Pam Gruhn founded Frenchic Paint in 2014 and it is now the UK’s fastest-growing chalk paint company. Here, she gives SME the lowdown on how it all happened.
Pam, could you start by telling us how and why you came up with the idea for Frenchic Paints?
I loved to upcycle as a hobby but, quite honestly, I couldn’t find a paint which ticked all the boxes for me, so I decided to create one and Frenchic was born! We are an eco-friendly chalk paint brand with passion and people at our core. From 2015 onwards, we really did lead the British upcycling and home improvement movement and proudly reinvented the definition of quality and innovation within the industry. We are still a local company but now with global reach, and royal recognition. We remain 100 per cent family owned, but we are excited about global expansion, especially in the USA, UAE and Australia. I like to think we define the standards while simultaneously connecting people through our creative community and loyal customers. I believe we are unique, and our combination of passion, people and paint can really change lives.
What did you hope to achieve when you started out? What were the challenges in the early days?
To create a quality chalk-paint which was easy-to-use and accessible for beginners, but also the choice of professionals. We have achieved this, have an award-winning brand, and have built something very special. It is always very difficult to bring a new product and company to market. I worked around the clock for years, with a very small team, building from the ground-up, using social media as a crucial tool. It takes time, determination, and passion.
How has the business expanded? Where do you sell your goods?
Alongside our popular online shop, we champion the independent high street retailer with over 900 stockists across four continents. Naturally we started with just a few small UK-based retailers, and we have grown organically and enormously over the years. We genuinely care for our stockists and feel passionate about reviving the high streets – our consideration and customer service towards them is exemplary.
This care went over and above during COVID-19 with many of our wonderful, loyal retailers being in threat of extinction. As a business we worked around the clock for 18 months to ensure our stockists were stocked with supplies to meet the ‘DIY boom’ caused by the pandemic. Every single one of our retailers survived the pandemic which is undoubtedly the proudest moment of my business career to date.
Along the way, you won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation. What was that like?
Thank you! This was such a special moment for me – personally and professionally. It is unrivalled royal recognition and an accolade for everyone who has been a part of Frenchic’s journey over the years.
Innovation has been right at the heart of our success and growth. We have always had a clear focus on scientific development to remain ahead of trends and technological development. We were the first UK business in this industry to launch a chalk paint with an in-built wax infusion [Lazy Range] and that’s a legacy which will now live on for ever.
We offer five different ranges of paint with of over 60-colour ways, along with numerous accessories and upcycling products. All paints are natural and odourless, with all ingredients listed clearly on the tins. Products have no added VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) and zero toxins – they are proudly EN:71-3 certified, so are safe to paint children’s toys and nursery furniture. Watch this space, we have plenty more innovative products just around the corner.
What advice would you give somebody thinking of starting their own business?
DO IT! There are high highs, and low lows, but the rewards (and I’m not just talking financial) are limitless. I am so fortunate to now have a Frenchic family, a global community for upcycling inspiration, positivity, and creativity. Literally over a million people with a combined love and passion for a common love, business, and hobby – how wonderful.
What do you like about being your own boss?
You can be as creative as you like, with no limitations. You can choose your team of talented, amazing individuals. And you have the flexibility to decide what your vision is for your own company.