Creative Businesswoman Shares Her Happy Place With Happy Valley

By Shawn Annarelli Centre Daily Times (State College, Pa.)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Those "wine and paint" businesses are growing in popularity throughout the country. From full fledged brick and mortar locations with a staff devoted to painting to simplified pop up events they seem to be everywhere these days. For women in business with an artistic dream, this can be a wonderful way to tap into that creative side while driving a revenue stream. This article takes a look at one Pa. woman's experience with the concept. PS...even if you don't want to own a "wine and paint" business, I urge you to GO to a class....I did here in NYC....SO much fun....I promise!

State College, Pa.

Professional artists' works hang from the walls in The Crystal Cave.

The downtown State College jewelry and art store occasionally serves as the venue for Happy Valley Sip and Paint, a one-night tap-into-your-artistic-side business for amateur painters.

Happy Valley Sip and Paint, owned by Amanda Kunkel, is in its third year.

"I used to draw and illustrate books as a child," Kunkel said. "I went to the Delta Program, and I was always in the art room. It's something I always did in my spare time."

Q: Can anyone be an artist?

A: Absolutely, but it's a degree of art ... You can produce art and you don't have to have years of building it as a talent. About 99 percent of the people that come to my workshops are nervous, and they'll say they haven't done art since elementary school, but if you have the right encouragement and instruction you can produce something that looks great.

Q: Was Happy Valley Sip and Paint a way to supplement your work?

A: Yes. With Meina Kay I was teaching private art lessons, fine art type courses that are for five or six weeks. I had friends asking me a few years ago about these one-night art events in the bigger cities. There wasn't anyone in town at that point that did it. I dragged my feet about it. I thought about how big of an expense it would be and all the materials I'd have to get for that, but it was three unrelated friends in a week period that mentioned it that got me to try it.

Q: Were they successful early on?

A: Oh, it was so much fun. The purpose of my life is to change the world, to make it a more fun loving, happier place through art. I realized I could reach more people doing these one-night deals, that way they don't have to commit to five or six week deals, especially if you are, say, a mom and you're already working. I recently sent out a survey ... and the biggest response I got was that it was relaxing, soothing, and that's part of what you get. What I bring to it and what I get my instructors to bring to it is a night to relax and learn about art. There's no pressure to perform, because that happens in the rest of your life. You get those few hours to relax, tap into your artistic side, make a great painting and time away from worrying about the kids, the mortgage, the work that's always on your mind.

Q: This kind of business model seems to have gained popularity in recent years. Would you attribute that to social media? A: Absolutely ... Social media is, at least in State College with so much access to the Internet and smartphones, something where you can get the word out about something quickly. To keep people coming back though, you actually have to put your heart and soul into it and not just have it be a thing where it's, "here's my stuff, buy it."

Q: Where do these one-night outings usually take place?

A: Here at The Crystal Cave. We have two workshops a month at Big Springs Distillery, Garfield's in the mall, Rony's Place Restaurant and Pizzeria, but the biggest booking is women who do it as hostesses in their own home.

Q: What is the "sip" part of the business?

A: The cheapest option private parties at The Crystal Cave and at your own home you can bring your own beverages. When you look at restaurants you're going to have everything, the materials, the teaching, the eight hours I put in to make it run, and then at an establishment with food and beverages they'll include their prices, too.

Q: How is the choice made what people will learn to paint?

A: At the private parties the hostess gets to choose. I find when someone is really excited and likes what they're doing they'll do it well. We go back and forth over email, get an idea for what to do, I'll shoot her a few samples and we eventually pick it out. For the workshops I've picked what we'll paint, and I put it online. At Garfield's they get excited because they want to paint, too, so I've let them be a part of that process. For Big Springs I'll post on Facebook for people to vote on it.

Q: What can be challenging about this business?

A: The amount of hours that goes into making a workshop happen is a huge time commitment. This is also my sole provider -- I'm not married, I don't have a trust fund. I don't have parents supporting me with money. It is what I live off of, and I could work a lot more, but I have to take the advice I give my clients, "make time for you." These aren't necessarily bad challenges. I do find I put my business phone in the studio when I'm done, because my clients could be off work at all times. I can get messages at 2 a.m., so the phone doesn't stay next to my bed. And they don't expect a response right then, but it might be the only time they are available to leave me a message.

Q: What is your favorite thing to paint?

A: Little babies and animals.

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