Two New Orleans-area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath.  Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S.  

It is the grand opening of the latest franchise studio of Painting with a Twist.  Co-founders, Cathy Deano and Renee Maloney flew in Ashburn, Virginia, for the event.  

“We thought we’d just have one studio in our home town in Mandeville, Louisiana. And it has now grown to 173 franchises and grown in 26 states," said Deano.

The stay-at-home mothers first met at their children’s kindergarten class seven years ago.

“We were looking for a way to bring some color back to our community.  From New Orleans area we were still reeling from Hurricane Katrina.  We came up with this idea of speed painting classes. And it was a lot of fun. People loved it. So we decided to start up a little business," said Deano.

Their studio provides art supplies - paint, canvas, brushes, and art instructors.  Paring that with wine or beer is optional.

“The beauty of this is you don’t have to be an artist.  You can come and know nothing about painting.  There is an artist who teaches you how to paint a painting in two to three hours.  That is a twist," said Maloney.

Their first class in 2007 had only seven people. But it grew steadily and two years later the entrepreneurs decided to franchise their business.

“Our frequent painters, customers, were asking us for these studios in their towns.  They think we should franchise. Our first three franchises came out of customers," said Maloney.

Today there are about 200 companies offering so-called paint and sip parties, and Entrepreneur magazine named Painting with a Twist the top franchise in the industry this year.

“I think that what makes a business separate from being just a regular business to be a very successful business is the passion behind it.  If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life," commented Maloney.

As Painting with a Twist expands, the entrepreneurs are proud that they are creating jobs.

“We are the largest employer of artists in the United States outside the school system.  At this point, we have close to a thousand artists working in our franchises," said Deano.

Maloney says giving back to the community remains a core component of their business model.

“Once a month, every studio in our system will team with a non-profit in their area. Today we’ve raised over a million dollars giving back to non-profits across the country.  That probably is one of the things we are most proud of," she said.

Maloney and Deano expect to add 50 new locations across the nation by the end of the year. And they are working on opening up internationally soon.