Painting a Path to Success

Art of Success

There is an art to balancing the dream of entrepreneurship and the realities  of what it can really take to make it happen. Just ask Corrine Long and Nasiyr McGill of Canvas & Cocktails.

“Even when others see success, there is a lot of hard work and sleepless nights and sometimes tears behind it, that nobody knows about,” says Corinne Long.

The concept behind Canvas & Cocktails is to get customers to create their own artwork among friends and over casual drinks at a great venue with some direction from an artist-instructor. It’s been a tremendous success.

“Corinne’s an amazing artist. I was pretty confident it would work. Between the two of us, we came up with the branding and business model.  We knew we had achieved a highly professional look for our brand when customers would call and ask to speak to different departments or talk about “Corinne the artist” without realizing it was also Corinne the customer service representative answering the phone,” laughs McGill.

He admits the business idea may not have even come about if hadn’t been out of necessity.

Long had met McGill in New York where she was designing for Fashion Week, when time and money ran out for her to find sponsorship and apply for a work visa to stay in the U-S. She had family in Saint John and knew it would be more affordable than Toronto, where she had also lived.

McGill soon followed but they struggled to find permanent work. Both had heard of art and cocktail business concepts in the U.S. and decided they had nothing to lose and would try it in Saint John in 2015.

“We started holding events at the Cask & Kettle Irish Gastropub, back when it was the Bourbon Quarter/Magnolia’s. I happened to work there at the time as a server, and they were gracious enough to take a chance on us and our crazy idea.  Tickets for our first event sold out in less than 24 hours, which was a very encouraging!  We had sold out three events before we ever actually hosted the first one,” says Long.

Along the way, Long says, the couple got help from Enterprise Saint John’s Vennture Garage Program.

“We’ve been able to meet a lot of great people through ConnexionWorks and Vennture Garage, some of whom have become close mentors and advisors.”

McGill says that was important to set the groundwork for the future.

“We got to meet all of these people and attend all of these programs that provided valuable lessons for us to apply towards future growth.”

Speaking of growth, the business concept has expanded to Fredericton but Long and McGill say they are looking at re-branding to grow even further.

“We’re re-branding Canvas & Cocktails to Create over Cocktails in order to allow us to offer a greater range of creative experiences. This means a lot of new, exciting mediums and products are on the horizon so keep a lookout,” says Long

“We felt there are so many activities to offer and so many different ways to bring people together to have a great time, that we can’t allow our company name to limit us,” adds McGill

They want to eventually expand the company throughout Atlantic Canada, the rest of Canada and beyond.

Still, they will never forget where it all started.  Both Long and McGill say the Saint John community has been so supportive. They’re glad they are now in a position where their business can give back, hiring other artists to work for the company.

For more information on events, head to www.canvasandcocktailscanada.com

In a few weeks, the art of success will continue when  www.createovercocktails.com launches.

Originally published in Saint John Telegraph Journal March 23, 2017