Andrew: Hey there, freedom fighters. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. Joining me is a woman who was making paint, something she has done for years. And she actually got her paint into stores. And there’s a lot of talk about direct to consumer businesses, but as I walk through Target and other stores, I see what used to be direct to consumer products on the shelves, like Harry’s. They used to be a direct to you, that’s how they could give you such a low price, but now, if you want to use Harry’s razors, you could just walk through Target and pick it up.
Well, today’s guest did the opposite. She got into stores, she got all the attention that you get and the legitimacy that apparently you get by being in stores, and she said, “Actually, that doesn’t make sense. I’m taking my stuff off the shelves. I’m going direct to consumer.” I invited her here to talk about how she’s doing it, why she’s doing that, how she built her businesses and to pry a little bit into her revenue. Her name is Paula Blankenship She is the founder of Heirloom Traditions Paint. They are paint with built-in bonding primer and built-in wax. I have to tell you, I know you’re looking at me, Paula, as I say this because you can tell that I don’t know what I’m even talking about. But she says she made these paint for people like me who don’t know what they’re talking about, who don’t even know how to paint, and that’s why it’s doing so well.
I should say this interview where we pry into her business, find out how she did it is sponsored by two phenomenal sponsors. The first is HostGator for hosting websites. The second is Toptal for hiring developers. Paula, good to have you here.
Paula: Oh, thank you for having me here, and can’t wait to dive in and tell you a little bit more about our business and how we got started in the paint business, and maybe help you learn how to paint here.
Andrew: How would you describe what Heirloom Traditions Paint is?
Paula: I would describe it as a DIY paint product that helps people get great results, even if they don’t know how to paint. So we’ve put the tools and the products together in an easy way and easy to understand, easy to use, that produce phenomenal results even more than customers are even willing to . . . I mean, sometimes they can’t believe the results they get themselves. So I think we have over-delivered a product, so how would they get that in this world today. So it’s always great when you tell people about how great your product is, and when they get it, they say, “Wow. This stuff really works,” and like a nice . . .
Andrew: And it really works because part of the problem that I have with paint is first you have to sand things down, then you have to put on a primer, then you have to put in the paint, then apparently you put in another layer. Is that right?
Paula: A lot of people put it on a topcoat. They think they need topcoat to protect. But our product has everything. We call it all-in-one paint. And of course, that’s where we are at allinonepaint.com. You can find us there, and that name says it all because everything you need is in that can. In other words, it has a . . .
Andrew: Open it up, stir it up from what I saw in the video. Paint, you dump . . .
Paula: Brush it on.
Andrew: What’s the revenue? How much money you’re bringing in? Let’s talk dollars and cents, Paula.
Paula: Oh, well, you know, it sounds very braggadocious here, but I have to tell you that we started this in my kitchen about seven years ago with my teenage son, and he and I were mixing up paint and putting it into cans, reaching out to small retailers, mom and pops around the country. And of course, as you know, those stores are closing as quickly as they’re opening, and just to keep up with that and grow my business, I found that that was very difficult, just to . . .
Andrew: Well, we’re going to spend the whole hour here talking about the full story, but I thought we’d give people a sense of the size so that they can understand why they should listen in.
Paula: Oh, I got you.
Andrew: How much are you talking about?
Paula: Well, right now we’re doing about a million dollars a month in sales and wholesale sales . . .
Paula: Sorry, retail, we’re retailers nowadays.
Andrew: In direct to consumer sales, every month, consumers send a million dollars-worth of money to you, or million dollars to you and then you send them paint.
Paula: That’s exactly . . .
Andrew: Were you running your parent’s stores, the stores that your parents started just before?
Paula: You know, not the stores that they’ve started, but in their old real estate that they had. You know, they were in the furniture business about 45, 50 years of my life, and of course, my sister and myself owned and operated three different stores in those locations, in a small town in Tennessee.
Andrew: Oh, they own the buildings, you own the stores.
Paula: They own the buildings, and then we put in our own version of a more modernized store, you know, in those buildings. So we didn’t really pick up their business and run it by the same name. We put in our own ideas of what we needed to be in that town as we adapted, and things changed and small town living kind of things.
Andrew: And then 2008 happened, the global economic crisis. How did that impact your business?
Paula: Well, my business turned off like a water faucet. It just went from . . .
Andrew: All at once?
Paula: All at once. We had always made a great living there. And, you know, small-town living, the cost of living in a small town in Tennessee is not what it is in a big city, even like Louisville. And living there, we’d always done very well. And these stores provided my sister and I, my family both great livings. So all of a sudden, it just went from 60 to 0. So when that happened, I began trying to figure out what do I do. And I was . . .
Andrew: From 60 what, 60?
Paula: I’m saying it went from 0 to 60, it went from 60 to 0, so.
Andrew: Sixty what? What’s the 60 represent? Revenue for the month?
Paula: Well, people say 0 to 60, I’m saying that . . .
Andrew: Oh, got it. You’re talking about the speed. So you’re saying this just went from a fast-moving business and suddenly all at once stopping. I find that entrepreneurs always pass the emotional side of this. I got to spend a couple of minutes on this. You were born to entrepreneurs, you were encouraged to be an entrepreneur, you’re a kid who grew up selling lemonade, selling cakes, and then . . . so your identity is, “I’m an entrepreneur. I know this stuff. My parents are entrepreneurs. We know this stuff.” When you lose it all, how does it impact your sense of self?
Paula: Oh, it was going to dramatically impact sense of self, and no doubt, how do I even view me at this point because I was really scrambling. I had been flipping houses also because, you know, when you own a furniture store, it’s easy to . . . because I was a designer, I was always working on houses and so on. So I had three houses going into that crunch, not to mention my own, so nobody could get any banking, any financing to buy those properties. So I was hurting. And I was trying to figure out what do I do next, when is this going to let up, when can I make it?
And I remember it coming right down to the finite day of this whenever I was sitting in the month of July thinking, “I’ve got the money to carry myself one more month. After that, I don’t know where I turn.” I really don’t. And in my door walks this man from New York City, and I hope I told you that story, he ended up hiring me. And that took a while for that to even happen. He did end up hiring me several months into this, and I started doing . . .
Andrew: Why did he want to hire you? Like, how did he even know that he should be hiring you? He just walked into the store and says, “Can I hire you?”
Paula: Well, it took a minute. Again, he just blew in my door one day, he and his girlfriend, and told me that he had bought a house in my town that I had been the designer for and all the furniture had been sold at auction and someone told him to come see me. So he walks into my little store with nobody business going on, and he had my full undivided attention, obviously. And I had no idea who he was. I had no idea what cuff he had. And he was a typical New Yorker and a nice guy. But, you know, he’s pretty brash for my hometown. So he said, “Come up and help me,” and I started working with him on his home and putting in furniture, and rugs, and art, and so on.
And the next thing you know, he said, “Hey, could you come up and do a building for me in Cleveland, Ohio.” I went up and saw that, couldn’t believe he owned it. I was in shock. And I was like, “Wow, this guy is for real.” And next thing you know, he said, “Come up to Danbury, Connecticut. I bought a building there, and it’s a million and a half square feet.” And I was like, “You the owner?” He said, “Yep, I’m the owner.” So it turns out he bought the old Union Carbide building there, that they had built their home office there in Danbury. And he bought it as the sole owner of this . . . one of the largest transactions in the whole state for . . . even in the New York area. And he bought this building. So he and I flipped this building for about five years. We worked on all the common areas. And my last client there was General Motors. So it turned into be a big thing for me, and I did that for several years.
Andrew: Got it. So, Paula, he saw that you were . . . what is it called, dressing houses, or setting houses, staging houses, that’s what.
Paula: Designing them.
Andrew: You’re designing houses. So he said, “Can you come design one place for me?” and then one place turned into another and another.
Paula: It was just a blessing, I mean, absolute blessing that this guy blew in my door when he did. The timing was just immaculate timing for that to happen.
Andrew: And you shut your store.
Paula: I did.
Andrew: You became an employee of this billionaire or what?
Paula: I was a contractor, but yes. I was [inaudible 00:08:33] . . .
Andrew: A contractor.
Paula: Mm-hmm. I mean, he was telling me what to do, when to do it, and when to stop and when to go.
Andrew: Did you feel okay with the transition because you felt, “I’m saved. At least, I’m not going under financially”?
Paula: I did, you know.
