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A Night Out with the Girls Led Me to Start a Franchise

Harriet Mills, Founder and CEO of Wine & Design

The following piece was contributed as part of Business News Daily's byline series:

Shortly after the birth of my first child, my life hit a major bump in the road. I was laid off from my corporate job, and with a four-month-old at home, I needed to get back to work quickly in order to keep paying the bills.

The search for my next career step was difficult. I knew I had to find something that provided both the income and flexibility. In the midst of my search, I went on a weekend getaway with girlfriends to destress and clear my head. We were looking for an evening activity when we booked a class at a local paint and sip studio, and after a glass of wine — well, maybe a few glasses — I fell in love with the concept of combining happy hour with the creative environment of an art class.

At the end of the night, I had two things: a pretty decent painting and the inspiration to start my own business.

I wanted to build something that provided the flexibility I needed to maintain a healthy work-life balance and a fun, family-focused atmosphere that left plenty of room to be a successful entrepreneur and mom. Thus, Wine & Design was born.

Growing like grapes

About a year after we opened up in Raleigh, North Carolina, one of the art instructors came to me with the idea to open a second location in a neighboring town, and it really changed the way I thought about the business.

I came into it wanting a situation where I could be my own boss and make good money, but I realized it could be more. By opening the concept up to expansion with a clear, simple franchising model, I could help other people fulfill dreams of owning a business. I could empower fellow women, mothers, and millennials to be their own bosses and make a living doing something they can feel good about while making a positive impact on their community. [See Related Story: How to Turn Your Startup Into a Franchise]

Victorious vino

Making the transition from employee to entrepreneur to franchisor wasn't easy. It was a big learning experience in the first few years. I had to learn quickly, and sometimes the hard way, where to turn for advice and who to rely on.

The greatest lesson I learned is to trust my own judgement and makes moves when they feel right to me. I’m passionate about this business, and the combination of that passion and my gut instincts has guided the entire decision-making process as Wine & Design grew from our first studio to more than 70 franchised locations across the country over the last five years.

While the process hasn't been easy, it's been the most rewarding experience of my professional career. It's given me the opportunity to build a business that's a healthy mix of work and play, and I frequently bring my family to work with me to get them interested in the things I do.

It’s especially important for me that my daughter sees the work I put in, and understands that it’s possible to be a good mom, a great CEO and a loving wife.

About the author: Harriet Mills is the founder and CEO of the Wine & Design paint-and-sip franchise. The company can be found on Twitter @WineAndDesignHQ, on Instagram and Facebook.

Edited for length and clarity by Shannon Gausepohl. Have a great entrepreneurial story to tell? Contact Shannon at to learn more about our contributed content program.

Image Credit: Wine and Design