Combining art and relaxation talks to Pinot & Picasso about running an art-based franchise.


Pinot & Picasso is an international franchise that combines art and the art of socialising and it’s expanding into the UK.

The company was set up in Australia in 2018. Co-founder James Crowe was working in the hospitality sector. The seed for the idea came after his business partner’s fiancee had attended a similar type of art class. James and his partner thought they could go one better by focusing more on how the art sessions make people feel as opposed to on the art work people create. “Art is a vessel for people to relax,” says James.

Within six weeks of sketching out a plan for the business James and his partner had opened their first studio in Sydney.

By the following year they had turned the business into a franchise, sensing the potential for expansion. They are now operating in 75 locations, including in Shoreditch in London. Two more UK studios are starting up – one in Brighton and one in Liverpool – in the next couple of weeks. “It’s developed its own momentum and has taken on legs of its own,” says James, who has been working full time on the business for over four years. “It’s a really cool business idea.”

He adds that being able to offer people the opportunity to run their own businesses – and providing the framework and support so they are not alone in doing so – is an added bonus.


There have been challenges over the years, however,  principally Covid, but the business managed to weather the  pandemic by using it as an opportunity to build its audience and give back to the community.  The sessions went online and were free and the company sold art kits for people to use in their homes. As people were stuck in their houses with nothing much to do the classes were well received.

Art also has an important role to play in wellbeing, says James. “Art is one of the few things that brings us right into the present. The mental health benefits of creating something and focusing on something that is 15 centimetres from your face provides a really important distraction from all the turbulence that we have gone through since Covid,” he states.


The franchise’s success in Australia combined with James’ interest in spending time in Europe and the lack of a similar organisation operating on the same scale in the UK meant that launching in Britain made a lot of sense. The company had already successfully ventured abroad into New Zealand. Just as in Australia, the UK studios employ outgoing, ‘infectious’ hosts and in the UK there is also a bar in the studios. “Every decision is customer-based,” says James. There are corporate team-building sessions, birthday parties, hen dos and more.

So what does it take to be a franchisee? For one, franchisees don’t have to be artistic themselves. It is more about having the right business skills. James says experience of managing and motivating people is important as is passion and the drive to give something back to the community.

He says many people are looking for something different, with a lot having had time to rethink their lives during the pandemic. Many started looking at ways to reduce their hours and give themselves other options, for instance, through running their own business on the side of other work. “It gives people more opportunities and more freedom,” says James.

He adds that the biggest benefit of being a franchisee is that you get a business that has been tried and tested and access to a network of people going through the same experience. “You feel like part of a community. The better everyone does the better everyone else does,” says James.

The franchise is not cheap because it includes the cost of the studio. The average start-up cost is £80K, but it varies according to the cost of a commercial site. It covers the set-up and kitting out of the studio, franchise fees, training in how to run the business and put together a business plan, a website and staff training.  There are then ongoing leasing costs and a royalty fee.

James says the calibre of the people they attract is vital because they are representing the brand. “We are always looking for the best people. It’s an exciting time and we have seen some really good results in the UK.  The momentum is really building.”

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