Nancy Bigley: Succeeding in a Rapidly Changing Marketplace

Meet Nancy Bigley, the female entrepreneur behind the Bottle & Bottega franchise.

Nancy Bigley_Bottle & Bottega

Bottle & Bottega is a wine and art entertainment studio that was launched in 2009 by Nancy Bigley and Stephanie King-Myers. These classy art parties are a great alternative to an ordinary night out and provide the perfect setting for a get-together with friends, a special event or even a corporate function.

Nancy left her successful corporate career to pursue her dream of starting her own business, a business that has now been franchising for over 6 years.

We asked Nancy a couple of questions to get to know her better and to find out more about her entrepreneurial journey.

What did you eat for breakfast?

This morning, breakfast consisted of two egg whites and a piece of whole grain toast!

What’s your workout?

I do a combination of Spin, Pilates, Running and cross fit classes. I like to go first thing in the morning at 6:00 a.m. or 7:00 a.m., so I get that jolt first thing in the morning to start my day off right. When traveling, if I can’t fit my gear in my carry-on, I still make sure I’m always moving. I like to walk a lot, I always take the stairs (hotel stairs can be a great workout) and simple push ups, sit ups and plank work in my room helps get the blood going and keeps my muscles toned. My motto is to just keep moving. No matter what you do it all helps,

What picture is on your phone’s home screen? Share it with us.

My phone’s home screen is a picture of my boxer with his head on my lap looking up at me while I was reading one morning. His eyes say “I love you more than my most favorite toy.”

Tell us about your work. What inspired you to start your business? Where did you start and where are you now?

I’ve been in franchising for most of my career and have been fortunate to have been surrounded by inspirational men and women who showed me to believe I could do anything I set my mind to. Starting my own brand was always a dream but I never thought it would be a reality. The day I began mentoring my now business partner, that dream became a reality. Now six years later (five years franchising), I’m inspired every day to push harder and be a better leader so that I can provide other with the opportunity to experience the feeling of living out their dreams of business ownership. I’m inspired every day by my franchisees and staff and the passion they have for our business.

Nancy Bigley_Female Entrepreneur

What do you see for your future?

I am always striving for our company to be the best at what we do, as well as the most unique. Ultimately, I’m striving for Bottle & Bottega to be the most dominant company in our category. That doesn’t necessarily mean the largest, just the most successful for our franchisees and our guests. Our goal is to be the destination of choice in our category. To do that, we are focused on bringing our painting and wine concept to every major community across the country and ultimately grow internationally. More importantly, I want all of our franchisees to be highly successful and continue to wake up every morning saying “this was the best thing I ever did.” Last but not least, I want our dedicated corporate team to be leaders in the roles they are now just dreaming about and looking back saying “I helped build a phenomenal brand.”

How large is your business? How many employees do you have?

Bottle & Bottega has 24 locations across the U.S., 22 are franchise-owned and two are corporate owned. Between my two studios and our corporate team, there are 23 of us.

Tell us a success story about funding your business.

We were lucky in that we were able to fund our growth with our personal savings and the profits from our company-owned studios. This has allowed us to keep debt low while reinvesting in our business for growth.

What do you see as challenges for you and your business? What are some opportunities?

The marketplace is changing so quickly. With all the amazing technology consumers now have available, it creates so many opportunities. However, it also makes it harder to break through all the noise. We have become a society of instant gratification. Thus, as a brand, we must constantly evaluate ways we can make things faster and easier for our guests to find and engage with us. While an opportunity, it can be costly. As a small brand, we must be careful around such decisions we make and the partners in which we align. We are very clear about what makes us different and where we want to take the business, so that makes a lot of things easier.

Tell us a story about a success in your business or a mistake you overcame?