Andrew: That’s what it was.
Paula: I absolutely looked at it like you said, the emotional side here was like thank you, Lord, for sending this man along my way, and hopefully I can make a living doing this, of course [inaudible 00:08:54].
Andrew: And no shame on being an entrepreneur who’s now an employee.
Paula: Yeah. Well, again, I wasn’t an employee. I was still acting as a designer, and then I told him I have great leads into the floor covering industry, and I’ll show you samples. And he ultimately was buying his supplies for me to refurbish these huge buildings. So I was really acting as a supplier to him and a designer. So I let him choose my materials, and if he could buy them from me, he did, and if he didn’t, he’d bought them, you know, from someone else.
Andrew: Got it.
Paula: So I just worked it from those angles so I could do well.
Andrew: What happened to him?
Paula: He was killed in a car accident on his 50th birthday, actually . . .
Andrew: Just crossing the street?
Paula: No. He was driving home from the gym. And I don’t know if he . . . I think he had a heart attack and he hit a telephone pole right in the middle of the town where he lived and was killed in that car accident. So very tragic, very tragic.
Andrew: Can you say what his name is?
Paula: But I had already left the company at that time I was already working in my paint business then. So he and I kind of parted ways. And he was ill at me for leaving him mid-project on something that . . . you know, the relationship, it came to a parting of the minds so we kind of split up a little bit, hence I had started this company, this paint company in my kitchen. So I was trying to have something to fall back on that I didn’t have to travel up north so much so I started this . . .
Andrew: How old was your son at that time?
Paula: My son was just starting high school. So he was 15, 16, somewhere in there. So he was my only helper.
Andrew: Can you say what this billionaire’s name is?
Paula: Yes. Glen Nelson was his name. Glen Nelson.
Andrew: What did he do? What was his business? I don’t know him.
Paula: His company was called Matrix. And he was buying large commercial properties, and he would go in and really look it over and figure out what was ailing the building and the tenants and so on and just start . . .
Andrew: What a perfect person for you to meet then.
Paula: He was the perfect person for me to meet. And I had learned how to roll with that crew because you know, those guys that he had on his team were first of all, a lot of Northern men with great education, great background. He himself didn’t have an education, but he was the smartest street smart person I’ve ever known in my life, and I’m sure I’ll never meet anyone to come near that. You know, he was just not afraid of anything. He didn’t get where he had gotten to in his life by being, you know, not a chance and risk taker. So he was the perfect person to watch and learn from.
Andrew: You didn’t finish school. How did your parents feel about . . .
Paula: I didn’t.
Andrew: You did not. How did your parents feel about that?
Paula: No. I didn’t. Well, think back where I’m from, a rural community in Tennessee, and, you know, I hardly even beckoned the door of the school, hated every minute of it. And I always knew I had great talent and always knew I had the wherewithal to do anything. And my parents, I just had a very unorthodox childhood because they were entrepreneurial and they definitely taught us that anything you want to do, you can do and just go for it. They always gave us the support, and they always helped us finance businesses.
And, you know, my dad gave us $10,000 when I was 16 years old and said, “Hey, go up to Chicago and buy . . . ” I have to tell you, this is a crazy little story and this tells kind of my background and the whole thing. But we decided we wanted to open . . . my sister and I opened a clothing store because we liked clothes. We wanted to sell these returned goods, as we were calling them back in the day. This was when outlets were very popular. But there was a little store that opened up some hour drive from us. We’d heard about it. We went there. And the stuff was from Spiegel, if you know the company Spiegel out of Chicago.
And so we did a little research. There was no internet, obviously so you had to go call the operator and ask on the telephone. And remember, I’m 16 years old, I’m calling, my sister is 18, and I’m in school supposedly, and I’m calling up the information . . . calling the operator and asking for information, trying to get information on Spiegel, finally get a hold of someone, the guy says, “Hey, yeah, you can come up and buy these returns.” If you ordered it, didn’t fit, they didn’t put it back into inventory. They just throw it into the return bin. So they had really high-end brands.
So my dad gives us $10,000 and says, “Hey, go up there and see,” in cash, in cash. So my sister and I get in a car. We drive my mother’s car, still don’t know why we did that, but we drive up there and we go in to see this Mr. Fox, it’s his name and just have to tell him that we want to buy $10,000 worth of these. He hands us these manifests and he tells us, “Which one do you want?” and we pick out the ones we think we’re [inaudible 00:13:20], go rent a truck and back up and drive it home. He said, “Oh, it takes about a week to load the truck.” It’s like a week, we’d had no idea. So we have to stay, and we stay there in Chicago.
So anyway, we end up driving a 24-foot truck. I end up driving the straight shift truck home down to Tennessee with this, you know . . . and my sister ended up running off and leaving me on the drive. And so I drove home by myself and she drove home by herself. She got startled in the city because somebody walked up to her windows, scared her so she drives on and leaves me. And again, 16 years old driving this truck, she rented.
And anyway, that was just one little adventure. I just look back at that and can’t imagine that . . . giving my son the equivalent of that today probably would be $50,000 and telling him to go off and drive and get something, you know, at that age. But anyway, I could just believe that we could do anything, and I look back today and I go, “Wow.” I think because they did give us the wings to fail and so on that I just never saw myself as not being able to do anything I wanted to do, so. Maybe that’s a good thing.
Andrew: How did you decide you wanted to do paint? Where did the idea come from?
Paula: Well, because I’ve always, you know, had my hands in paint being . . . you know, I’m an artist. I draw, paint and all that. I’ve always had a paintbrush in my hand. I always knew that paint was a great way to update your interior. And one of the cheapest tools in the box if you’re redesigning your home is paint. So I sold paint. You know, one of the stores that my sister and I owned were a floorcovering store and we sold paint. So I had this idea that I wanted to do an online business of some sort so I could take orders and fill these orders and paint this furniture that I was going to buy. I was going to buy like a knockdown furniture in a box, paint it up an assortment of colors that I was going to show on my website, and let people pick a color. I was going to paint the furniture, and then stick it back into the box, and send it to them as a designer idea. That was my whole MO.
And I created a color card, and that was going to be my paint colors. I posted that on my Facebook page. And from that, someone reached out to me and asked me could they buy some of this paint. Well, the paint didn’t exist at that moment. It was just the colors. And I said, “Sure,” realizing that, “Hey, this is the beginning of this. So let me just let somebody buy some paint, and I’ll have to make a bulk of this paint. So maybe this will help my minimums here.” So I tell her, and so she said, “Sure. I’ll buy some.” So she bought some, and the next thing you know, she was selling it. And I was like, “Oh, wow. She’s selling it.” So another lady asked me the same and it just continued to grow and like crazy.
Oh I had 50 retailers in like six months. I was charging $1,200 for a wholesale assortment of these paints, and that’s all it took to get in business with me, and I would give them a territory of whatever mileage around them and so on. So that’s how I started it, and it just took off.
Andrew: She had a store, and she wanted to sell it in her store, and you said, “You can sell it in your store, and you’ve got exclusive on this paint that I just imagined and invented here because you wanted to buy it, that you have exclusive only within this small area.”
Paula: That’s how I did it right there. That’s exactly what I did.
Andrew: How did you get the paint made? I heard that was an interesting story.
Paula: It is an interesting story simply because of the genesis of how this came about. So once this girl tells me that she wants to buy this paint, then I’m like, “Oh, gosh, well, you don’t . . . ” I realized it was tax time of the year and I knew this girl, grew up with this girl, and I thought, “You know, I don’t want her money because what if . . . ” you know, I don’t want to take her money, and then this doesn’t happen. So I said, “You just pay me when I deliver it to you.” My son’s father lived in my hometown, and that’s where this girl was from. I said, “Well, I’ll bring you the paint when he comes down to visit his dad when I drive him down.” So she said, “Sure.”
So I’m going to make up this paint now because now I have a mission. I have a customer. So I just start going through my mind and thinking, you know, we used to pay an invoice to a company here in Louisville when we had to paint in our retail store, and I believed they were from Louisville. And I look on the internet and sure enough remember the name, and there the company was, sold out to somebody in California. I called the company in California, asked him about the Louisville-based company, and he said, “Yeah, a small part of that family business is still running today. You should call them.”
