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Her Business Went From Garage to Thriving Art Franchise

by Ronaldo Derric
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Maya Ratcliff picked up the phone while listening to the “Beach Vibes” playlist in her Dallas studio. As she mixes her paint and prepares for the day ahead, she’s in a contagious good mood. But if you told her Ratcliff, three years before her, that this is what she does on Wednesdays at 8 a.m., she probably would have laughed in your face.



Courtesy of Maya Ratcliffe

Maya Ratcliffe

Ratcliff, who moved to the Hawaiian Islands in 2012, spent most of his adult life working as a corporate banker and then in the mortgage industry. She was always a natural inquisitive person, but her pandemic ignited her yearning for something more.In the end, she was bored. She’s like, she’s really boring.

“I was tired of being busy every day. [job] — I call it work — I don’t even say it out loud,” jokes Ratcliffe.

After working in the same industry for 15 years and now grappling with the new norms of lockdown, Ratcliff was looking for a way to relax and stay busy.

“My husband is a woodworker and I was sitting in his lumberyard chopping wood. No way,'” laughs Ratcliffe. “That’s when I realized I had to find something I could enjoy.”

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She has tried everything from oil paintings, watercolors and acrylics. “I was so bad at it all,” says Ratcliffe. But when she least expected it, she found the perfect medium.

“It takes effort and energy, but it’s worth it.”

Ratcliff was in the middle of another experiment with acrylic paint and had trouble getting the color out of the bottle. To loosen her paint, she added water to the bottle, shook it, and poured it into a plate. Ratcliffe didn’t know it at the time, but pouring that paint was changing her life.

“We tilted it and it was dry the next day and we loved it,” says Ratcliff. “So I ordered a lot of canvases and never looked back.”

Once she started, she couldn’t stop. Her new painting technique was “fluid” in both texture and style. But most of all, it was captivating, calming, and exactly what she was looking for.Over the next two months, Ratcliff began posting his artwork on Facebook for fun. But people started buying it. Then they wanted a lesson.

“I was like, ‘I’m not an art instructor, but I’ll show you what I do,'” she says. “I strongly believe that if you want to do something, you can do it. It takes effort and energy, but it’s worth it.”

Ratcliffe didn’t have an art studio, so she turned her garage into a space for artistic expression.

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To set the scene, the walls of Ratcliffe’s garage were painted white, but filled with so much art that the color covered each wall. The garage was at the end of the courtyard and served as the entrance to welcome guests.

It was an instant hit. She has taught about 1,000 people in her six months. Clients came from all over the Big Island and some drove over two and a half hours each way to attend classes.

What has made Ratcliff’s business a success is not only the production method she calls “fluid art,” but also the welcoming environment she carefully builds for her students.

“I realized that people wanted comfort in their art studio,” says Ratcliff. “All the commercial art studios out there are just sterile, uncomfortable and cold.”

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The studio was warm and inviting, and above all gave everyone who walked through the door a sense of comfort.

Hawaii Fluid Art Studio in Dallas, Texas | Courtesy of Maya Ratcliffe

Ratcliff knew that his art could bring joy to others, regardless of the physical or mental obstacles they faced. Some of Ratcliff’s first clients included people suffering from hearing loss, severe brain damage, or other disabilities.

When Ratcliff first started teaching, he got a call from a man who wanted to know if he would teach his wife. She had suffered severe brain damage in a car accident. She had no long-term memory and her short-term memory was very limited. He wanted to give her something she was enjoying so much in that moment. Might be so Remember that.

The women came to the studio every week for one-on-one lessons and eventually remembered.

“My husband said he would ask me every day, ‘Can I go to art class today? Is it the day I’m going to art class today?'” I did,” says Ratcliffe.

During his six months teaching at the Garage, Ratcliff saw countless examples of his art being used as therapy and a source of joy for others, so he knew he needed to take the next step. rice field. She opened her first brick-and-mortar studio in Waikoloa, Hawaii in 2021, but her expansion didn’t stop there.

“When we are in a place where we cannot feel fully or 100%, we have to look within ourselves to understand what we are lacking.

Her new studio was thriving, and Ratcliffe was also teaching family-friendly classes at an apartment complex in another part of the island. One of her parents approached her, especially after her bright classes.

“He said, ‘Maya, we need to franchise this. Everyone deserves to experience Hawaii Fluid Art,'” says Ratcliffe. “At that moment, I thought, TRUE? I started thinking hard about it and then researched what I needed for a franchise. ”

Ratcliff put energy, faith, and $50,000 into the hope of making Hawaii Fluid Art a success, finally getting FDD in August 2021.

So from August 2021 to April 2022, Ratcliff will work to fine-tune the business’s infrastructure from the ground up, with a focus on providing a positive experience for both future customers and franchisees. I was. Her hard work paid off. Many of Ratcliff’s franchisees were once fans of her lessons or were inspired by her stories, and now Hawaii Her Fluids bring that same energy forward by bringing her art to the community. .

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Hawaii Fluid Art now has five locations in four states and recently sold 137 units. Ratcliff plans to open 350 locations nationwide over the next five years and will move to Dallas in 2022 to focus on growing the business.

As Ratcliff continues to grow her business, she remembers how she first got into art. It’s her longing to experience something she needed but she couldn’t find.

“When we are in a place where we cannot feel completely or 100%, we look within ourselves to understand what is missing, find the missing piece of the puzzle. and start adding them into our life,” says Ratcliffe.

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