I wish I would have focused more time on setting a strong foundation for our culture from day one. It’s easy to live your culture in the first couple of years. But as you grow, you realize new people aren’t getting it because you’re not engaging with everyone as much. We lost a couple of great people in the earlier stages of the business that I would have liked to see grow with us. Learning from that experience, I now know it is my role to consistently communicate our vision and values of our company and ensure we are living up to. There should always be a strong correlation between how we work every day and our values. Building a strong culture with your staff, franchisees and guests is one of the hardest things. I’m a driver. I just want to go fast and hard and get things done. But, to be a strong leader you have to keep your head up, pause and ensure everyone is still with you and not way behind you wondering where the heck you went…this is something I continue to work on.

Nancy Bigley_Franchise Review Award

What do you love about being an entrepreneur?

I love being able to look at all the moving parts of the business and see how everything links together and how decisions will cascade across many parts of the business to drive change. It’s 100 times more gratifying when you get it right and get the wins when it’s your own company. Conversely, it’s 100 times more painful when you have a miss.

What about your business matters most deeply to you? How does it engage your values?

Building relationships and achieving our goals is what matters most to me. Our franchisees put their hard earned savings into our business, so I want them to make a good living and be so happy they made the decision to open their own Bottle & Bottega business. I want my staff to be excited to come to work every day and feel empowered and that they are growing as leaders. Finally, I want our guests to be inspired when they come into our studios and create amazing memories with the people they are with. All of these things mean you have to take pauses and connect more to ensure there is alignment across the board. I’m not always the best at pausing, but I know to achieve what matters the most to me that I have to work harder at stopping and connecting. I also feel deeply about the importance of mentorship. I have many mentors that have helped me along the way, so whenever someone asks me for help, my answer is always “yes.” I am a franchise mentor for the IFA, and it is so gratifying to have opportunities to help other small franchisors avoid mistakes that I may have already made.

What would you say is your “entrepreneurial superpower?”

I would say it is perseverance. I’m built for hard work. My whole career has been built on me working in industries and roles that I initially knew very little about, but I had a vision and drive to succeed in. I’ve had to learn, leverage resources in creative ways, ask for help, be humble and work hard. I just don’t know the word “quit “ and I love a challenge. I refuse to let a challenge take me out. If I stumble, I will take a minute to feel the sorrow, but it drives me to push harder and dig deeper. I try hard to look for the red flags that signal possible danger, so I can get ahead of things. I’d much rather head off a challenge than fix it.

Who is the entrepreneur you admire most right now? Why does s/he inspire you?

Wow, there are so many! Most are female franchisors that I’ve met over the years that have both inspired and mentored me with my own business. Their support and confidence in me has been invaluable. In addition, I’ve been intrigued by Jessica Alba and The Honest Co. brand for a while. I’m impressed with what she has built in such a short time. Her passion and care for the company is evident, as is the commitment to charity work within the business culture. The Honest Company seems like an amazing brand and culture to be a part of. It represents what I am ultimately striving to accomplish for Bottle & Bottega.

What’s the best and the worst thing about being an entrepreneur, as a woman?

  • Best – I am lucky to be surrounded by inspirational women who show me every day that this balance looks different for everyone.
  • Worst – Entrepreneurial women, naturally ambitious and prone to leadership roles, often struggle with this notion of “having it all,” and we find ourselves making sacrifices in one way or another, be it family time, personal care, relaxation or work prioritization. As independent and self-motivated women, we all too often tend to put too much on our plates.

Do you think male entrepreneurs are “different” from female entrepreneurs, and if so, how? If not, why not?

Without playing into stereotypes of women in the workplace, there are some ways that I’ve observed men and women differ in business ownership. Women are more often extremely hard on themselves, but this drives them to succeed. I don’t believe that women lead by emotion, but women do often factor more emotion (read: empathy) into our decision making, which can be a real strength, but also an emotional burden. At Bottle & Bottega in particular, this is a huge asset because we are passionate about nurturing our guests and their special events every night – the caring is incredibly important, and they appreciate the connection.

What the best advice you ever got, and from whom?

I fully believe that mentorship – on both ends – is the most beneficial tool to continued growth as a person and professional. When I was first starting my career, it was very hard for me to let go and give others full project control. However, many amazing mentors showed me that letting go and trusting your team is vital to the success of any organization.


Twitter: @BottleBottega


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