So I do, call them, go down and meet them. And lo and behold, this family that owned this business remembered our account and remembered us being in business, and remembered the old sales rep, the long story goes. I give them the paint. I say I want to make a chalk-type paint, and I gave them an example of one that was readily available. And I think I’m going to have a chemical analysis of this paint and something, starts spending a lot of money, that’s exactly what I was thinking, and the guy takes the lid off and just gives it, you know, a little smell. He says, “Sure, I’d make them.” I said, “So that’s the chemical analysis of this?” He said, “Yeah, we can make that. This is just a house paint.” I was like, “Really?” He said, “Yeah.”
So I was just kind of like, “No. Goodness, surely this is more than that,” you know. So anyway, it wasn’t long, he called me back, and I thought they thought I was crazy when I left, and they called me back and said, “Come down and get your sample,” and I said, “You know what, let’s just make it. And I’m not going to paint with it. Just do it.” He said, “This is better than the one you have, that you brought us.” So I said, “Well, that’s great.” So I put it on eBay immediately with the pieces of the paint that he gives me, took the girl down her paint, got that going, and the retailers just kept coming even through eBay. People would buy the product and I was afraid to look at . . .
Andrew: Wow. What was so special about it? There’s so many other paint companies. You’re brand new.
Paula: There are.
Andrew: What was it that made your eBay listing stand out?
Paula: Well, this was a chalk type paint at the time. So my product has evolved. That time I was making a chalky, chalky flat paint. I’m also like . . .
Andrew: I’m going to ask what that is in a moment. Let me take a moment just to say it to everyone, my sponsor is HostGator. If you’re excited about entrepreneurship, you’re excited about this, and you want to get going, there’s no better place to get a website than to go to hostgator.com/mixergy. If you select that middle option, they’re going to give you unlimited domains. So every little idea that you have, without having to figure out how do I spin up a website, how do I get everything go, you just go to HostGator, once you have this account, and you just create it, the way that an artist if they have a pad of paper around could just start drawing. Once you get that pad of paper, any idea can start to get executed. Hostgator.com/mixergy, super low price, even lower if you use my /mixergy URL, and incredibly dependable. I’ve been with them now for years. I highly recommend that you go to hostgator.com/mixergy.
They got a list of all these benefits, like they’ll give you a $100 Google Ad credits. You know what, I’m not here to sell you features, I’m here to tell you go start something. And if you go to HostGator, it’d be great for me, to be honest with you, because they’re sponsors, and it’d be great for you because they’re going to give you a low price, and they’ll take good care of your site, hostgator.com/mixergy.
What is this chalk thing? I intentionally interrupted because I know from before we got started that this is key, chalky, chalk, chalk, what was it that first version that you made that was so special?
Paula: Well it was very chalky and flat, and meaning that it needed to have a wax coating on top of it. And of course, I create my own wax formula on my stove cooking up wax.
Andrew: So this was your idea. You said, “Look, people like this chalky feel, but they obviously can’t have a chalky wall where when they touch it, they get dust on their hands. But I know how to make the wax.” Is that what it was?
Paula: Mm-hmm. Well, my product instead for walls and chalkboard, it was for furniture. So you don’t want your furniture dry, gritty, chalky. So you want to give it that aged or antique old look, and you do that using a wax product. And that’s exactly what I created was a wax and I made colors . . .
Andrew: Oh, so it was the combination that you could give people this old feel of furniture with the paint that you imagined and you knew what that looked like because you sold furniture for so long, but you also were able to create the wax on top. Got it. So people on eBay bought it. It was $1,200 to the first woman who was a friend of yours who found you on Facebook. How much did you start bringing in from eBay?
Paula: It’s funny, my goal was $100 a day. I said if I can make $100 a day, $3,000 a month, that will be enough for me just to play over here and give my son something fun to do after school, and [inaudible 00:21:07] . . .
Andrew: So it was a side business.
Paula: My son, my son . . .
Andrew: No, but it was a side business because you were still thinking . . .
Paula: It was a side, yeah, side business.
Andrew: Yeah, I get that it was pretty . . . but were you thinking, “I still get this job, I’m working with this Northerner.
Paula: I was.
Andrew: This guy and all of his friends. I’m going to work with them, but this will bring in some nice money and my son going in entrepreneurship.” Did you do for your son what your parents did for you, like, give them that kind of experience?
Paula: I have done a lot of that with my son. The only thing I did . . .
Andrew: How? I’d like to do it with my kids. They’re five and three. I’m at a point where I could start. What did you do with your son?
Paula: Well, one thing I had bet my mother always did, even though we were . . . again, giving us all this encouragement was she always traveled with my sister, myself and whoever else we wanted to take. She took us all over the world. And even though she was a small town country person, she was smart enough, business savvy enough that she knew that would open our eyes to the world. And it did. And it also let us see that, you know, different diversities around the world and how everybody’s different culturally and all that. So, for that reason, I said with my own son, I’m going to travel with him, and I think that gave him a different perspective on the world.
Andrew: Like what? What did you get? It feels like it’s fun and there is a sense of other people out there. I get it. My world is broadening, my vision of what’s possible is broadening. But substantively, what changes because he’s able to see that? Do you have an example of something that’s different . . . ?
Paula: Oh, hundreds of things change. I think everything changes.
Andrew: Give me an example, what’s different? What’s different?
Paula: Well, I think because, you know, sometimes if you sit back in your armchair and you look around the world and you go, “Everybody is so much smarter than I am. Everybody is in such a better place than I am.” “I can’t get in the fashion business because I don’t live in Paris.” “I can’t be the president because I don’t live in the right city,” or whatever. You can’t limit your thinking. And once I think you get out there and you see the rest of the world, you go, “You know what, they’re no different than I am.” You can be anything you want to be. Your geography doesn’t contain or stop you from being whoever you want to be. So I think when people travel, ultimately, they see that, and they see that we live in the greatest country in the world. And they see that anything that we want to do, we have the ability to do in this country.
So I believe traveling is a huge eye opener for children, and even though they probably don’t really want to go. I didn’t take my son to the beach all the time. So that was one thing I didn’t do. And I still don’t really . . .
Paula: I still go to the beach, but I don’t take him . . . I didn’t take him to those trips. I took him to Europe, and I took him to places that matter. I took him to the Vatican. I took him to places that he could see things that are so far removed from his own world. And I think it’s made a different person out of him. He does still see himself as someone who wants to continue to travel and like me, but I think in time as he grows up more and gets a little older, he’s going to find that that’s also been very eye opening for him as well. And he’ll do his own children the way, I hope,
Andrew: I was telling my kids a story last night of how we took our cat to Argentina, long before they were born, and one day our cat just fell out the window because he would sit on the window which was open and he handled himself well for a long time, and one day he fell down. We couldn’t find him. I printed up a picture of a cat that looked like ours. I started walking around. I used Google Translate to translate the, “Lost our cat. If you can find them, please call our number,” and put it on a sign, and walk around and showed it to people in my bad Spanish. And then one person understood, showed me where the cat was, under his car. The cat broke a bone. We had to find a hospital. And for them, it was just like . . .
Andrew: Yeah. So that was just an interesting story that let them know a little bit about their parents before they were born. But it reminded me also that when you live in a different country, everything is can you figure it out and get by moment that at the end of it, when you do get by, you feel a sense of strength for having overcome it, for having overcome, “How do I ask these strangers where my cat is? Who can I talk to here? How do I find a hospital for the cat? What do I explain to the cat . . . ”
Paula: One hundred percent.
Andrew: . . . to the hospital what happened.” In all those moments, it’s just daily life. Going and getting a croissant for breakfast is interesting because they sell medialunas, they don’t sell croissants. And if you ask for a coffee to go, they don’t know what a coffee to go is. And this is Argentina, it’s . . .
Paula: That’s what I love about travel.
Andrew: That’s what I love about it.
Paula: It challenges you. It challenges you so much. When I travel now . . . I just recently went to Singapore by myself and I’d never gone to Asia, and always wanted to go. I’m going to go to Kuala Lumpur, you know. I probably would have said no to that trip, going to Singapore, and I said, “You know, why would I not go? There’s nothing there that I’m scared of. I don’t know a single person.” I also went to Dubai and went over to the Middle East, not alone, I did go with someone there.
