Jessie Sterling went on maternity leave and never went back. To her old job, that is. She’s doing quite nicely as a small business owner.
Since opening her first tiny Paint the Towne in 2010, Sterling has traded in that location one for a larger spot and opened two more in Wichita. The business hosts “paint parties” in which participants get the materials and direction to create their own works of art.
“I saw a place in Texas doing this, and we didn’t have anything in the state like it at the time,” Sterling, a former elementary school teacher, said. “I was looking for something to do and it just turned into a full-time gig.”
Paint the Towne can hold about 80 people at its east-side location, 60 out west and 24 in Clifton Square. It’s one of five finalists for the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Small Business Award in Tier I – businesses employing 25 people or less.
Paint the Towne holds regularly scheduled classes that anyone can attend, but it’s private parties that keep it busiest. “We celebrate all kinds of things – birthdays, bachelorette parties,” Sterling said.
Prices range from $15 per child for a one-hour party up to $25 per adult for two-hour sessions. Animals, team mascots, landscapes and flowers are some of the subjects offered. Participants can bring their own food and beverages.
Sterling employs 11 people and says they’ve been the key to her success, although not are all great artists. Instead, she looked for “great personality.”
“I just met people and interviewed them,” Sterling said. “You can train people to paint, you can’t train people to be entertaining, or a nice person.”
Without any business background, Sterling said most of her most her early decisions were “just kind of doing what I could guess to do.” She has tried to educate herself and believes that her grasp of marketing, among all the skills required of a small-business owner, has probably improved the most. Joining the chamber provided another shot in the arm, she said.
“We have lot of support from (Wichitans),” she said. “We have one party and then all these people come back and bring their friends.”
Sterling said she had no idea if Paint the Towne would succeed. “I was going out on a limb.”
Ultimately, hard work probably played the biggest role in the business’ growth.
“If you want it, it shows in your business,” Sterling said.
That, and the employees she says she was fortunate or smart enough to hire.
“Honestly, the people I’ve hired have been with me since I started.”
Now you know
PAINT THE TOWNE
Address: 8037 E. Peachtree Lane; 7011 W. Central; 3700 W. Douglas, No. 90
Owner: Jessie Sterling