Entrepreneur Denym Bird, 26, discusses investing $3000 to start up his creative business, expanding into Britain, the shift away from drinking in bars to experiential entertainment and where he thinks the industry is headed.
What does your business do?
Paintvine is a painting and wine evening where we host essentially an art class in a bar - something that is familiar, a bar, and doing something people haven't done in a while or since school. We launched in Britomart in Auckland in July 2017 and then quickly expanded it to Hamilton and now we have it in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Queenstown, Tauranga and have just launched in Napier.
We leverage existing bars around the country and then we fill them up with these art classes. Throughout the country we're doing about 15 classes per week, that includes private events.
What was the motivation for starting Paintvine?
I was doing a bit of travelling and so was my business partner and we stumbled upon a bar in the United States with essentially this going on, and thought 'that's a neat concept'. There was nothing like that in New Zealand so we decided to bring it here and give it a crack, and it really took off.
There wasn't really anything creative here in terms of a night out that you could kind of do to activate that creative side of your brain and that really excited us.
How big is your team?
There's myself, business partner Alex Hamilton who looks after all of the logistics and then Ewan Lockie who looks after artistic direction, and then we have two full time equivalents who run operations and 17 artists who deliver our classes.
Who attends Paintvine classes and how much do they cost?
The people who are typically coming to our classes are 80 per cent women, mainly between the ages of 25 and 50. We create a non-judgemental environment and you don't actually have to be good at art to do it so most of the people who attend are novices. We have anywhere between 30 and 40 people in our classes and basically set everything up for people to be able to paint a painting.
We have a pre-prepared painting that people paint and then we have an artist that leads the class and essentially does the painting with you - she or he will teach you the different brush strokes and techniques so that at the end of the class everyone is going to have a painting that looks the same but the funny thing is they all look different in their own way. Tickets are $40 per person and includes the first drink.
What model does the business operate on and how do you go about getting bars on board for the events?
We have a unique proposition which is sort of a win-win-win. We target the popular bars in regional and primary centres, and what we do is target the nights that they're not typically full so like your Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday nights which they want more punters to come through. We tell them we can fill their with high-spending individuals that are going to be there for an extended period of time, usually two to two and a half hours, doing a sophisticated activity and they are quite happy to give us the space for free and also supply the first drink for free, which then helps our profit margins and makes the ticket price even better.
What are your long term plans for the business?
We've created a two-phase strategy of going wide, expanding into all the regional centres, and then going deep where we basically evolve the business from painting and wine. We know the concept of creative events is popular and unique and so what we'll be doing next is launching a series of new events alongside Paintvine such as candle making, soap making and floral arrangements so we can use our partner venues and artists to achieve economies of scale like Uber and Uber Eats.
What's your background and have you owned businesses before Paintvine?
This is not my first time in business. I've run a few businesses, my first business out of university was a vending machine business and then after that I started a marketing agency called Hypergiant, which I still run.
What are your plans for expansion?
Right now it is ramping up our events and opening up more capacity for private events because we get bombarded with private events but there's just too much demand to cope. Private events make up 40 per cent of revenue, quite a big chunk, and its a good growth opportunity for us. We've just hit the 10,000 painter milestone and we're looking for the next 10,000 painters.
My business partner is moving to the UK because seen an opportunity to launch the brand in the UK so that's the next stage of expansion. We're quite interested in the UK and it will be our first international market. Similar is being done there but not at the same scale or level that we're doing it on. London will be the first stop and then all the other centres outside of that.
How much did you invest to start the business?
We started the business with $1000 each so $3000 and we were able to bootstrap the whole business from there. We spent the $3000 on easels, paint supplies and also a bar tab for the first event just to get people interested and that was it. We were able to finance the rest of the expansion through ticket sales. We pre-sell tickets to the events so we make our revenue upfront and then we're able to reinvest it.
How is experiential entertainment impacting traditional drinking and bars?
It's a trend we're tapping into. Bars are now coming to us wanting us to host our events there because consumers are no longer wanting to go and get drunk at a bar. It's also not really a good look that even alcohol companies want to be promoting, whereas, our events are more of an upmarket experience. The trend of this kind of consumption is just beginning and that's why we want to do more.
What advice do you give others wanting to start their own business?
I've started about 30 businesses but you're really only defined by your successes. If you want to do it just get out and do it - if you fall over get back up again and keep getting up again until you hit success - you eventually will if you persist.