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Start Your Business Success Stories

Hurricane Katrina Victims Recover ... With a Twist

Hurricane Katrina Victims Recover ... With a Twist
Algy and Kermie Irvin went from Hurricane Katrina victims to successful franchise owners in just a few short years. / Credit: Algy and Kermie Irvin

Ever dream about finding a way to do what you love for a living? In our "Do What You Love" column, we ask people who've done it to tell us their secrets. Here's hoping they inspire you to do the same.

Like many other New Orleans residents, Algy and Kermie Irvin lost everything they had when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. The husband and wife pair restarted their lives with new jobs in Houston, but soon realized something was missing. Algy, who had a photography business before the hurricane, knew the founders of the art studio franchise chain Painting with a Twist through his industry connections, and in 2009, the couple opened a studio of their own. Four years and another location later, the Irvins are still doing what they love. Here's how they went from hurricane victims to successful franchise owners.

BND: Explain what you do for a living.

Algy and Kermie Irvin:We own and operate two Painting with a Twist studios. You bring your favorite bottle of wine or beverage and enjoy step-by-step instruction with our experienced and enthusiastic local artists. You'll leave with a one-of-a-kind creation and a newfound talent you'll want to explore.

BND: How did you arrive at the decision to invest in a Painting with a Twist franchise?

AI & KI: Our friends Renee Maloney and Cathy Deano wanted to help rebuild lives after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and developed a business idea known as Corks-N-Canvas. They told us about their great concept and how much people were enjoying the experience. They encouraged us to try it and see if we liked it. Once we picked up our paintbrush, the rest is history: We loved it! They began franchising the business as Painting with a Twist, and we opened our first location in 2009.

BND: You opened your first Painting with a Twist studio several years after you lost your home to Hurricane Katrina. Walk us through your journey to franchise ownership.

KI: After losing everything to Hurricane Katrina, we began mapping out how to rebuild our lives. In 2006, we made the decision to relocate. I landed a job in Houston that was right in line with the career I already had as an engineer, and Algy, a professional photographer, began to transition his business there. We were working extremely hard to regain normalcy, and constantly brainstorming about our next career move. In 2009, it became very clear what that move should be: Painting with a Twist. Not only did we believe in the concept, but we believed in our friends (Renee and Cathy). So, in December of 2009, we opened our studio in The Woodlands, Texas. Many people thought we were not making the right decision due to the recession, but we knew opening the studio was exactly what we needed to do. We figured if we could survive Hurricane Katrina, a recession surely would not defeat us! The community was not at all familiar with the concept, so we had to hit the pavement and get the word out. We invited people to come in and experience our studio. Impressed by how much fun they had, the customers began to tell their friends, family, co-workers and neighbors. Our business gained a great reputation and grew tremendously from there. In 2011, we opened our second studio in Kingwood, Texas, and it is thriving!

BND: What is a typical day at work like for you?

AI: A typical day consists of reviewing the calendar, making sure the artists working that week have the resources they need to provide the level of service our customers have come to expect. Voicemails and emails are returned, and private parties are secured. Any delivery of supplies or maintenance that is required takes place late morning or early afternoon before the evening classes begin.

BND: What is your favorite part about working with artists?

AI: Artists bring a different appreciation for life. They also have a different perspective on the work they do and how it balances their life compared to other professions.

BND: Why do you love your job?

AI: I have always had a passion for the arts and the desire to improve the quality of life of the people that I work with. Painting with a Twist provides the ultimate avenue to fulfill both [goals].

BND: If you didn't do your job, what job would you like to have and why?

AI: Ergonomics Engineer. I love designing things that people interact most efficiently with.

BND: Do you think having a job you love has made you a better person in other areas of your life?

AI & KI: Having a job that we love has without a doubt made us better people. This job shows us every day the importance and significance of every stroke of our lives.

BND: What's your best advice to other people who are trying to pursue their career dreams?

KI: Stay focused! When you are faced with adversity, do not look at it as a problem, but just as a temporary situation that will be resolved. Sometimes it takes a challenging situation to clear you a path to success!

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.

Nicole Fallon

Nicole Fallon received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the assistant editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.