Teresa Leming woke up in the middle of the night with a title. Her new company would be called “Buzz’n Brushes.”
“Buzz” would refer to her imagined gardenlike decor featuring bees and to her customers’ ability to have wine or a cocktail in the garden. “Brushes” would signal that groups of customers would paint with acrylic paints on canvas, led by an instructor/entertainer, with “fun” and “success” the bywords.
Leming’s new business would be the Las Vegas version of Colorado’s “Canvas and Cocktails” painting classes.
Leming, a Las Vegan whose job as a mortgage bank wholesale representative ended with the recession, had been looking for a business to run. Since becoming an unwed mother 32 years ago at age 15, Leming had found her own way in life. Her mantra was, “Failure is not an option.”
She was trained as a dental hygienist and sold dental equipment before participating in wholesale lending. With success came a nice home and automobile, both of which were lost when Nevada’s real estate market collapsed.
Leming moved to a small one-bedroom apartment, worked in contract sales for small companies and began looking to a new future.
“In my heart, I always had an entrepreneurial spirit,” she says, “so in spite of my downsized circumstances, I wanted to own my own business.”
A 2011 Canvas and Cocktails visit, a Christmas present from her daughter Heather, inspired Leming. She thought group painting classes with an entertainment twist would work in Las Vegas.
Two years later, after signing a studio-partner relationship agreement with Canvas and Cocktails, Buzz’n Brushes opened for business at The Orleans. Leming had worked nonstop to find investors, a staff, a location, supplies, a Web design and training. She had also found “the perfect” lead instructor/investor in Caroline App, Leming’s Bodypump instructor and a human resources executive who was looking for her own new challenge.
Leming had also hired Victor Rodriguez of Eurie Creative to design a bee logo (“he was sympathetic to a startup business and reduced his normal fee”), had passed background checks at Boyd Gaming Corp. and in June 2013 had signed a lease for a space at The Orleans.
“Initially I hadn’t envisioned a location in a casino, but fate brought me in contact with Boyd Gaming and The Orleans location,” Leming says. “I can’t tell you how grateful I am to Boyd Gaming. They had faith in this new concept and in me.”
Buzz’n Brushes opened in August, in a far corner of The Orleans’ ground floor. The space is a large indoor room with an outdoor decor. Giant sunflowers decorate the columns, and around the room are paintings — lots and lots of colorful paintings.
Individuals and groups sign up for classes. Instructors such as App, Jordan Turner and Shana Jenson Muldrow distribute painting supplies and then conduct classes in which virtually everyone can have a successful project. For doubters, a sign on the registration desk says, “Bee-lieve in the possibilities.”
“I love our staff,” Leming says. “I’m not in the space every day, but I have full confidence in our people. I say of our part-time instructors that they have full-time passion.”
The bee theme is everywhere in company marketing and literature. Leming’s own title is CBO (chief bee officer). App as lead instructor is known as a “BeeExtraordinaire.”
App is Buzz’n Brushes’ most recognizable public personality. She welcomes visitors, trains the other instructors and creates what repeat customer Tiffany Turner says is a friendly, familylike fun atmosphere. App has attributes Leming liked: a big personality, confidence in front of a crowd, empathy, the ability to instruct painters, humor and a knack for remembering names.
“For some reason, I’ve always been able to remember names,” App says, adding that she loves her new job and wants Buzz’n Brushes to be the Starbucks of painting classes in Las Vegas. “Early in my career I was a teacher, and after the children went around the room once introducing themselves, I could remember every name.”
Word-of-mouth, a website and social media have helped spread the news that a “something different” activity is available at The Orleans.
Turner, a secretary at Cimarron-Memorial High School, says she’d always wanted to paint and Googled painting classes in Las Vegas. She attended several, but once she attended a Buzz’n Brushes class “in that great space,” she says she felt so comfortable she has returned twice more to work on different paintings. Her daughter Leajhia Williams has also attended classes and selected Buzz’n Brushes as the location of her 13th birthday celebration.
A class with App begins with customers being given aprons, picking up paper plates with their supplies of paint colors and sitting before individual canvases where brushes and water are also available. Standing in front of the group, App carefully gives step-by-step instructions on creating the canvas picture.
The instructions typically are easily accomplished, and App, who walks among the painters checking their work, insists that even folks who have never painted before can follow along. Yes, some artists leave with paint on their hands, but the acrylic paint used is water-based and easily washes off.
In between instructions are lively and often humorous conversations with the painters (every name remembered). Games such as Las Vegas trivia, musical chairs and bingo occupy any time needed for paint to dry. A typical Buzz’n Brushes experience lasts two hours followed by lots of picture taking of students with their art.
“Our instructors are the key to making a visit entertaining,” Leming says. “We have improv classes to help our instructors think on their feet, and we meet regularly to exchange ideas and select new paintings. As you can see in our space, our customers can produce a variety of paintings.”
Instructor Muldrow says that she thinks Buzz’n Brushes is a bit of culture the casino community needs. She is a singer and Montessori teacher and says she is just grateful to find a creative “home” at Buzz’n Brushes.
“Even when I’m not instructing, I love just being here and hanging out,” she says.
Leming says the business has hosted groups as small as five people and as large as 80. Mondays through Wednesdays are reserved for private parties; the Thursday through Sunday classes are open to the public.
App says: “When we first opened, business was slow, but the word is getting out. Among our special events, we’ve had bachelorette parties, team-building events, family reunions, birthday parties, themed special events and children’s classes.”
Buzz’n Brushes prices range from $25 to $45, depending on the event. At least one cocktail or soft drink comes with every ticket, and catering is available from The Orleans. Reservations can be made online (www.buzznbrushes.com) where class schedules are given, and walk-ins can be accommodated based on availability.