Husband, wife sculpt success with Color Me Mine

Indianapolis Business Review

For husband and wife team Noel and Shilpa Patel-Paul, becoming a part of Color Me Mine, a paint-your-own pottery franchise, was a decision for not only their family’s success, but also to achieve the “American Dream” their parents had hoped for them as they ventured to the United States from their native countries.

Noel, born in Pakistan, and Shilpa, born in India, came to United States as children where their lives were changed forever. As they grew older and started a family, it became apparent that not only passion for their professions but also work-life balance was important to them as a family.

After working in human resources for several years, Shilpa wanted a change. As a creative person who detested the idea of sitting in a cubicle, she opted for business ownership and decided to look into franchising. As she began researching, she found the Glendale, Calif.-based Color Me Mine. At Color Me Mine, she would be able to incorporate her own management style and store décor, while helping customers with their pottery and operating their business.

“In our native countries, it would not have been possible for me to own my own business, much less have the work-life balance I so desperately craved after having our children,” Shilpa said. “The United States, my parents, and our education provided me with the opportunity to flourish both personally and professionally and I was going to take advantage of that.”

While the husband and wife team were not new to business ownership as Shilpa previously owned a dance school, they were new to franchising and began to see the difference between the business models.

“When operating our dance studio, while it was successful, I had no corporate office to turn to. President Mike Mooslin and the corporate office team nurtured us and provided great business guidance that allowed us to grow our business locally,” Shilpa said. “Having added support has been wonderful throughout the years. The corporate office is there to see our successes and provides us with words of wisdom during our times of struggle.”

Under Mooslin’s leadership, Color Me Mine has become a leader is contemporary ceramics with nearly 140 locations in operation worldwide, including studios in 26 states throughout the United States. The company plans to target key markets throughout the United States for continued expansion, including Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, Long Island, Manhattan and Upper New York, among others.

Today, the Patel-Pauls own a Color Me Mine studio in Carmel, Ind., which they run with the help of their children. Shilpa’s studio office is decorated with items from Shilpa’s Indian heritage, and her creative side is showcased on ceramic pieces decorated with henna, which is displayed throughout the store.

From The Top: Bruce Westenfelder of Color Me Mine

By David Sharos For The Sun August 23, 2012 7:00PM

Bruce and Janie Westenfelder think that hands-on activities for kids are a good way to develop relationships as well as creativity. Their business offers just that — opportunities for youngsters to have those experiences with friends and so much more.

Bruce Westenfelder, 48, of Naperville spent years in the corporate world in sales, management and marketing roles for companies in the Chicago area. But the entrepreneurial bug bit him almost a decade ago, and in 2004, he opened Color Me Mine in Glenview — a sort of hybrid art studio and craft concept where patrons pick a piece of pottery and then design, paint, and have it glazed and ready for use.

“This is a 21-year-old franchise that offers a ‘paint your own ceramics’ experience that focuses on family-oriented activities,” Westenfelder said. “My wife and I both spent time in the corporate world, and when the last business I was with sold, we wanted to find something we could do together as a family, including our 5-year-old son who could grow up in the business.”

The Westenfelders added their second store in Naperville in 2007, followed by a third in Burr Ridge in 2010. Today, all three studios are experiencing positive growth, and in addition to running his locations, Westenfelder has taken on a corporate role where he spends 50 percent of this time serving as vice president of franchise development.

Mike Mooslin, president of Color Me Mine, raves about his VP.

“While we provide a lot of support for franchises regarding financial analysis, inventory, labor costs and other things, Bruce is savvy enough to know how to use it,” Mooslin said. “He and his wife run a tight ship, and they know how to stock, display and sell product day to day, and there is a esprit de corps among their employees.”

Franchise Chatter: Exclusive Interview with Mike Mooslin, President of Color Me Mine

Exclusive Interview with Mike Mooslin, President of Color Me Mine, Originator of the Paint-It-Yourself Ceramics Concept
by Franchise Chatter on June 29, 2012

Color Me Mine is the leader in the contemporary ceramics industry with nearly 140 locations in operation worldwide, including studios in 26 states throughout the United States. Founded in 1991, Color Me Mine provides consumers with an upscale art-as-entertainment studio offering a relaxing environment to choose from 350 unfinished pieces and express their own vision through painting.

The company recently reported that average unit volumes at its 140 studios worldwide nearly double that of independently owned paint-it-yourself ceramic studios. Although Color Me Mine represents
just 15 percent of U.S. ceramics locations, it accounts for approximately 30 percent of the revenue stream in the industry.

