Unleashing Your Inner Artist

Jill Johnson, the owner of The Paint Mixer, now says, with a little bit of hindsight, she is grateful for her business being inspired by the late iconic public television personality Bob Ross. One of Ross’s mantras was, “there are no mistakes, only happy accidents,” which is how she approached the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on her business.

The creative-based business offers painting parties and creative adventures in Salt Lake City’s Sugar House neighborhood and partner venues throughout the Park City area. The Paint Mixer provides a gathering place for private parties, corporate group team building, kids’ birthdays, girls’ night out, and many more special occasions.

“We offer our clients a fun, playful, and a creative break from the stresses of the pandemic and everyday life,” said Jill Johnson, owner of The Paint Mixer.

Like many small business owners, Johnson was forced to pivot business operations amid the coronavirus pandemic. She prefers to refer to the pivot as a “pirouette,” because she wanted a more graceful word than pivot.

“I knew as soon as our surrounding counties started to mandate closure that our business would be in trouble if I didn’t try something,” said Johnson. “After a good cry and a glass of whiskey, I met with my team to talk about ideas and short-term solutions.”

She looked around the studio and decided to use what she had. With the stock in her studios, she took photos of what could be a potential “create at-home kit.” “We did a soft roll-out to our mailing list to see if there was any interest, and we sold out,” added Johnson. “We eventually depleted our stock and had to invest in new supplies.”

The Shop In Utah grant was pivotal for her business because it allowed her to reduce prices on virtual and in-person classes for all guests.

Team building events have grown to Zoom experiences, and Sorenson partnered with an event production company to send out hundreds of kits locally and nationally. She invests in packaging, shipping, and bringing more guests to Utah via Zoom with grant funds.

Johnson shares the following tips for small business owners working hard to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

  1. Look around at what you have, and start there. The team took stock of what we had, and there was no overhead.
  2. Determine what unique experiences your business offers. 
  3. Package it and take out the guesswork for your guests. We created an insert containing the kit’s contents, what they needed, tips and tricks, and inspiration.
  4. Monetize, and don’t be afraid to charge. Figure out what your costs are, and don’t forget to factor in your time.
  5. Do a soft trial, and don’t spend energy building it. Create one, take a photo, and try it with your current list. Then, when demand is apparent, build like crazy.
  6. Market using all your channels. Make it fun, accessible, and easy for your clients to buy.
  7. Refine with each round and each experience. I learn about pricing, packaging, and what our clients like and don’t like with each round.
  8. Ask for feedback. For the first six weeks, I hand-delivered every package in the neighboring areas. I texted customers when I dropped off kits at their home, creating a virtual touchpoint with every customer.
  9. Know you will miss and that it will not be perfect. But that is okay. Roll with it and be gentle with yourself.
  10. Listen to your team and guests. Keep shifting and tweaking while learning, adjusting, and implementing.
  11. Remember to laugh, trust, and collaborate.