Andrew: I went to Singapore too on my own. Here are a couple of things that I got from it. Number one, the most impactful thing was I thought having closed-caption TVs everywhere would feel like an oppressive government watching you all the time, and I’m not saying that it’s great, I’m not passing any judgment, I walked into it with this judgment. And then I realized, as I was running through streets that I didn’t recognize at all, I’d see these women walking around by themselves sometimes, sometimes in threes, wearing red . . . not skimpy clothes, but just like not worried about what they were wearing and where they were. And I said, “I’ve traveled now all over the world. I don’t remember another country where women could on their own, at night in these little corners of the city, just go walking on their own, and feel comfortable and feel a sense of lightness.”
Paula: Feel safe.
Andrew: Feel safe. Now, for me, all I saw was the oppression, for them . . . and I’ve talked to people in Singapore, they feel a sense of pride that they are protected by this. Now, that was an eye-opener culturally to see that.
Andrew: I have tons of examples. What did you get out of going to Singapore?
Paula: Oh, you know, looking back, it’s a hell of a way.
Andrew: It’s what?
Paula: It’s a hell of a long way. I know that . . .
Andrew: It is very far. Yes.
Paula: You know, I went there too . . . it was my travel product that I invented that I have a patent for actually, and the Tax Free World Association voted my product as one of the best travel products or one of the best products in 2018. So I was there for the awards banquet. Of course, it didn’t win, but I was there just with myself and another product. So I was there to represent my product. But I learned a lot going there. I learned that traveling alone is very adventurous, and I did feel a sense of accomplishment just to navigate all that and to get home in one piece. And I really felt very much like I had conquered the world when I got home, you know.
Andrew: I just wrote a note to myself to come back and ask you about the travel product. But I realized that we’re also getting off the story here because I had to tell you stories about my trip and find out about your son . . .
Paula: I like hearing your stories. This makes it a two-way street. I mean, I like it.
Andrew: I like that. I like getting the chance to share them. You were then saying . . . I think I got something here, “I’m going to go into other stores.” Did you get into Walmart? Did you try to get into Walmart?
Paula: You know, I didn’t because we quickly learned . . . and I am one of those people, we got into Camping World, if you’re familiar with Camping World. I met Marcus Lemonis in Chicago . . .
Andrew: What is it?
Paula: Camping World is a chain of stores that sell to people who are camping enthusiasts. They sell everything from campers themselves, motorhomes of all facets, and then all the supplies. And they have locations around the [inaudible 00:28:23], up to about 82 store fronts. And Marcus Lemonis is a business entrepreneur himself and Lee Iacocca was one of his mentors early on in his career. And of course, he’s a very brilliant person, and then I’ll give him all the accolades in the world, but the Camping World organization kind of burnt me on how retailers work today. So I will give you . . .
Andrew: What do you mean? You got into Camping World?
Paula: Got into Camping World, got our product on the shelves and on . . .
Andrew: What was it like to get your product into . . . Why is Camping World? What do they have to do with paint?
Paula: Well, because I have a product that paints leathers and vinyls. And you can paint literally anything inside your camper. So if your camper is looking old and dowdy, you can paint the walls which are covered with vinyl most of the time. So my product is flexible. This paint, this all-in-one paint that I’m telling you about, you can paint leather or vinyl. You can paint the cabinets, paint the countertops. You can paint pretty much any surface inside that home to make it look brand new. So Camping World loved it for that. You can paint the driver’s seat if you want to make your seats look brand new, and they don’t crack and all that.
Andrew: Got it. Okay.
Paula: Was a great product.
Andrew: So you got in there.
Paula: Got in there.
Andrew: This was fantastic, except? What happened?
Paula: You think. It was very good. Sounds great. We also got into their catalog that goes out to all of these . . . I forgot, a couple, three million people have the catalog that every year, or bi-annually, whatever, they send this catalog out, we had a listing in the catalog. We were known to be part of their group, let’s say, and they got a discount for buying from the Camping World organization. If you’re a member like Sam’s Club, you could be in the Good Sam’s Club actually, the Good Sam club. So we were in all of that. We gave discounts and heavy discounts to be in those stores and to put our product where people can walk in and buy it off of the shelf, what you think is where you want your product to be.
But unfortunately, that’s not how it works today. Every retailer . . . this is my own experience, and I’ll just tell you how I feel about it. And I could be wrong, but I’m going to tell you right now the numbers speak for themselves. So here we are giving our product at a huge discount to retailers to get it on the shelf. I’m sending my product into these stores, hoping that it’s on the shelf. So I start talking to all of my six million followers that I have on my social pages, and I’m directing my customers to go into Camping World and buy it in their hometown, walk in and pick it up and buy it.
Andrew: Why are you doing that? Aren’t they supposed to do that? It’s their store.
Paula: Well, you would think. But they don’t. They don’t. They think because they put it into a catalog that now all of a sudden that it will speak. I don’t know how they think it’s . . . again, so this is how I came up with this idea, all right. So I’m directing my customers to find this now, hoping to make their life more convenient by putting it on the shelves. We’re actually getting into Tractor Supply, and I turned down the order. So we already had been approved to go into Tractor Supply, which is a lot of locations.
So this is when I made the turn away from retail right here. So Camping World puts the product on the shelf and puts it in all of the store supposedly, and we’re telling everybody to go get it there and come to find out my customers were going there, these people that I’ve talked to everyday online we’re going into these stores only to find that they hadn’t even set the product on the shelf yet. So we’re disappointed. They’d driven there to get it, got out of the car, went in to get it so now highly disappointed.
Camping World is only willing to put in six colors to test this. So now, I offer 30 colors, they only have 6, so just wouldn’t you know that this customer can’t find the color they’re looking for. I’m talking about all 30 colors, now this store only has 6. So they’re already disappointed again.
And so here’s what ultimately happened, and this is how retailers work today and you can take this to the bank because this is exactly what they do and this is including Do it Best, this is exactly what they did. Once they were able to buy my product wholesale at this discount that I gave them so they would put it on the shelf for the convenience of the customer, they then go to the internet and they beat you up and sell under you on Amazon, even if it’s through stores names that they set up that don’t reflect that it’s Do it Best or that it’s Camping World online. They backdoor you . . .
Andrew: So what you’re saying is Camping World had another brand online that they personally are selling? It’s not even their people who are maybe taking it and selling it . . . ?
Paula: It is their people. It is them doing, but they don’t put their name on it.
Andrew: Like, they’re not freelancing this people? No?
Paula: They’re doing it to all their people.
Andrew: You’re saying they, as a company have a . . .
Paula: One hundred percent intentional. Yes.
Andrew: How did you discover that they were doing it themselves, or you just saw it on the store and then assuming that it’s them?
Paula: Bought it from them. It’s online.
Andrew: You bought it? And you saw the shipping label was from them?
Paula: Uh-huh. Just got right online and bought it from them and that’s exactly how we figured it out. Yes.
Andrew: So what you realized was, “I have to sell, I have to then send people to the store. When they get to the store, they don’t have a great experience because a lot of the product is not there, just whatever the store decided to offer. And then they come in and they undercut me on what they have with online sales.” And you said, “What do I need this just to flatter myself and feel good and worthy as a business person and creator, who sees their stuff in stores and can boast that I’m in the store?” You said, “I don’t want to do this.”
Paula: I’m done.
Andrew: You decided, “I’m going to pull it all and go online.” The first thing I did was go to Amazon directly yourself, or did you start selling more on eBay, or on your own website? Which one?
Paula: Well, we’re no longer on eBay. That was a long time ago. I haven’t been on eBay in a long time.
Andrew: You pulled eBay a long time ago.
Paula: All Amazon, 100% Amazon. Amazon is the way.
Andrew: You said, “I’m going to go 100% Amazon”?
Paula: I’m going to go my website and 100% Amazon as well.
Andrew: And that’s it. And you had just those two.
Paula: So everything’s on Amazon, all products are on Amazon. So we were in Prime for two days. Now, we’re in one day shipping. So we’re down to getting it, you can order it today and somebody will walk it in your door the next day. So some things that were holding us back from the surety that customers needed was a sprayed on color card, meaning I’ve got to give them an example of exactly what this color looks like in reality. The only thing that a retail store offered me that I wasn’t able to give this online customer was a sample of that paint. So those are very expensive to create, but we bit the bullet, we did it, now we have this sprayed on color card.