Mike Mooslin, president of Color Me Mine, has been involved in fast food franchising for over 30 years (7 years with McDonald’s, 17 years as President of Naugles Drive Thru, and 7 years as a franchise consultant to franchise attorneys and restaurant chains). Mike sold his consulting company and private restaurant holdings to develop KOO KOO ROO, a fast-casual restaurant concept, which was later sold to El Torito in the 1990s. In 1998, Mike bought Color Me Mine, the leader in the paint-it-yourself ceramics industry.

Franchise Chatter (FC): For those unfamiliar, what is the concept behind Color Me Mine?

Mike Mooslin (MM): Color Me Mine is the originator of the paint-it-yourself ceramics concept. Founded in 1991, Color Me Mine studios provide an entertainment, enrichment, and bonding experience for families. Customers come to a studio and pick a white, blank ceramic object and decorate the piece themselves with the assistance of our employees, if needed. The next step is to glaze and fire the pieces. Once that is completed, the customer comes back in a week or less to pick up their finished masterpiece.

FC: Can you talk about the business model for a Color Me Mine franchise? How do your franchisees generate revenues? What are the major expenses to generate those revenues?

MM: Cost of sales is quite low making the lease the biggest single expense. Cost of sales is about 18%, labor about 18%, rent about 20%, and administrative expenses about 20%. The average sales is $266,000 per year, with profit in excess of 22%. Primary revenue drivers, besides walk- ins (40% impulse), would be group sales from girl scouts, birthday parties, wedding and baby showers, fundraisers, day camps, and after-school enrichment programs.

FC: How has the difficult economy of the past few years impacted sales at Color Me Mine locations?

MM: We have actually seen an increase in sales during the recession. With the difficult economy during the past couple years, we have noticed an interesting trend in which people are traveling less and looking for entertainment close to home. I think people are also doing more personal gifts rather than buying expensive items at a department store for holidays or birthdays.

FC:Can you describe Color Me Mine’s primary target customer?

MM: Our primary target customer is women ages 18 to 54, and children under 12. Additionally, those with upper middle incomes and above, with a college education and a small family size are also ideal target customers.

FC: What is the ideal location for a Color Me Mine franchise? What is the size of a typical location?

MM: Color Me Mine’s ideal location is in vibrant downtown walking areas; entertainment or lifestyle power centers with movie theaters, day spas, women’s apparel, and children’s services; or malls.

FC: What is the typical role of a hands-on Color Me Mine franchise owner/operator? What are the staffing requirements for the average Color Me Mine location?

MM: Each studio hires 5-7 part time employees (about 90 employee hours). Color Me Mine franchisees work in the studios about 30 hours per week, and conduct marketing strategies (online and in-person on a grass roots basis) about 8-10 hours. Our franchisees and staff must have outgoing personalities, enjoy children, and be proficient with computers.

FC: What kind of training and support can your franchisees expect to receive?

MM: Color Me Mine hosts a 10-day program at the home office training facility. This includes three days in a local studio, plus five days with a trainer on site to help franchisees open their new studio. Additionally, the Color Me Mine home office team provides full real estate support (site evaluation, letters of intent, lease negotiation, contract signing, etc), construction and opening support, as well as ongoing operations support and training at regional and annual meetings. We also provide monthly financial and operating analysis.

FC: What can you tell us about the estimated initial investment, royalty fee, and profit potential for a Color Me Mine franchise?

MM: Initial investment is about $145,000. The royalty fee is 5% of gross sales. Additionally, franchisees pay 1% of gross sales to corporate for producing marketing materials, and $80 per month for 7-day per week online computer support and license upgrades to computer systems. Average profit for a studio open more than one year is about $58,000 ($86,000 for the top 25 ranked studios). This can be looked at as an additional income for a family rather than a business that alone will support a family.

FC: Why should some interested in opening a ceramics paint-it-yourself business go with a franchise like Color Me Mine versus starting one on their own?

MM: The business appears easier than it really is. Color Me Mine eases small business ownership by helping handle a lot of complexities that the average independent does not have the skill set to handle, such as real estate, leases, financial analysis, inventory, and merchandising management.

Unlike independent operators, Color Me Mine has national marketing partnerships with companies like Warner Bros., Pixar, Disney, etc.; national buying programs that reduce costs; brand awareness among landlords, making better locations available than would normally be offered to an independent; 24/7 support center; website management; social networking programs; national gift card program; bank financing support; business plan development; studio design; marketing programs; window display services, among others.

FC: What are your growth targets for 2012 and beyond? Which regions are you targeting for expansion?

MM: Color Me Mine would like to open more than 20 new studios in the coming years in key markets, such as Atlanta, Georgia; Austin, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Chicago, Illinois; Cincinnati, Ohio; Cleveland, Ohio; Dallas, Texas; Houston, Texas; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; New York City, New York; Phoenix, Arizona; San Diego, California; Seattle, Washington; St. Louis, Missouri, among others.