We had the good fortune of connecting with Ally Jacobs and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ally, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Susan Knight and I were volunteer art docents at our kids’ elementary school. We shared a passion for all things art and sharing our passion about art with kids! We created a dedicated art studio for the kids to use to get away from their classrooms and come create in a studio where it is OK to be messy!
We received so much positive feedback that we then created an after school art class with paid enrollment. Our students raved about our classes so much that their parents BEGGED us to offer adult classes too. We saw a need in the community to offer a creative outlet, hence Starry Nite Studios was born! We started off just doing private, in-home events that soon expanded to events at restaurant venues, wineries etc.
After much success with our mobil studio we then decided to get a “brick and mortar” studio where we could offer even MORE in terms of workshops and “Paint & Sip” events to the community.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Susan and I have been artists our whole lives! We studied art in high school and college but both of us took a more “practical” route after graduation because being a “starving artist” wasn’t going to pay the bills!
Susan started a career where she was director of Special Events and assistant to the President at California Lutheran University, then eventually moved to Northern California to start a family.
I became a Police Officer and pretty much forgot about creating art for years. I LOVED being a cop. I was good at it. I helped a lot of people get off drugs and get off the street. One highlight from my career was my part in the recovery of kidnap victim, Jaycee Dugard who was kidnapped at age 11 by Phillip and Nancy Garrido and held captive for 18 years.
It wasn’t until I got injured on the job and after 2 unsuccessful surgeries, I was medically retired. I was still young…I had lots left in me and I needed to find a purpose once again. I went back to school and got my Master’s Degree in Criminology, Law & Society from University of California, Irvine. My goal was to teach Criminal Justice classes but life threw me a curveball when I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer at age 39.
After kicking cancers butt, I approached Susan and asked her if she wanted to start an art business with me! Starry Nite Studios was born in 2016 and has grown exponentially year after year! It has not been easy by any means! Neither one of us had owned our own business and there was a LOT we had to learn (and we are still learning everyday!)
We pride ourselves in offering a creative family friendly atmosphere for people to unleash their creativity. As we get older we start to become more critical of ourselves….we start the negative self talk. For example, everyday I hear, “I can’t draw! I’m not an artist!” I always reply, “Well I am not asking you to draw! I’m not asking you to be an artist! I’m asking you to relax a little and have fun taking a break in an atmosphere of ZERO STRESS!” After a short pep talk (and maybe a glass of wine or two), the adults usually are able to cut loose and have a good time painting! Best part is they tend to learn along the way and a lot of our painters have grown into amazing artists just from taking a few of our classes or workshops!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I grew up in Orange County and moved to The San Francisco/Bay Area when I went to college. I absolutely LOVE both Northern and Southern California. I miss surfing at the beach the most as the ocean is just too cold for me in Northern California. When I have houseguest I usually take them to San Francisco to see Fishermans Wharf (Pier 39), The Ferry Building, The Castro, Golden Gate Park and maybe even catch a Giants baseball game.
Then an hour drive will take us to Napa Valley where we will go wine tasting at some of my favorite wineries like V. Sattui, J Vineyards, Dutcher Crossing, Duckhorn, and my absolute favorite, Silver Oak winery. We would go grab pastries and desserts from Bouchon to take home. If we feel like a burger we will go to Gott’s Roadside burger stand or grab a bigger meal at Pizzeria Tra Vigne or maybe Galpao Gaucho Brazilian Steakhouse! There are so many fabulous wineries and restaurants we would have to go multiple days to take it all in. Since I only live 45 minutes from St. Helena we won’t need to spend the night!
We will plan a day trip to the north bay and end up in Petaluma for shopping on Petaluma Boulevard. After some retail therapy at their local small shops filled with local artisan goods and antiques we would have lunch at Ayawaska for some craft cocktails and Peruvian food. For dinner we will go to Cucina Paradiso for homemade pasta and delicious Italian wine!
We will Also hit some of the local dairy farms for tours and some cheese tasting at Cowgirl Creamery! The North Bay is hands down my favorite place to be. The pace is a little slower, the people are some of the nicest I have ever met. Small town vibes with lots to do and a culinary delight!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
We want to give a BIG shoutout to all of our art class kids! Their excitement for art ignited a flame in us! The kids and their “lack of fear” when it comes to creating artwork was a breath of fresh air when we all live in a fast paced, high stress, society. The kids remind us to slow down, have fun in every moment, and laugh A LOT! Their natural curiosity and eagerness to learn makes our jobs so much fun!
Linkedin: Starry Nite Studios
Other: Online art class: https://starrynitestudios.heightsplatform.com/landing
Ron Essex Photography Sara Jean Photography