Where Passion Meets Paint

Painting with a Twist owner Johanna Natale on the rewards of picking up a paintbrush — and doing what you love.

Cheryl Gerber Johanna Natale Painting With A Twist 01
Photos by Cheryl Gerber

Before she became franchise owner of three Painting with a Twist locations, Johanna Natale was already a believer in the power of art.

“I loved going to Painting with a Twist,” she says. “I went by myself, I went with friends. I still have my first painting!”

So, when Natale’s family moved from Houston back to Metairie in 2018, the pivot from a corporate job to franchise-owner felt natural. On the heels of several years of work as an account and sales executive, Natale began researching the “paint and sip” industry and noticed that three Painting with a Twist locations—Baton Rouge, Metairie and Gretna—were available for purchase.

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Originally conceived in Mandeville in 2007 by Cathy Deano and Renee Maloney, Painting with a Twist offers an experience to relax, unwind and be creative. It has since expanded to over 300 franchise locations across the nation.

“I wanted to be involved with something that brought joy to the community,” Natale says. “It made perfect sense for me, not only because Painting with a Twist is the leader of the paint and sip industry, but also this was where they were founded.”

Natale says the entrepreneurial spirit runs in her family. She was just two years old when her parents migrated from Honduras to the Greater New Orleans area, where Natale’s mother soon became the owner of a Hispanic grocery store. Watching her mother persevere in a new environment taught Natale a valuable lesson about finding and sticking with a passion.

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“My mother was a small business owner,” Natale says. “She owned Kenner Supermarket, at the time one of only a few Hispanic grocery stores in the whole of metro New Orleans. We noticed that she liked what she did, and we definitely inherited an entrepreneurial spark from her that runs in the family. My sister owns her own business, and I majored in business. It’s a lot easier to go to work when you find something you’re passionate about.”

Becoming a business owner was a smooth transition for Natale, who spent years studying and gaining real-world experience before setting out on her own ventures. She constantly feeds creative energy into her business, expanding offerings and activities to share the healing power of art with as many people as possible. In addition to classes, Painting with a Twist hosts birthday parties, baby showers, date nights, girls’ night out, team-building experiences and programs for kids.

“Most of our customers have never picked up a paintbrush,” Natale says. “They’re there for the experience.”

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For Natale, knowing that people are creating lifelong memories is one of the most rewarding aspects of the business. In 2020, when people couldn’t take in-person classes due to the pandemic, she and her team found a different way to create the experience. “Twist at Home” was born.

“The kit includes materials and step-by-step video instructions,” Natale says. “It took off! People love it. We started doing virtual classes. Companies wanted to continue team-building, even though they couldn’t get together in-person.”

The morale boost was in high demand, and Natale says virtual classes have been able to reach vulnerable members of the community. “We did a virtual event for kids who are cancer patients. It was so rewarding! It was a niche we didn’t realize existed, and we’re definitely going to continue offering these events.”

Lifting spirits is part of the mission of Painting with a Twist, which Natale believes made harnessing and sharing the power of art even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Natale also found tremendous comfort and support in her partnership with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana, and she cites President Mayra Pineda as a source of inspiration and guidance through difficult times.

“Once I found out that Mayra was leading the HCCL, I knew I wanted to be a member,” Natale says. “I knew Mayra would represent the needs of Hispanic-owned businesses in legislation, and I was also certain that she would find many resources and opportunities to help make our businesses succeed. The Chamber allows you to meet other business owners in order to support and patronize each other’s businesses.”

Even as the world eases back into normalcy, Natale says she’ll continue working to reach more and more people who could use a little light in their days.

“Painting with a Twist was born during a catastrophic time, right after Hurricane Katrina,” Natale says. “And luckily, during this dark time, we’re able to lighten spirits as well. Sometimes an opportunity presents itself, not dressed the way you think it should be.”

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