St. Petersburg, Florida -- Here's what you can learn from a couple that left the ruins of Katrina and created a business worth hundreds of thousands of dollars here in Tampa Bay.

Nine years ago this week, Hurricane Katrina was barreling toward New Orleans. And a couple, running from the storm, was heading toward Tampa Bay to take shelter.

They could have never imagined how that scare would one day lead to a tremendous success.

Marvin and Leslie Gay evacuated to a relative's house in St. Petersburg to get away from the storm and fell in love with the city.

So, when they saw New Orleans recovering so slowly, they decided to take their new marriage, their two dogs, and all their savings -- and move permanently down to St. Pete to start brand new lives right here.

If only a few brush strokes could fix the chaos Katrina sent into their lives.

"Thinking about the whole main part of the city being under eight feet of water, it's hard to even envision that -- but that's the way it was," Marvin said.

Leslie had taken a break from the slow storm recovery at a New Orleans "paint and sip" business called Painting with a Twist where a little wine helps you -- creatively -- follow an instructor's directions.

"I'm an accountant by my career, and it was a way to forget about numbers for a while and everything going on in your life," Leslie said.

"I talked to them about opening one. I said we're planning on moving to St. Pete."

The couple sketched out a business plan and convinced the founders of Painting with a Twist to start franchising.

"Marvin and I negotiated their first franchise agreement. And in 2009, we opened up Painting with a Twist here in St. Pete," Leslie said.

Theirs was the first of how many franchises that are open now? "One hundred sixty-five of us, at the last count that I saw!" Leslie said with a smile.

Their startup's now a business worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

What made it so clear to them that this new idea would be such a picture of success?

Like a painter's palette or a fine wine, the secret is blending things.

Adding together their expertise -- money -- with a personal passion -- in their case, a love of art and good times.

It's a combination they say any of us can use to create our own work of art in life.

"We continue to have a good time! Five years later, we're still here, and enjoying every time somebody comes, takes a class, and we see their smiles at the end of the class. It's just -- it's just great," Leslie said.

The couple has even expanded, with a second Painting with a Twist studio in the Palma Ceia neighborhood of South Tampa.

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