A lockdown dream of a great night out combining music with art has turned into a business sensation for three entrepreneurial Auckland women.
Musical beats, paint and brushes, and a local spin on an international phenomenon – what do you get when you mix them? An awesome party but also a new family-owned business whose success is defying the expectations of its three founders.
Like many others, Yannika Tavai, her cousin Shaylise Potini and their lifelong pal Carly Kirby spent locked-down weeks keeping in touch online and dreaming of the sorts of nights out they wanted once “normal” life resumed.
They began sharing videos of New York and London hip-hop and R&B paint parties, where DJs play while partygoers paint under the guidance of an artist who assists with the creation of “masterpieces that should be able to go on the wall.”
Unlike most of us, they followed through with their lockdown dream. Thinking those paint parties looked like a great night out, the trio decided to organise their own with, as they like to say, “seasoning”. Having worked in the arts and creative industries, and with partners and friends who are either artists or DJs, they tapped into their networks, booked a venue, sourced art supplies and materials, and got the word out.
Their first party was an instant hit, with the June ’21 launch event selling out. So, with requests coming in thick and fast for more, the three West Aucklanders, all mothers in their late 30s, registered their new company, Beats ‘N’ Brushes.
“We thought, ‘Yeah, we can do this!’” Yannika says. “It’s cool to do something different for people, to share an experience.”
Four days later, Aotearoa went into its August 2021 lockdown, which saw Yannika, Shay and Carly postponing future events but, despite those frustrations, remaining confident there would still be demand for their brand of paint parties.
They weren’t wrong. While their first party sold out in a week, the next one, in January – Lights Out, with a glow in the dark and Alice in Wonderland theme, complete with hired giant model toadstools – sold out in four minutes and crashed their site. As soon as tickets to the Friday night event were snapped up, they announced another on Saturday.
Now Beats ‘N’ Brushes has taken over the studio on Cross Street, off Auckland’s famed Karangahape Road, where it held its first gathering and fields daily requests to do corporate and promotional events, private parties and kids’ experiences. They’re off to Whangārei for a party and see plenty of potential to take Beats ‘N’ Brushes around the country, especially to smaller towns. “It’s really rewarding to see people so happy,” says Carly.
In July, though, they’ll be focused on Auckland, where they’re running three paint parties as part of the Elemental AKL 2022 midwinter festival. Given the four-year-old festival was originally inspired by the elements, they’ve decided one will have an earth, wind and fire theme with music inspired by one of the world’s best-ever funk bands. “Polysaturated” will have a Pasifika theme, and the first party, “Night in the ’09”, takes place at Westhaven Marina, where it’s hoped views of Tāmaki Makaurau’s night skyscape will inspire budding artists.
Although they had never tried anything quite like throwing paint parties before, Yannika, Shay and Carly all have relevant creative skills and work experience. Yannika worked in IT for a decade before studying artist management at MAINZ (Music and Audio Institute of New Zealand) and becoming a DJ, including a stint at Base FM hosting Native Tongues; Shay, who owns and manages a barber shop, has a daughter who has performed around the world with Parris Goebel’s legendary Royal Family Dance Crew; and Carly is a youth worker with Māori and Pasifika Trades Training whose partner, DJ Seymore, is fast building a following. They work alongside tattoo artist Chris Amosa, who supervises the art-making of partygoers.
The three admit they’re surprised and thrilled by how well their side hustle is doing. Suggest they could franchise and Shay laughs: “Well, you know, when you’re setting these things up, there’s always a moment or two where you laugh and imagine that it just might take off, so, yes, we joked about that, but we never thought we’d be in a position to think seriously about it.”
This content was made in partnership with Auckland Unlimited.