A move to Wisconsin and one auspicious Christmas party became the catalyst that changed the personal and professional lives of Julie and Curt Selby. The founders and owners of Board & Brush Creative Studio in Hartland have expanded the business into more than 80 franchised locations across the country in less than three years.
Board & Brush is a studio that offers do-it-yourself classes on painting farmhouse-style signs with more than 300 templates and myriad board shapes and styles. While wood is the most requested base, projects may be completed on glass, slate, chalkboard, even terra-cotta pots. Customers pick their own projects, and instructors guide them through the creative process. Snacks and A party atmosphere is encouraged with spirits and food.
Julie says the beginning of their business was due in part to serendipity. “My husband, Curt, is a corporate human relations executive and was transferred from Fort Wayne, Indiana, to Milwaukee’s Third Ward in 2014,” says Julie. “We liked the schools in Hartland -- our youngest daughter would go to Arrowhead -- and we felt that Hartland would be a good fit.”
Because their three daughters were older and Julie did not get involved with school activities, she felt a bit lonely in their new surroundings. “I struggled to make friends,” she remembers.
A DIY aficionado, Julie says she always loved hands-on projects and reaped the benefits of a creative mother-in-law, who came up with a novel idea to meet Julie's neighbors.
The Selbys decided to throw a pre-Christmas party and invited a number of couples from their neighborhood. “The women ended up in our basement where I held my first workshop, showing them how to make painted signs. Someone posted pictures from our party on Facebook, and they went viral. More and more people heard about it and I started holding classes in our basement.”
By March 2015, the Selbys rented a space for their classes in downtown Harland and a few weeks later were approached about licensing their business. “We met with an attorney and worried that licensing our brand name could mean that we could lose the quality of our product. We decided to establish franchises instead.”
As of 2017, there are Board & Brush studios in 24 states -- from Connecticut to Florida and from New Jersey to Nevada. Julie, Curt or their director of operations visits each studio as it opens.
“Each studio must have a liquor license and either serve liquor or have a 'bring your own bottle’ policy," says Julie.
While each franchise must follow the arrangement established by Board & Brush, Julie adds that each studio has great latitude. “We are a family-balanced business, geared to moms who need the flexibility of family, church and life. Studios are staffed only when hosting classes. Each franchise owner determines their own success. They can schedule a few classes or schedule nine sessions a week.” The Selbys keep in touch with the owners. “They’ve become our franchise family.”
Each class session is unique. “We could have 30 people making 30 completely different signs,” Julie says. “We display current projects and we release new templates and designs every month. We supply everything, all paints, brushes, boards. A class session typically lasts two-and-a-half to three hours.” A class costs $65. There are separate classes for children for $25 and for “tweens” for $35.
While reservations are preferred, drop-ins for scheduled open sessions are allowed. “We also have groups, such as book clubs or corporate parties, scheduling studio class private events, and we host bachelorette parties.” A full schedule is posted on the company’s website.
Julie had a strong idea of how she wanted her business to be from the start. “I would never offer a project that I would never hang in my own house. I promise our projects are 100 percent worthy of your walls.”
Board & Brush
110 W. Capitol Drive