To Top

Meet Delilah Martinez of VIP Paints in Pilsen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Delilah Martinez.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I have always been an art enthusiast, loved creating art projects with my mom and in school. I also always knew I would own a business but was not sure what I would be actually doing. I started off very young having tons of jobs, McDonalds, Burger King, Walgreens, Telemarking etc. You name it and I have tried it. In my 20s I found myself getting back into design and marketing. I have always had an appreciation for art and design. About five years ago I started to venture out and take painting classes in Dallas where I lived at the time. It immediately brought be right back to a familiar place of peace and happiness. I started going every week and never invited anyone to attend with me because I felt this was my alone time from the world. Painting to me was therapeutic, a way to distress and express my feelings that I didn’t want to talk about but somehow had to express it. Reminds me of a quote by Georgia O’Keeffe “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for. Georgia O’Keeffe.”

The beauty of art is there is no right or wrong way, art is what you want it to be. In art you can find yourself, you’re happy, your sad and most of all you. I realized I found myself and my purpose. I knew right away that I wanted to show others that art isn’t just about skill and defined lines, it’s about opening your mind and being free.

I then made a plan to move back to my home town Chicago and start my own painting classes. When I moved back four years ago, I started really small and hosted painting classes in my small condo. I started with little money. I saved coupons and looked for discounts on materials that I would buy for the paint classes as needed.

My mother, Dora, has played a big support role throughout my life and especially with building VIP Paints. She is an amazing role model and the reason why I am so ambitious and driven. Although she is San Diego, California she has been on the phone with me daily. There has been many times I doubted myself, had bad moments, shed tears and she was always there to push me. About 2 years ago I talked her into opening up a VIP Paints location in San Diego and she has done so successfully.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The beginning was really rough and still can be at times. As I started to get more customers I outgrew my condo quickly.  I asked the property management to rent a second condo down the hall so I can host two classes at the same time. They were very supportive and residents would sometimes attend the classes. About one month after I rented the second condo the property manager told me some residents complained about our customers coming in and out of the building and I was forced to move the business out of my condo quickly.

At the time being forced to move the business was so upsetting but that was the official beginning of my journey. Looking for commercial space was difficult especially being on a time crunch. Location, parking, space etc. had to be taken into consideration. On top of that VIP Paints wasn’t profitable, I’d only been in business 6 months and renting commercial properties you have to prove you can pay your rent, and have a business plan.

My mom had the awesome idea of moving VIP Paints to the community my parents were born and raised, Pilsen. I quickly started my research and found that Pilsen had an Art District. This made it a perfect fit. My determination and persistence is what got me approved to rent by Podmajersky properties/PMI Properties

VIP Paints – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
VIP Paints started off with just BYOB painting classes. After realizing all the competition of similar businesses I was determined to set us apart from everyone else. That was when we started to offer for public  and private events couples partnered painting, soy candle making, wine glass painting, ceramics classes and male nude model painting classes. Couples painting classes is an awesome class for couples to work together to create one bigger masterpiece.  Soy candle making class, has caught the eye of Macy’s on State in Chicago. Macy’s has had us two years in a row for their Annual Spring Show. We had the pleasure of teaching their customers how to make candles and show them all about what VIP Paints had to offer.  During VIP Paints journey we have had amazing events with big corporate names like Google, bunch of Non-profits, local schools etc. Our latest class we just started this summer is Soap and Bath Bomb making class, using all natural products.

I am proud of everything VIP Paints has accomplished overall. I am mostly proud of being able to give back to others through my business. I started with giving free kids classes to kids in Pilsen community and then to Chicago kids. I wanted to provide outlets for our youth who may have parents that can’t afford to pay for art classes.

VIP Paints partners with many non-profits and schools. There are a lot of Chicago schools that can’t afford or no longer have art programs and I am so proud we are able to give them that option for us to come and teach.  We have had great pleasure of offering after school art classes with high school students in high poverty areas. These classes offer outlets for students to express themselves through art. It was amazing to see the students come after school as a choice and not by force. I learned a lot from the students and their stories.

Recently VIP Paints donated to Jungman Elementary school in Pilsen and I am now one of their board members for their non-profit program. It has a special place in my heart because my dad, his family and friends all attended that school.  I love mostly that VIP Paints has provided me an avenue to be able to give back to community, the youth and provide outlets to express yourself.

About 4 months ago I expanded to the store next door to host more classes. I wanted this store to be different from my original store next door so I decided to turn it into a gallery space for artists to display art work. The artist is able to come in display their work 1-2 months, host an art exhibition event and do a meet and greet for 2nd Fridays art show on the block. Our first art exhibition was for Carlos Delgado, in which we had an awesome turn out in sales.  This June we displayed work by Troy Scat and had huge art exhibition event for him.  I helped with curating and sales on both events, which led me to have a new found passion is gallery curation, art collection and art work sales. I love the idea of helping artist show their talent.

VIP Paints has now turned into a place to take classes and gallery space for artist to display their work. How VIP Paints Gallery side is different is we are open more hours than the average gallery space. Since we are open 7 days a week early and late evening classes we have lots of customers’ view the art pieces, which exposes the Artists work more than the average gallery.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success to me is doing what you love as a business, earning enough to make a living and give back to others. Know that to a achieve success one must work hard, sacrifice, prepare, learn when you fail, and be relentless.


  • General Classes Range -$25-$65
  • Private Events Range $25-$55
  • Classes We Offer
  • Painting on Canvas or Wine Glasses
  • Soy Candle Making
  • Couples Painting Classes – You Paint one Side and Your Partner Paints Other Side
  • Soap and Bath Bomb Making Class
  • Kids General or Private Paint Parties
  • Ceramics
  • Nude Model Drawing and Painting Class

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Danny Cantu

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in