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Meet Karen Nguyen of Inspired Art Wine in Costa Mesa

Today we’d like to introduce you to Karen Nguyen.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Karen. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
After graduating with my MBA at UC Irvine, landing my “dream” job in global marketing for a Fortune 200 company and climbing the corporate ladder in five years, I had reached a point where acing that next performance review or getting that next promotion became less appealing. Instead, I was excited with the idea of building a brand from scratch and watching it flourish through relentless hard work. With this realization in 2015, I started to identify key interests that excited me and it naturally drew me to storytelling, entertaining and art.

As a kid, I always enjoyed drawing and painting. In fact, while in college, I minored in Art History, which helped me understand the psychology of artists; what inspired them to create the timeless masterpieces that left people in awe at museums and galleries. So, in 2015, I told my family I was considering opening an art studio, gallery and wine bar. At first, they thought I was joking; not realizing I had mentally prepared myself for the financial risks of quitting a six-figure corporate career in high tech to personally finance my start-up. My parents, (and many others around me) initially thought I was crazy for doing that, but I wanted full accountability for my “baby” and this venture to be a success, a “sink or swim” mentality was needed.

The journey from concept, to construction, to launching and now running the business hasn’t been an easy one! After two years since opening, Inspired Art Wine has become the premier go-to spot for an unforgettable art and wine experience. We’ve established a reputation among corporations and small businesses as a reliable partner for team building. This niche, which organically grew from referrals and digital word of mouth, eventually led to the launch of Wine CMO, a digital marketing and strategy firm catering to the wine industry with focus on women, Generation X and Millennials research. These three consumer groups make up 85% of the Inspired Art Wine’s customer base. My focus on women has also led to creating “Women Inspired Network” (WIN), which is a business sisterhood of entrepreneurs and female executives chaired by me once a month with the purpose of sharing, educating, building relationships and simply connecting. All the meetings are held at Inspired Art Wine in Costa Mesa.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The journey to get the Inspired Art Wine brand to where it is today, hasn’t always been smooth sailing.

Every challenge along the way, I’ve gained a life lesson, which I don’t think I would have learned had I not taken the entrepreneurial route. The biggest struggles early on was overcoming bureaucracy involved in obtaining a liquor license, health license and completing construction with limited resources.

Thankfully, I had a great team of architect and contractors to turn my vision of the space into reality (I first drew the space layout on a napkin). Nearly everyone who walks through the doors at Inspired Art Wine say the place exudes a cozy, warm and welcoming atmosphere, which is exactly how I envision the space to be!

Please tell us about Inspired Art Wine.
What makes IAW unique is that we focus on the customer experience from the time they walk through the doors to the time they leave. That means offering complimentary wine samplings to painting on a palette versus a plate so guests truly immersed in the art wine experience.

Since opening on February 18, 2016 (coincidentally on “National Drink Wine Day”), we’ve established a loyal client base with first timers turning into regulars and now friends. I’m most proud of the recognition we received from the business community. The Orange County Business Journal recognized Inspired Art Wine as “Innovator of the Year” and we’ve consistently earned the trust of guests based on Yelp reviews.

Within a year since opening, IAW has become the number #1 arts & entertainment company for corporate team building. In addition to art classes, we curate unique wines from across different regions and host monthly wine tasting events for wine enthusiasts. Another highlight of IAW is our offsite trips to museums for our VIPs (Very Inspired Painters). Customers who are frequent visitors can join our membership program, where they can hone their technical painting skills at a fraction of the cost of attending a traditional art school.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I don’t regret anything since each challenge or mistake has been a great lesson.


  • $33-$45 for a class session ranging from 2-3 hours

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Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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