Like many great things, my business started as nothing more than an idea. I was a painter and lifelong art aficionado with the idea of opening a studio where people could pursue their artistic passion without fear of embarrassment – and with the help of a little wine, of course. I began hosting art parties at venues across Chicago, but still held on to that dream of opening a permanent studio.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite sure how to proceed. Although my mobile business was doing well, I didn’t have the capital required to open a studio on my own, and while I considered getting a loan, I didn’t want to go into massive debt. Furthermore, I knew that if I wanted to have a successful business in the long run, I needed someone else on my team: someone who had skills and passions that complemented mine. I had a background in marketing and brand management, and working with concepts and ideas was my passion. But I wasn’t as keen on the business side of things – finances, bookkeeping, and other nitty-gritty that keeps a business flowing smoothly. I was perfectly capable of handling finances, but it wasn’t nearly as exciting or interesting to me as the creative side.
Although I knew I needed someone, I had no idea where to look. For a long time, I just waited, hoping I’d come up with a great idea or that I’d suddenly find the right person. And, as luck would have it, that’s just what happened. One day in September 2010, the name of an old school friend crossed my mind, so I reached out to him on Facebook. Later, we were catching up over the phone and I told him about my business. He mentioned that he had a friend who had franchising experience and offered to introduce us. That woman was Nancy Bigley, who would become my business partner less than four months later.
Our business relationship started with email and phone conversations: she was incredibly forthcoming with franchise and business advice. We quickly struck up a close friendship and I realized she was the perfect business partner. I asked her to team up with me in December of that year, and we signed a partnership contract a month later. By March, we had a studio up and running.
Committing to a business partner wasn’t an easy decision. Bottle & Bottega was my baby and it was hard to relinquish half of the control to another person. However, I trusted my instincts and knew Nancy was the right choice. She was a good friend of a friend and came with excellent references. Most importantly, I really like her as a person. She’s passionate and has a strong sense of integrity, both qualities I personally value. We share the same vision for the company, communicate well, and respect one another as friends and professionals. I took the leap, and never looked back.
If you’re in the same position – you have a well-formed idea but don’t know how to make it a reality – it might be time to consider getting a business partner. My advice? Go with your gut. Ask friends, family and acquaintances for leads, and meet as many people as you can. Get to know your potential partners, and if it feels like the perfect match, go with it. If you feel wary, maybe it’s best to wait. You may find the perfect business partner when you least expect it. And who knows? You may just end up – like I did – with a new best friend.
About the author: Stephanie King-Myers is the founder and president of innovative art studio franchise Bottle & Bottega, where guests create their own works of art with the help of an artistic instructor and a glass or two of their favorite wine. Along with CEO and co-owner Nancy Bigley, King-Myers has grown Bottle & Bottega into a successful franchise with seven locations in Illinois, Colorado and Oregon. Plans call for 30 additional locations within the next 18 months. For more information visit www.bottleandbottega.com.