So now, the customer can get a sample from me for $6.99. We send it to them free shipping. I mean, they pay the shipping, we send the sample for free for $6.99, and inside that sample comes this color strip of all the colors. So once they get that, try it, now they can order with the surety that they’re getting the color that they’ve already seen. So that was the only thing keeping us and making us want to reach to retail was because people can’t . . . because the monitor says it looks bright red, it may not be that color because your monitor may not be showing it exactly how it looks in reality. So now that we’ve solved that quandary for people, they can buy everything online from us with an assurance that they’re going to get the color that they need, so.
Andrew: You know what, so last night, I don’t know what it is . . . I know what it is with me. I always worry that I’m going to be like some of these other entrepreneur podcast, gets snowed by someone, claimed that they’re doing great but they don’t really exist. So literally, I put the kids to sleep last night, and I just started looking around to see, “Is she for real? Do people like her product? Is she trying to like use me as a way of pretending that she’s got this great product to get another Google hit? I don’t know.” I looked it up and I know one of the things I saw . . .
Paula: I’m glad. I want you to.
Andrew: Oh yeah, I even saw old videos of you which like you didn’t call yourself the founder in the video. You called yourself . . . let me see what the title is . . .
Paula: Creative director.
Andrew: Creative director.
Paula: I still call myself that, by the way.
Andrew: Okay. This was like from 2015. It’s you telling people how to stir the paint. Anyway, here’s one thing that I’m so glad that I saw, page three or four of Google, I see that Walmart does sell your product, and of course, for me, it wasn’t this Walmart sell your product or not, it was do people like the product or is this some kind of BS thing that we’re now getting hyped for? No, they do. It’s 60 reviews. That’s the thing that I registered last night. Today I’m registering, it is for sale on walmart.com. How?
Paula: Well, those are pushed channels from Do it Best, and I don’t think they’ve taken them off yet. So actually Walmart doesn’t even own, touch the product. It’s just Do it Best . . .
Andrew: Somebody else was listing it.
Paula: The hardware store was pushing it through to Jet, Walmart, all of those channels. So anywhere you go . . .
Andrew: It’s listed from Glidden High Endurance Plus. Do you know them, or is this like another brand . . . ?
Andrew: That is one of the problems where it’s someone else then . . . Oh, no, I take it back. I got totally snowed. Oh, no, no, no, the first link was you, this is somebody else creating something like you. The first link was you and it was listed as out of sale. Got it. This is someone else. That’s another problem with online sales, the people are then creating knockoffs. There was Wirecutter, The New York Times’ evaluation site that just showed how they bought the real thing from Amazon and the fake thing too, and you can’t tell them apart. It was only their research that helped them tell it apart. So your stuff is being sold here. I can see it. I also see people who are knocking you off. But is that an issue for you?
Paula: Knocking me off from what?
Andrew: Creating like fake versions of you, and then Walmart has a reason to encourage people to buy the fake stuff.
Paula: That has to be the push channel. You know, if they are, they’re going to be pending a lawsuit here. I will say that.
Andrew: It’s like knockoff, but the name is just close enough that I was tricked as I was looking quickly. So yeah . . .
Andrew: All right, it doesn’t . . . I’m just pushing to see . . .
Paula: You’re going to make me go look.
Andrew: You should go look. I could see you want to go look right now.
Paula: Oh, I do occasionally, but not that hard. I don’t go to page three. Maybe I need to get past page one and two.
Andrew: I do it all the time. I want to see what people are burying. You know, it really bothers me when I listen to another podcast and there’s . . . like they’re talking up somebody and I know that . . . I can’t stop researching them. I know that they’re full of it. And the thing that I want sometimes is I want to call people out and go, “This person has nothing,” but I can’t.
Paula: No. And you’re just outing them out for nothing. Right. Exactly. I agree with you. Good. You do your research.
Andrew: I got to support the entrepreneur. I can’t. There’s only one like VPN company that just drives me nuts. I look to see who the founder of the . . . before I traveled internationally, and when I got a VPN I said, “I don’t know these countries. I don’t know all these different internet services that I’m connecting to on Wi Fi. I’ll go get a VPN.” I checked out this one VPN company, all the podcasters are talking about them. And I said, “All right, I’ll sign up,” I paid. This was like before a trip to Asia, I got to have something.
And then I realized, wait a minute, I think this company is owned by a Chinese company, and you know the Chinese government is watching it. And so I messaged him, I said, “Who owns this company?” And they said, “Well, we have a really good service.” I go, “Yes. Who owns it?” “Well, we run out of this European location.” I go, “I talked to enough founders to know that there’s ways to make your stuff obviously look like it’s in London. How many new entrepreneurs I talked to who day one, they have a London office”?
Paula: Huawei. Huawei, they’re in London.
Andrew: Yeah. They’re in London too. Exactly. So you can just be open with me. I’ve no problem with you being a Chinese company, but just be . . . no, I can’t find out. And I went on a crusade on Twitter to try to figure out who owns them. They still will not tell me. All right, anyway.
Paula: No. They never want you to know, I’m sure.
Andrew: This is where I get [inaudible 00:39:01].
Paula: Well, I hope you found out good things on me, so. I encourage you . . .
Andrew: I did. And don’t get me wrong, I was looking for bad stuff. It’s not that you’re a bad person or bad entrepreneur with bad stuff, I just want to know it. And if it’s nothing but you trying to use me, then I want to be aware of that too so that I can say no gently and move on. And if it is good, I want to find that out too.
All right, this is a long like diatribe that I went on. Let me say this, guys, I should talk about my second sponsor. It’s a company called Toptal. Since I’ve been yapping too much, I’m not going to make it long. You already know, if you need to hire a developer, not a really bad developer, inexpensively that you’re going to work with, and train, and get them up and running, no but a really good developer and not one that’s going to take you weeks and months to put listings on everywhere and you’re going to be proud of your hiring process, which takes you months and then sets you back timewise, if you really want a great developer, super fast, do what I do, challenge this ad, go to toptal.com/mixergy and see if I’m full of it.
You don’t have to hire anybody. You just go to that page, you start a conversation with a matcher, and you say, “Andrew told me you’re the best of the best. Show me. Prove it to me.” And if they prove it to you by putting two great developers in front of you, and you want to hire one of them, great, you hire them. And if you still think this doesn’t work out for you, they’ve got a two-week trial period. They will not charge you, but they will still pay the developer. And if you decide you’re still happy with them, it gets better and better. They’ll give you 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours. All you have to do is go to toptal.com/mixergy since I am a New Yorker, just like . . . who is that guy like, Glen Nelson . . .
Paula: Glen Nelson.
Andrew: . . . who talked very fast and very in your face. I will say slowly, it’s top as in top of your head, tal as in talent . . .
Paula: What city are you from?
Andrew: I grew up in Queens.
Paula: Ah, so I worked in Long Island with him.
Andrew: For Glen?
Paula: All over with Glen. All over, yes.
Andrew: I hated Long Island growing up there. There’s no sidewalks. There’s no lights at night. It’s like, “I come from New York, lots of sidewalks, walk everywhere, lots of light . . . ”
Paula: Not there.
Andrew: I was like 17 years old driving through Long Island. They got no sidewalks. You have to drive everywhere, no lights so you can’t see anything. And then, once you get there . . .
Paula: What did you do?
Andrew: And then I discovered when I was older and I was dating somebody who had family that had a house on Long Island, like a beach house, I realized, “This is why people come.” Beautiful beach houses, go out at night and you party in these places that look like dives. But that’s the thing. If you’re willing to spend $100 on a drink, there’s no better place to spend it, at a dive bar in Long Island with interesting people who end it turns out . . .
Paula: And then you get on with [inaudible 00:41:24] the city.
Paula: I said then you can get on the train and go into the city when you want.
Paula: Just ride on the little train.
Andrew: Which is probably better than driving in. And you discover these people, yeah, they’re in flip flops and just kind of hanging out, but they’re running the whole finance business of the world. All right, I should close it out, top as in top of your head, tal as in talent, T-O-P-T-A-L.com/M-I-X-E-R-G-Y, toptal.com/mixergy, challenge them the way that I challenge myself and challenge my guests.
All right, so you pull it out, you start to sell on your own site and Amazon. For Amazon. What did you do to close sales on Amazon? What did you do to get people to buy?
Paula: Yeah, it’s one of those things. It’s just the product has been so well received and the reviews have been so good that customers found it and started buying it and reviews just came. So to get up into rankings on Amazon, of course it takes reviews and satisfied customers. So right now, we just can’t even keep enough products sent to Amazon to even keep our numbers out of the negatives. So we have . . .
