When Danielle Arno, our NJMOMpreneur of the week, was 12, she had her first business—selling her tie-dye creations and works of art. As she got older, she earned degrees in business, education, and art, but it wouldn’t be until she was a mom to two boys that she would return to her true entrepreneurial calling. Seeing “paint and sip” studios as a growing trend, Danielle jumped on the idea to open one in Monmouth County but needed the flexibility to work around her young family. So instead of renting out space, she decided to take the concept on wheels: With ArtWorx Events, Danielle brings the art party in and helps guests create their own masterpiece, all while relaxing and having a great time (wine helps, too). We chatted with the Marlboro mom to talk about how ArtWorx is changing post-quarantine, how everyone can tap into their creative side, and what her kids’ favorite take out spots have been while staying-at-home.
Please tell us about your family and where you live.
I live in Marlboro in Monmouth County with my husband, two sons, and two cats. I love that it is close to the city, the beach, and has so many great towns to hang out in and explore.
ArtWorx is certainly a cool concept. What made you come up with the idea of mobile paint and sip?
I was involved in and loved art for as long as I can remember. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit—when I was 12, I started my first business selling handpainted and tie-dyed clothing, and later, in my 20s, I made jewelry that was sold in boutiques. I went to Lehigh for a BS in Marketing and then got an MA in Art Education and Metalworking, an Art Teacher degree, and also became a Gemologist and Accredited Jewelry Professional at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Before I had my kids, I was an art teacher and assistant principal at a charter school, but I always wanted to work for myself and create my own schedule. A few years later, my husband and I were watching a TV show where they introduced the “Paint & Sip” party concept (guests paint a picture while they enjoy drinks and food) and because I love art and teaching, it piqued my interest. So I did a lot of research, and even looked into franchises, but I decided that my own thing was better since my kids were 2 and 4 at the time. It took a while to move forward with plans and work out the kinks, but in 2013 I became the first “Paint and Sip” (that I know of) in Monmouth County. The mobile concept made more sense because of the flexibility and hours. At first, I partnered with restaurants and locations, and then after the concept took off, I started to hold private events.
What makes ArtWorx events unique?
The main difference of ArtWorx is that I bring all the fun and activity to any location, whether that’s a home or a restaurant or school. The only things that a client has to provide are the table, chairs, food, and drinks. For the art, the host can pick the material to paint on, like a canvas, tote bag, wood, glassware, clothing, or instead of painting, choose jewelry making. And my teaching background has helped me in personalizing and offering customer service during events— I believe everyone can be creative, and I coach them to tap into those creative juices. When they realize their abilities, it’s a moment of pride for them, kind of like that feeling you had when you were a kid and made something. So instead of just copying from a picture like other places do, I encourage guests to add their own twist or flair to the painting. Most people don’t completely like to do it on their own, they like something to refer to, and I will lean in and make suggestions and give guidance. But they always can do what they want—I don’t want them to feel limited by rules.
How have you pivoted in the current COVID climate?
I had taken a step back temporarily, but I’m now doing virtual parties. I ship the hostess the supplies and instruct over ZOOM. The social distancing limitations will continue to greatly impact my business, but I’m adapting and may have limited outdoor events later this summer. I’m lucky enough not to own a storefront and have to pay rent—all the more reason why I’m glad I chose to make ArtWorx mobile, and it’s truly flexible in today’s climate. I’m also creating too, and I do sell personalized art upon request, like glassware or wood, for a truly custom gift.
How do you balance being a mom with your business?
I balance being a mom with my business as well as I can—my kids do come first, but sometimes compromises need to be made. I do my very best to schedule around any events, activities, or sports games they might have, although last-minute changes can be challenging. Fortunately, I’ve managed not to miss anything too important in the seven years I’ve been open.
What local businesses have you been supporting during the quarantine?
My kids love pizza, so for takeout, we’ve been doing Cuzzin’s Pizza in Freehold—the grandma pizza is the best—and Emilio’s Pizza in Manalapan. I’ve bought a few things for the summer online from Blush Boutique. It’s owned by two local moms in Manalapan and they sell cute trendy clothes at reasonable prices.
What advice do you have for any other mompreneurs trying to stay afloat in the current climate or just starting?
The best advice I can give is to roll with the tide and try to embrace, rather than run from change. I don’t think this is easy for anyone and we are all honestly trying to get through the day one step at a time. All businesses have different needs and ways that they work in a normal world, but even more so given the pandemic—look at all options and see what path makes the most sense for you to follow.