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Deb Nemec and Kelly Flowers: Blending Business, Family and Creativity

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A  painting is normally created by the skill of a singular designer. Each masterpiece, from those displayed on the walls of the Louvre to the ones hanging on a kitchen refrigerator, is created by one person.

But there’s a dynamic duo in the Kansas City metro building their own masterpiece together, as a team. In turn, their work is opening up a new world of artistic endeavor for others. It’s a mother-daughter pair driven to bring art to the grassroots of society.

Deb Nemec and her daughter, Kelly Flowers, operate Pinot’s Palette, an upscale paint-and-sip studio offering a fun way to learn painting skills while enjoying a favorite beverage. Deb, who has a fine arts degree in graphic design, was first introduced to the Pinot’s Palette concept by her children, who gave her a class as a gift when she was visiting Austin, Texas.

Making Art Easy
“I had worked in the association management business for many years and I was ready for a career change. Then I had the opportunity to take my first painting class, and I was totally hooked,” the native KC-metro resident remembered. “Later, I purchased a franchise and opened the Leawood studio in April 2013 and the second location in Prairie Village in May 2014.” Deb’s 30-year-old daughter has been alongside the entire time, offering her own brushstrokes to this canvas of a business.

“Our main purpose is to bring art to the masses. Typically, people haven’t painted since elementary school, and even I have no artistic bones in my body,” enthused Kelly. “But Pinot’s Palette is really about escaping and using a different part of your brain. It’s entertaining, fun and interactive, an alternative to a typical night out.”

Pinot’s Palette makes creating your artwork hassle free because it provides everything you need–the canvas, easel, brushes, paints and apron. Customers can bring their own drinks and snacks with Pinot’s Palette supplying wine glasses, corkscrews and ice buckets, plates and napkins. To make an evening even easier, Pinot’s Palette has a bar stocked with many unique wines and beers for purchase. Deb also works closely with a select number of local caterers to help create a one-of-a-kind party experience.

Entrepreneurial Partnership
“Mom wanted to be more involved in the arts and Pinot’s Palette was a great opportunity. As for me, I wanted to be out and about because I hated being at a desk,” Kelly recalled. “When Mom started talking about opening Pinot’s Palette, I got excited, and it went from there. My mom has an artistic eye and a good business sense because she comes from an entrepreneurial family. The vision was hers, but we took off with it together.”

“Our Leawood store was the 13th studio to open, and Prairie Village was the 50th. Now Pinot’s Palette franchises are found at 140 studios across the United States and Canada,” noted Deb. “When you visit our Pinot’s Palette shops, I look at it as if these people are coming to my house, and Kelly and I are the gracious hosts.”

Skilled instructors, with a minimum of a fine arts degree, help customers create artwork. They ensure everyone stays on track to complete a masterpiece by the end of class, which can be two or three hours in length. Customers follow their step-by-step directions through the process, which is no different than using a recipe to bake a cake. Classes are held on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights; occasionally additional classes are held on other nights during the week and on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The class schedule is listed on the website, which includes examples of the artwork you can create.

Give and Take
Normally when people combine to run a business, each partner brings certain skill sets. In this pair’s division of work, Deb is more focused on operations and Kelly is marketing and creative. Because the partners are mother and daughter, it does allow for a different type of conversation when discussing business.

“There’s openness and there are certainly no filters in our business relationship. We have the agreement not to hesitate if something is bothering you or you want to try something new. It’s a family business,” advised Deb. “Given our arrangement, we can be more flexible with Kelly, who needs something other than a nine-to-five work schedule. She needs to mesh her life with her husband, Kyle, who’s a police officer in Blue Springs, Missouri, and their two-year-old daughter, Nora.”

“It’s funny, because we finish each other’s sentences. In fact, we even dress alike in the same colors on occasion. We have a fun dynamic in a fun business. Not only is this a mother-daughter occupation, but I get to bring in my daughter, too. Sometimes I want Mom to cover for me if I need to be with her or I need to take off to have some time with Kyle when he’s not working. Yes, we don’t hold back, but I don’t want to hurt her feelings, either,” commented Kelly. “We do have a good separation of business and family, although it can spill over a bit when we’re all together. It’s not black and white.”

Are there any negatives their mother-daughter bond brings to the business? Deb and Kelly really couldn’t describe anything other than vacation planning. Sometimes the families can’t go together, but support from their staff can help to ease that situation.

Family Transparency
To encourage customers to try a painting adventure at Pinot’s Palette, they’re told they can be expressive in a safe environment, so they can’t go wrong with their painting. But does the same thought work with family? “It’s always safe. We have a very expressive family, but that’s why working with your mom is so great. She’s known me all my life, and I know what buttons not to push,” laughed Kelly.

“If we want to take a risk, we have each other’s back. I’m not worried about what Kelly is thinking because she’ll tell me what she’s thinking,” observed Deb. “We have pretty much the same personality, and we’re willing to try new things. In this relationship, working together has allowed our creativity to build.”

What’s their personal recipe for success? Both point to the ability to speak up and offer solid dialogue that’s valued. “Being in business with your family is not for everyone. But for us, communication is key. And you have to realize that starting a small business isn’t just a hobby. Sure, this is fun, but it’s our livelihood; there’s a lot of work involved,” remarked Kelly. “There’s still the down and dirty that you have to do. It requires the full understanding of what each one is going to do. In most cases, it will bring you closer. Sure, there will be some tough discussions, but as family, it’s easier to do.”

“You have to put egos aside, and as long as you can listen and take a step back, it can work,” shared Deb. “Both of us know what the other is comfortable doing. We play off of each other well. We know what each other’s strengths are and build off of that.”

Communication and Love
The success of this mother-daughter pairing isn’t laid out like a paint-by-numbers kit. Each one places their own unique brushstrokes to build a dynamic canvas consisting of business and family. Both are quick to add that it isn’t for everyone, but it is everything to them and their company. “It’s been an amazing, positive experience,” shared Deb. “If you set the proper structure with your planning, you can be successful.”

“From a daughter’s perspective, when you work with your mom, you become closer. My mom is my friend, and a lot of people can’t say that about the co-workers at their job. Pinot’s Palette has brought us closer together and has taken our relationship to a different level,” revealed Kelly. “Our mother-daughter business duo is easier because that hierarchy is already established. No matter if I’m on the job or at home, I look to her for life direction.”

An important point shared with all painters when they visit Pinot’s Palette is there are no mistakes when it comes to final creations. Acrylic paint dries quickly, so errant paint strokes are quick and easy to fix. The claim also holds true for this unique business partnership between mother and daughter. Deb and Kelly work together as a team, ensuring success with open discussions and honest communication.

“Well, the wine makes it fun, too,” Kelly laughed. “If there’s something we disagree on, we can talk about it over a glass of wine.”