A paint business for a sustainable world

Rob Green and Rob Abrahams, above, set up sustainable paint business COAT around three years ago. ‘The Robs’ are optimistic that their £19m business, which saw triple digit growth in 2022, can keep on growing. Here, they tell SME Magazine about the company and the story behind it.

Tell us about your company

We’re proud that COAT is the first B Corp certified paint company in the UK – building on credentials as Carbon Negative, through clever innovations in how we make, and sell paint. Our aim is to appeal to a new generation of conscious decorators, and we’ve reimagined the painting experience – from inspiration and advice to choosing and buying paint through a hyper-local, direct approach.

As a DTC brand, COAT is built on community – inspiring a generation of homeowners to transform their homes in an environmentally conscious way. We’re way more about substance, with style on top.

We pride ourselves on our peel & stick samples of 80 curated shades which you can easily try out at home. Other paint brands have them, but ours are the only ones using real paint; and no solvents or adhesives so they’re easily recyclable. They’re also much less wasteful than conventional paint tester pots.

When did you set the company up and what was the thinking behind it?

We launched COAT back in 2020; Rob G (co-founder) and I both did up houses in our 30’s, and it became a running joke how long we spent painting. Buying tester pots, stressing over colours, going back numerous times to buy paint….incredibly time consuming, and wasteful. At COAT we’ve created a modern premium brand that answers a consumer problem from our own experience – as we knew that the paint industry wasn’t positioned to solve it. We also saw a real brand gap in the “conscious premium” interiors space, which screamed out for a deeply sustainable approach.

What are your sustainability goals and how do you fit them into your operation?

Sustainability isn’t ‘fitted in’ to our operation like most companies – it’s the reason our unique operation exists. When starting COAT, we bucked the trend as the only paint company to operate an exclusively ‘made to order’ model, because most waste in our industry is generated by overproduction. We uniquely offer a 360-degree recycle scheme, where customers can return empty tins or spare paint for 100% reprocessing. That’s our goal of zero to landfill, and a truly circular approach in a space that badly needs it.

What advice would you give other people thinking about setting up their own business?

Do it for the right reason. Lots of people are inspired by the idea of starting a business but often to ‘escape’ something that doesn’t feel right. For me, that was a corporate job. But running ‘away’ from something isn’t a great start point. Take the time to figure out why you want to start a business, and make sure those things are aligned with your life goals over the next five years. Because it’s a slog!

Pick a lane and stay in it. That sounds like it contradicts the principles of being a dynamic/agile/insert-buzz-word start-up – but it doesn’t. You started a business for a reason, so keep going back to that reason and change the ‘how’ not the ‘what’. We do paint – really well – and that’s it.

Say no. Similar to the above point and verging on cliché – but saying no and prioritising is tough. There’s always some shiny opportunity, or the “what if” things that come along, but it’s important to keep focus on the things that drive the goal. The world isn’t short of opportunities, but the execution is the critical bit.

Believe in yourself. I still struggle with imposter syndrome and wanting to over-analyse everything. I ask too many people for their opinion, which is rarely helpful. I’ve realised that I do know what I’m talking about a lot of the time – through coaching. So, trusting intuition can be the route to speed and differentiation in the business.

Sum up your business in three words

Provocative. Aspiring. Vital.