrepreneurial experiences yet.

You opened your studio on Mother's Day weekend this year. Was that always your plan?

I was ready to open in March, when the pandemic hit. And I was just tossed into a cyclone: All my businesses had to temporarily shut down, which was devastating, and I was in the middle of a reelection. It was rough, and it affected me mentally, physically, financially. But I'd come and sit in my Painting with a Twist studio, and I found my happy place. I researched, I read, I figured out how to adjust and reinvent.

Related: 7 Franchisees Share Lessons from the Pandemic

What did those months leading up to May look like?

I used our platforms and social media to encourage people to stay safe and know that a better day was coming. And building my followers was key at that time, so that when we did open, we'd have that audience. Because I had already identified and hired talent for the studio, we started doing trainings via Zoom, so they could paint from the gallery and really gain experience with the art pieces. And then I realized: Guess what? We can do virtual paint parties! So we launched virtual paint parties on Mother's Day weekend, as well as socially distanced events in our studio with private groups.

Image Credit: Painting with a Twist

How did the corporate office lend support during such an uncertain time?

I always say to my corporate operatives, my franchise fee was well worth the money. The resources and support I get from them have been really good. They've really set us up for success and streamlined processes for conducting business during this time, so even if we go back to a full shutdown, we'll be able to sustain our business.

Related: Why This Oakland Cop Became a Subway Franchisee

Has it been nice to be a part of that community, rather than operating independently like with your other businesses?

I like sharing ideas — that's part of the public servant in me. And in a franchise, you're no longer solo. If I come up with an idea as an entrepreneur, it's no longer just my idea. It's shared with the masses. For example, because I own a janitorial supplies company — and 27 of my customers are medical facilities —­ I had masks, thermometers, disposable aprons. I've been able to educate and aid the other franchisees in my area to make sure we're doing temperature checks and offering hand sanitizer when customers walked through the door.

Have there been any surprises adjusting to that kind of business network?

You don't make decisions just for yourself. Everything has to be run through the franchise, and that's been new to me — I've never had to answer to anyone! I was asked to file a weekly labor report, and I was like, "Why do I have to do that? I don't have time to do that!" So there are internal processes that are new to me. But I haven't had a negative experience. I wanted to have access to the kind of team I have at corporate.

Stephanie Schomer

Entrepreneur Staff

Deputy Editor

Stephanie Schomer is Entrepreneur magazine's deputy editor. She previously worked at Entertainment WeeklyArchitectural Digest and Fast Company. Follow her on Twitter @stephschomer.

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