Andrew: Well, one of the things that I understood that you did was you did the first . . . like the delivery by Amazon FSA, what is it . . . ?
Paula: Fulfilled by Amazon.
Andrew: Fulfilled by Amazon. Thank you. I’m spacing out. You did that early on when it was kind of a newer thing, when it was going to cost you more money to have them do it. You said, “I’m going to trust them. I’m getting out of the business of dealing with this and shipping it. I’m going to take it to Amazon,” and you jumped on that fast.
Paula: I did FBA about three years ago and I had a person that came to work for me who said they understood the FBA process. And of course they didn’t, but they said they did enough that I trusted them to get us started and get our feet wet. I didn’t understand how to give something a SKU number and get it in the system. And I thought I had to go make a lot of changes to my packaging. You know, I didn’t even have a barcode on my product at that time. So I was only in these retailer stores so I didn’t need all of that. But I thought that . . .
Andrew: You didn’t need a barcode in the retailer store? They don’t need to swipe through the . . . ?
Paula: You know, these are not sophisticated retailers, your mom and pop retailers. They weren’t scanning in anything . . .
Andrew: What about Camping World, weren’t they doing it? Oh, this was before Camping World. Got it.
Paula: This was before.
Andrew: Got it.
Paula: Yeah, this was some years. I remember the first month on Amazon, I did $500 in sales. I was like, “Well, yeah, whatever,” you know, $500, that’s not so bad. We weren’t in FBA at that time. We were still fulfilling it ourselves. We’d get the order from Amazon and sent it to the customer. So, you know, that was our first little step into the water, and the next month it was $550 or something like that. It didn’t take a big leap. But we didn’t have many products there. And we continued to kind of throw more at it and just watch the numbers begin to move and started watching those numbers against all different channels, all the revenue streams that we had, one being the retailer, one being, you know, Camping World, one being Do it Best, one being our own website, and one being Amazon.
And right now, Amazon has surpassed our own website, and I feel like that’s going to continue to grow. And like I said, we just received our filling equipment while I’m sitting here with you. It’s delivering right now to our back dock. And it’ll make 8000 quarts of paint a day. And you can do the math, but we’re going to be fulfilling Amazon FBA fulfillment for Canada for the Amazon warehouse Canada and Europe. So we’re going to really turn it up, turn up the crank here this year, so. Let’s see what it’s going to do.
Andrew: Who is this woman?
Paula: I’m sorry?
Andrew: Who is this woman who came in, she took this on? Yeah, who is this woman? Is this Melissa?
Paula: This is that little girl, her dad handed her $10,000 and said, “Hey, drive up to Chicago and pay those people . . . ”
Andrew: This was you and are there person who figured out how to get you on an Amazon, the barcode, the person who hired who didn’t have much experience . . . ?
Paula: Oh, this person, oh, this person. She was just a girl that was doing graphic design in my building who told me she knew how to do Amazon. She didn’t know how. She knew enough to get it. She told me, “You don’t have to have a barcode. You can just go over here and buy barcodes from a barcode generator website.” And you know, that wasn’t something you could do some years ago. And we assigned barcodes to the products that we put on Amazon. So that’s how we kind of started the process. And then, you know, I brought everything in-house. And I think that’s been another important thing is I always try to bring everything in-house and control every aspect of our product.
And I’m a big proponent of it doesn’t matter how many take, it matters how much you keep at the end of the day, and I try to guard every dollar from the container to the label to the labor that we put into the package and everything about that. So I look at all aspects of the product and see how we can maintain the high quality that we have, as well as make a better product faster to market. So that’s what it’s all about.
So we’ve made our own labels. We print our own labels. We just got a brand new label printing machine that cuts the label and prints it on a beautiful material as well as this filling equipment. So, you know, we just moved. We moved five times in the last six years, and we just moved into a brand new place.
Andrew: Did you just move into a church recently or . . . ? Was that one of the last ones?
Paula: Bought a church. No, that was three moves ago. We moved to a church. I bought a church that I found on Craigslist.
Andrew: You bought the whole church?
Paula: Bought the whole church and the land around it. Yep. With the idea that . . .
Andrew: Why own your place?
Andrew: Why did you want to own your place?
Paula: Well, at the time, when we first started the business, we were renting in a commercial park, in a business park and we were renting different buildings that were not even contiguous space to each other because we were growing so quickly. And, you know, at the time, we thought, “Wow, this is huge. This is 6,000 square feet.” And then we went over and rented another one that was 4,000 and so on. So, you know, we kept growing and growing. And so I said, “You know, here’s the kicker, I don’t know this business, I was getting uncomfortable renting all this space,” because I said, “These people won’t an IOU. If we can’t meet the rental payment, they’re going to tell us to move out. So what if the business turns down?” And I’m going to pay this kind of money a month, you know, $7,000, $8,000 rent a month, I’m going to be making a mortgage payment because that way I can control my destiny a little bit.
So that’s when I found the church and I said, “Hey, we can add on to this thing. We can make it what it is.” The church was nothing more than a steel building with a steeple on top. So we removed the steeple and off we went and found out quickly that we couldn’t build on it. This building was in a floodplain. So we sold, leave very quickly and moved again to another location. And we thought it was big enough and we came very close buying that building and quickly outgrew it before our lease was even up. We were looking for more property and we just moved here, and we’re adding on to this building 12,000 square feet. I met with the construction people today. So we’re in 12,000 right now adding 12 in the back, so we’d be at 24. And we need it tomorrow, so.
Andrew: And a large part of this, as we said, is from Amazon, but it’s also from your site. So I’m looking you up on Ahrefs, they’re a partner of ours. I’ve got an account there. I’m trying to see are you doing content marketing to get people over? From what I can see, not really. It seems like it’s advertising.
Paula: Well, I can tell where it is. I can give you 100% where it is.
Andrew: Where is it?
Paula: You know, I started this thing out and you saw my early videos producing them ourselves, and of course, we still do everything ourselves. And I do teaching videos and teaching people how to use our products and paint themselves and giving women and men too, encouraging them to pick up a paintbrush, things they’ve generally gone to or had to pay someone to do and I show them how to use the paint and how to get these results that are professional that they’re going to say, “You know, somebody price painting my kitchen for four grand, I did it for a quart and a half of paint or two, you know, for under $100,” and the little time they did it themselves, so . . .
Andrew: This is content marketing on YouTube, not on your own site?
Paula: No. You know, YouTube has been a great thing for us early on. YouTube was the only thing I needed to do. And of course, Facebook came along with, you know, just the Facebook strategy of the live content and a live feed that you could do, and I started doing a lot of lives, started growing, my audience began to grow. Then we opened a Facebook group, a private group, and that group is at . . . I think 110,000 people and they’re mainly all users of the product.
So, you know, I take my main Facebook page and encourage people to get into our groups so then we can help them, educate them, show them projects, give them ideas on where to use the product around their home and what they can do with it and see other people’s version of it instead of mine. Sometimes, you know, people watch you and they go, “Is this trick photography or whatever?” You never know what people think today because so many things can be done with digital imagery. So the greatest thing is when someone else shares their story, not necessarily my perspective, but their story, so when people see that other people are getting the results outside of the company, then they go, “Hey, this is true. It really does work and they’re not just pulling my leg to get me to buy this,” you know.
So once that corroborates, you know, how easy the product is to use, then that group has been very wonderful for us. And of course, we’re touching about 5 million people right now a month on Facebook. So even though we only have 150 some thousand likes, our engagement, you can check this because you are one of those . . .
Andrew: I’m doing it right now.
Paula: So go and check it out.
Andrew: If you feel like you lost me, you did not. I’m watching everything that you’re saying here and checking it out. Here’s one from . . .
Paula: You can go look at the big boys, look at Sherwin’s, look at all of them, Joanna Gaines, all those and you can see what their engagement is versus our small numbers, 150,000 and then you’ll see . . .
Andrew: I see 107,000 though in the group . . .
Paula: That’s the group.
Andrew: No, you’re right . . . no, the 151 people liked the page . . . oh, I can’t see…
Paula: That’s the private group, that 107.
Andrew: Oh, I do see a public . . . I see a public group with 107 and see . . .
Paula: That’s it. It’s a public group, sorry. I shouldn’t have said private.
