Painting business flourishing

Business is booming for Arizona Microcredit Initiative loan client Carla Keaton, owner of Un Petit Merlot, a cocktail and canvas-painting business.

Keaton, a Phoenix entrepreneur, decided to start her own small business a few years ago after hearing about a friend’s fun experience at a cocktail and canvas-painting event. She was inspired to create a similar business but with an innovative twist: taking the service to her clients.

Keaton’s plan for her business, Un Petit Merlot, began to take shape after she reached out to Arizona Microcredit Initiative (AMI) for help.

AMI is a registered nonprofit microfinance organization. The organization offers a cohort class that covers all topics necessary to create a viable business model. AMI also provides affordable loans at low interest rates. Clients of AMI are unique and varied, though all have a community focus which AMI is happy to cultivate.

“I attended AMI’s classes one spring. AMI gives you practical and useful information as to how to write a business plan and how to start a business,” Keaton said. “They were able to break it down step-by-step and make it simpler.”

Keaton felt that the classes helped her arrive at a more concrete understanding of her business’s mission and potential. AMI was able to provide instruction on topics that Keaton had found difficult in the past, including break-even profit models and targeting a specific market.

“It’s almost like a math class,” Keaton said. “You don’t really know what you’re using that math for, but when you apply it to real life concepts it suddenly makes so much more sense. That’s what AMI did for me.”

Keaton said that with both the money and a support system that you don’t get from a typical loan, she was able to grow her business much more than she initially anticipated. After taking AMI’s cohort class, Keaton has been able to expand her business to reach more customers and provide a wider variety of events.

Keaton’s clients do not always take the class purely because of their desire to paint, but many find the experience to be so relaxing that they leave with an interest in painting.

“When [clients] come in it’s relaxing and it’s social time. The painting is often times not the most important part of the experience,” Keaton said.

“I had a client recently that had so much energy and was so thrilled with the painting she had made, especially because she wasn’t coming from an artistic background. It was really rewarding to see her so excited.”

Keaton’s business has grown tremendously in the past few months. She has consistent events planned for almost every weekend.

Recently, Keaton has been hosting many events at boutiques and galleries in the valley. Keaton said her typical clientele are women aged 45-65, who want to find something fun and interesting to do on a Saturday afternoon with friends.

Keaton says her next step is to expand the variety of events offered by venturing into themed events or costume parties, as well as expand the number of locations at which she hosts events.

To inquire about attending an event, please visit or contact Carla at

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