Grace Glass, co-founder of Christchurch-based paint company, talks a major career change from nursing, learning on the job and a capital raise round.
What does your business do?
Natural Paint Co is a paint company that has taken out all of the harmful chemicals that you normally find in conventional paint and replaced them with natural and renewable resources and ingredients. Our 100 paints are made in the North Island and are sold online.
What was the motivation for starting it?
I was actually a registered nurse before - and while - starting the company. I was working in the emergency department here in Christchurch and then my business partner was already in the paint industry, and during that time we realised how toxic the paint industry actually is and that there weren't many companies taking charge of this space and looking at the ingredients and sustainability factor, so we started importing some products from Germany and then realised that the quality of the paints wouldn't stand up to what the New Zealand market demands so we then went on this journey to find paint chemists that could help us.
Paint can be leaching harmful chemicals for up to 10 years after application and this is partly because of the chemicals used to make it but also because these toxic chemicals get absorbed by things likes curtains, carpets and furnishings.
We worked quite a few years developing our products before we took them to market and it has been an ongoing journey in the development in that space ever since.
How big is your team?
We have four fulltimers in Christchurch, we'll have six in the next couple of weeks, and then we have eight people in our manufacturing team up North.
How was your business funded?
We self-funded the business and got a $20,000 loan from the bank initially, and then from there it has been continued growth from our profits year on year; we've been growing over 50 per cent, and are just in the middle of a capital raise where we are opening it up to New Zealanders to invest and become a part of Natural Paint Co.
How much are you looking to raise and for what?
This is our first capital raise, which is really exciting. Recently James and I gave up seven per cent as a manufacturing partnership to continue growing the business, and this is our first taking on equity to grow national and international distribution.
We're looking to raise $1.2-1.4 million to be able to increase operations. We're needing some more staff on board, we're looking at moving into a big premises because we are currently popping out of the place where we are, we're needing to spend more on marketing and also a pilot into the Australian market. We're looking to hit just over $3 million in revenue for the financial year ending 2022.
How has Covid affected your business?
During the weeks when we were closed it was challenging and we had to really look at what we were doing, our finances, how we are distributing, but it was actually a really positive time for us to reflect and look at our business model and move full steam ahead with our online distribution model. It has a positive impact on our business because the home improvement market has increased with more people staying here in New Zealand, buying homes and getting on the property ladder.
How have you found the journey in business coming from a nursing background?
It's had its up and downs, and I've got an amazing supportive business partner - without James Mount, we 100 per cent wouldn't be where we are today. We both didn't come from any business experience so this has been a massive journey. It has been challenging at times but super rewarding and I think it shows that you don't have to have gone to Harvard Business School to be able to start a business. New Zealand is a great place to start a business - there are not a lot of barriers to entry and their heaps of resources and people that are willing to help you when you ask. I love being a business owner.
James is in charge of the logistics and manufacturing; he deals with all of the coming and going of products, product development. We work on financials and strategy together, and my specific role is around marketing, web development and the retail customer base.
What advice do you give others wanting to start their own business?
Being in business is an amazing experience. If you've got a great idea you can validate the market and analyse where it sits and what percentage you could take or create. Know that when you enter business you will be in it for the long haul and it's going to take require a lot of energy but if you give it everything you've got then it will pay off. It is so rewarding seeing something you've started from scratch take off and grow, especially when you're having a positive impact on the environment and people.