Andrew: So there’s a woman named Min who just posted in there now, 11 minutes ago, and she says, “We recently purchased this,” and she’s pointing to cabinets in the picture, “I’m not really liking the colors. What color would you guys recommend?” and then she lists a bunch of colors, and she says, “Thank you for your help.” And then Amanda, seven minutes ago, that’s four minutes after she posted, Amanda came in with some questions and some input, and now the conversation is going beyond where I care to keep going and diving in. But I could see now . . .
Paula: We’ll continue all day and all night.
Andrew: I could see what this group is about. It’s people posting photos of their furniture. There’s one person who posted a photo their couch, “Can I still paint the couch?”
Paula: Sure. You can paint leather and vinyl with this product. Remember me telling you that?
Andrew: Look at these, I love retro, these people are asking, “$60 for this couch, it’s leather. Do you think I could successfully redo it in polo?”
Andrew: “It’s calling to me.”
Paula: [inaudible 00:52:07] quickly. Yes, you can.
Andrew: So you can? No, I’m not getting into this. But she has 119 comments.
Paula: Hey, help me out.
Andrew: One hundred and nineteen comments of people. I’m not jumping into that one.
Paula: Oh, yeah. The group is where it is, and that’s where we kind of live, you know, about five admin.
Andrew: What about ads? I heard you hired somebody who’s a pro at buying ads. Did that work out for you?
Paula: You know, that’s Melissa, who came in my business about . . . gosh, I think she’s been with me about five years now. I hired her as a bookkeeper, and just try to help me you know, maintain, you know, the status quo of having employees on it. Melissa had never been on the marketing side of business, and I said, “Hey, you know what, you . . . ” she really balances me. You know, I’m kind of a balloon. I mean, she tethers me to the ground a little bit. And she said, “No. I’ve never done marketing before.” And I said, “You know, you work great with me,” because she will throw me an idea, maybe it’s not the idea that I was thinking of, but it gives me something to go for. And together, we bounce things off of each other very well and balance each other. So she’s now the general manager of the business, and I let her kind of run with everything. She is fantastic. There’s no words . . .
Andrew: And I heard for a long time, you didn’t get paid but she got paid because you guys were running low. You’re wincing. Did I get that wrong or what?
Paula: Yeah, because this business . . . I’ll have to go back it up just a bit because whenever I started the business, again, in my kitchen, I met someone about that time, and he and I were . . . you know, it wasn’t long that we were living under the same roof together. He was in a great business himself. He has come up in the insurance business, and Craig is his name. So he was doing really well and had all of his life. He’s in his 50s. And, you know, he made a six-figure income on his own. So he didn’t need my help, but he was encouraging me to do this business. And I was like, “Okay, you know, with your support,” and, you know, he and I were in love and whatever, so he said, “I want you to quit traveling. And I want you to really get in here and do this business.” So I said, “All right, with that encouragement, I’m going to do it.” So I did it, and going to New York during that time. So I was full force into this. And wasn’t taking any money out of the business because there wasn’t much to take to begin with. So I was leaving it alone.
And in a very short span of time, I’m going to say six months into this, Craig calls me on a Thursday afternoon, and he said, “You’re not going to believe this.” He was working out in Seattle, where he was from originally. He was traveling back out there, the company he worked for, Delta Dental, he was back out in Seattle working every other week out there, and he said, “I lost my job.” And then I said, “No way.” He said, “I wouldn’t kid about that.” So he was very emotional and upset about it. And I said, “Well, come join me in this business.”
And so he laughed. He said, “You know that you really understand what you’re saying,” and we got three children and a daughter getting married who’s expecting a big wedding by her daddy and, you know, I’ve got another son in college and one in high school and I also had one and both of our boys were in private school. So I was like, “Wow, what are we going to do now?” And I said, “Just come and help me. I could never pay for you to be in the business. But now that we don’t have an option . . . ” He said, “No, you know, I need to get back in insurance. I’m going to go work for Blue Cross.” So he had that opportunity. And I said, “Well, you know, if you want to go back in the insurance business, or you want to come help me.”
And of course, he is colorblind, he’d never painted a stick of anything in his life, had no interest in anything in the DIY world and I said, “Just come and help me.” And so he started kind of dabbling, helping me to try to feel better I think, and with all intentions of going back into the insurance world. But he said, “Let’s go over and lease a building.” So we went out and leased this first building. There was a flex space office in the front, warehouse in the back, so 1,800 square feet. So we moved into that, and he started helping me shoot those videos, like the one you first saw, that little video. That was one we did. He was going to try to script me and tell me what I needed to say in these videos. And so that is absolutely impossible.
I just have to talk, you know, “This is me. I’ve just got to talk.” So in other words, he didn’t do well as a director, directing me anyway so. So long story short, we immediately, as he came into the business, he said he had $100,000 that . . . well, no, no, let me take that back. He had a pension from where he’d worked and some other insurance business before, that hundred grand, and then he had a severance of three months. He said, “I’ve got three months of severance. After that, I don’t know what we’ll do.” So I had all of those houses I told you that I still owned in Tennessee and a great deal of expenses coming out for son in school, his boys, you know, all of that. So, ah, it was a fun moment. And I said, “Just get in here and let’s dig, let’s go to work.” And, you know, again, he was a fish out of water, but I just got in there and rock and roll. And we never missed paycheck and still haven’t to this day.
I think this was worth mentioning and I believe that’s what you’re recalling there from the paperwork is when one of the last Do it Best markets that we went to, we had gone out, the Do it Best market is in Indianapolis two times a year. It’s very expensive, about 20 grand for us to go, not to mention the time away and all the expense to get there. The booth itself was 20 grand. So they do pretty good on these little adventures here, these booths they charge for. And so we’d gone out to Las Vegas, to the national hardware show. So we had our booth out there and then picked it up and shipped it up to Indianapolis just for the following week to go for that show.
When we arrived in Indianapolis, our booth was totally destroyed. It was just sitting there in a heap of woodpile. The party starting this off as a disaster. And so Melissa and I are there trying to put it together and make heads or tails of this thing. And Craig calls because he’s still in Louisville, he calls to tell me that really an issue that Melissa’s paycheck was not going to cash. So that was probably the lowest low that I can recall that was the low of the low because this was also the worst market because they have a good one and the slow one, this was the slow market. This is the one you’d generally don’t see many people that you haven’t already met before because nobody new shows up to this.
So one customer rolled in the door, that was the iconic member at Do it Best that everybody would say my product is at this store. These guys rolled into our booth and put it in all of their locations. So thank God that was 50 grand worth of business again, if that hadn’t happened. I don’t know where we would have ended up after that day. Her check cashed. That’s the only time that’s ever happened. And I think that was another reckoning moment or just a moment for me to think, “This doesn’t work. What we’re doing here is enriching these guys really, and why am I doing that? Why am I throwing $42,000 in a booth to rent to go stand in a little booth to try to sell my product to people I’ve put into their warehouse who do nothing to help support it or help to sell it, and rather than doing that, why don’t I just give a break to these people who are already loving my product that I’m talking to every single day?” So it just rolled back to that again.
And I still remember that old Blockbuster thing going on in my head, you know, whenever you can say . . . how does Gary V say that he wants to order a movie, he’s wanting to do it laying in his underwear in his bed, same way I want to shop off, you know. I don’t need to get up and go to Blockbuster to pick out a video. I’m just going to get on Netflix and buy something tonight, you know. Same thing.
Andrew: You know what, I’m like that too. I don’t want to go to any store and buy anything unless it’s like to keep the kids entertained. So that’s why I go to Target, which I’ve never been to before I had kids, and I said, “Let’s just walk in here,” walk into any store and see what things . . .
Paula: Let these kids run.
Andrew: But they love everything. I take them to Home Depot even though I never buy anything from Home Depot, but they get to go in the shower, pretend they’re taking a shower in one of the showers on display. The thing though that I imagine is if I wanted to buy paint, wouldn’t I want to go to a store to make sure that it was the right color? Because I’ve got an iPad here in front of me that I like, it’s showing one color, I see my laptop over here, it’s showing a fainted version of the same color.
Paula: That’s not it.
Andrew: So how do you do it?
Paula: Well, how did we get around that? Just like I told you earlier.
Paula: If you believe that this paint product is something that you want to try, we want to put the product in your hand. Now, this would have sank you if this product didn’t exceed the customer’s expectations, meaning if I’m going to send you a sample and my customer acquisition costs are high in that, and they are, I’m going to send you a $16.99 jar of paint and the only thing you pay is the $6.99 shipping, I’m at a loss of about $3 per person every time that comes through, and I’m going to put that into your hand and you pick a color that you think you like, but inside that box is coming this strip of colors that are all spot on . . .
Andrew: Show me all the others.
Paula: . . . matches to the paint. So now, you have the paint, you can make the decision if you like the product and how it looks and feels and did it deliver what you thought, and now if you like it, you can pick it out because you’ve got the color in your hand. So that’s the only way we could win at this without being on the shelf somewhere.
Andrew: And I could also get a color card for $3. Right?
Paula: Yep. You can buy that too.
Andrew: But the thing is that I could go into a store and just see it immediately and then see competitors too. Why are people choosing to wait? Why are people choosing to pay where they could just go to the store and see it for free?
Paula: Well, all right, so let’s say you go to Lowes, Home Depot today. First of all, you got to find some human that knows something because most people in there don’t know doggone thing? I’m going to be bombarded with 75,000 color options. Most people today are confused on what color looks good because they can look at those little chips and once they take that home, that’s not exactly what they thought it would be either. So we’ve given these colors a lot of thought. We’ve digested these colors. In other words, we’ve painted a lot of projects. You can also go in that group and see all kinds of projects where people are showing it in different lighting, in the daylight, in the nightlight, in different homes, you know. And they can see it, and feel it, and touch it.
You go into Lowes, Home Depot, and all these colors, you’re not going to really see these colors on anything. You’re just going to take a stab in the dark and go, “Well, that looks like a shade of green,” and I get at home and then in my light the shade of green all of a sudden it’s a shade of brown. And, you know, so all of those . . .
Andrew: I see. So, here, for example, Sharon [Pluff 01:02:32] 15 hours ago showed a picture of a dresser that has . . . it looks like wood veneer on it, and then she showed the different paint and how she did it. Got it. And you know what, that does resonate with me. I don’t even . . . when it comes to buying computer equipment for example, I don’t necessarily want to go into the store anymore and see it. What I want us to see a bunch of Youtubers beat it up, a bunch of real users put it to use so I see what’s possible, talk about the problems with it so I know what the dangers are, and then I’m interested. I don’t even want to go into a store and see it for myself.
Paula: Because nobody knows anything. You know as well as I do. No one knows anything. Go in to Best Buy and ask if they’ve got a computer, or wherever, you’re not going to any knowledge . . .
Andrew: No. My least favorite is I do go to . . . I have in the past gone to Home Depot when I needed something, I can’t even find them to come help me.
Paula: Good luck with that.
Andrew: They act like they’re doing me a favor when you know what, I’m lost here. Like, can you just be a little nice here? Can you help me out? Or at least have a stupid app that tells me where stuff is, if it’s too distracting for you to hear me ask where can I get some wood so my kid can learn how to . . .
Paula: They want you to bother them.
Andrew: . . . pound some nails into it. Right. I’m not going to keep ripping into it. That does answer my question. I’ve gotten a lot . . . oh, I did have two things written down here. I was about to say goodbye, and then I realized this would have been such a good place to end it, but I’m kind of an anal person. I do have to come back and ask two things that are my checklist. Number one, what’s the travel product that you brought up earlier?
Paula: Oh, my goodness. Well, as you know, being a designer, I don’t just design houses. I’ve designed everything, you know. I did a lot of stage wear for country music entertainers for a lot of years and so sewing is second nature to me, started doing it very young. So whenever my friend, I told you Glen Nelson, the guy that I worked for in New York when he was killed in a car accident, I went up to the wake and on the plane ride up there I was just . . . where it’s flown so much in so many years and had neck problems and developed a lot of issues from that. I decided that . . . I have just this brainstorm just comes to me, this is what works. I’d thrown away so many pillows, never even carry one, buy the newest, greatest, latest thing and never even put it in my bag. So it didn’t work for me.
I had a revolution in my mind, and I thought I know this works. I got home, couldn’t wait to sit down in front of my sewing machine. I said this is from him. You know, he loved entrepreneurs. He invested in a lot of different crazy ideas out there. Got a lot of his money taken actually. But I said, at the sewing machine sawed this up, called an attorney, someone told me, “You need to call this patent attorney,” called him up and said, “Hey, do you think this is something that’s patentable? I mean I had no idea even the terminology.” He said, “Let me look into it.” He calls me up and he says, “It is actually.” He said, “Yours is the only product out there that’s made like this, that actually would work.” I said, “You got to be kidding me.” He said, “No.” He said, “There’s thousands of pillows and neck pillows, designs of pillows that wrap around the seat and all that,” but mine didn’t wrap around the seat.
Mine come from the rear of the seat and it come over the back of the seat so no matter if your head extended the height of the seat. And it’s the size of an iPhone, so it’s not this big cumbersome thing around the neck. It actually just stops forward head motion. It clips on it. it has retracting push button cord rails. So it’s just this tiny little device you just put it on over your eyes, or forehead, or under your neck, either way, wherever you want to wear it. And it just goes down this nice little pouch. It’s called Sleep Upright. And it is phenomenal. I launched it on Kickstarter. It did about $275,000 in sales. And from there, it just kind of had a little life of its own. And I just got awarded a patent by the USPTO for a utility patent for it.
Andrew: I don’t mean to correct you, but I think it did $307,274.
Paula: Well, that was combined with Indiegogo. So yeah, did a little more. It’s done a lot more.
Andrew: That’s what I see on Kickstarter, but I get the sense of it.
Paula: That was . . . they blend those. I don’t know why they blend those.
Andrew: Oh, they do blend it? Oh.
Paula: They do.
Andrew: That’s interesting.
Paula: I don’t know why because they’re two different platforms, crazy as they are. They did blend them
Andrew: And they don’t like each other but . . .
Paula: You don’t know why they do that.
Andrew: So that’s interesting. So the way it works is you attach it to your headrest and then it goes in front of your face so you can put it under your chin or whatever, and that way it holds you back up to the headrest. If you fall asleep, your head will fall down without falling into your lap.
Paula: Yeah, pretty cool.
Andrew: Got it. All right. This is amazing. This story isn’t . . . oh, this would have been a great place to end it too. Here’s where I’m going to end it, kind of awkward but if only I could ask you before we got started, you said, “Andrew, you could ask me anything even what my age is.”
Paula: You can.
Andrew: So I wrote it down in the checklist item. How old are you?
Paula: I just turned 57, I think. Goodnight.
Paula: ’63 is when I’m born. Is that correct? I am the worst . . . I try to forget how old I am, not because it bothers me. I just don’t care. It just doesn’t matter. But I think I’m 57.
Andrew: I’m like that too, and it blows people’s minds. I get the . . .
Andrew: How does it feel to be an entrepreneur that late in life? Not at 20?
Paula: You know, I’m glad to be sitting where I’m sitting at this age. And I always look back and go, “Could I have handled this as a younger person?” No. The answer to that is a big old flat no. Nope, I would have been out buying things I shouldn’t have bought. Tied the money up in the wrong things. Nowadays, the focus is on the right end of the stick. I know what to do, where to go. I’m taking all of my things I’ve learned the hard way, and this is probably the first time in my life I’m able to say all the negatives, I’m going to turn them [inaudible 01:07:38] right here. I got a lot of people depending on me, so a lot of employees.
Andrew: The website, for anyone who wants to go check it out . . . I’ve seen a couple of sites, but the one that I’m going to recommend they go check is allinonepaint.com. That’s yours.
Paula: Yep. That’s it. We have a lot of URLs, and they’re all on HostGator by the way.
Andrew: Oh, they are. Oh, right on.
Paula: They are. They were. Yeah. I think so still.
Andrew: And then, of course, there’s all the Facebook groups where you can see people’s home projects. And I’m really grateful to you for doing this interview and for being so open. I want to thank the two sponsors who made this interview happen, as you heard HostGator. A lot of people who I’ve talked to started out on HostGator. You should too. Go to hostgator.com/mixergy. And if you’re hiring a developer, challenge me, challenge yourself, challenge Toptal. If it doesn’t work out, you don’t have to sign up. But if you do like them, you can hire people who are going to blow your mind at toptal.com/mixergy, T-O-P-T-A-L.com/mixergy. Paula, thanks so much for being here.
Paula: Hey, thank you for having me. I’ve enjoyed it immensely. Thank you.
Andrew: Thanks, bye, everyone.