FRENCHIC: British eco PAINT brand delivers a décor revolution for upcyclers and shops
Selling through its own website and 450 independent retailers, the maker’s chalk and mineral-based products are outpacing industry trends with a 33 per cent annual growth rate as more consumers convert to upcycling, the burgeoning re-use movement dedicated to breathing new life and quality into old items.
No toxins, no bad pongs, no need to stir, shake or add water, a big selection of beautiful colours and certified safe for children, their toys and pets were all must-haves on entrepreneur Pam Gruhn’s new paint list when she founded the business three years ago.
It was an auspicious moment. Upcycling was happening, Instagrammable craft transformations growing and Gruhn, an experienced businesswoman with a good eye and strong commercial touch, had long harboured a deep dislike of discarding furniture in landfill and the drab limitations of flatpacks.
So with no paint fitting the bill and a small £15,000 pension nest-egg she was prepared to wager to get the new future hand-me-downs started, she went shopping for a factory that could deliver her and other DIY-ers’ dreams in ways that were profitable for all.
The coatings manufacturer she found worked with her on prototypes for a year and today ‘no-nasties’ Frenchic has revolutionary ranges from its original to the unique wax-infused Lazy and exterior Al Fresco as well as special crackles and sheens for furniture, walls and trims plus a host of brushes and other accessories.
“In some ways our paints are a creative outlet for generation rent, but also those who value the past and their heirlooms. Brown furniture is coming back,” she says.
“Frenchic has vastly improved the range of colours available in chalk paints thanks to a fantastic manufacturer who believed in me. All the elements we feature, such as no toxins and odours have enabled us to get into markets such as young families and nurseries and appeal to customers in colder climates really quickly.
“We’ve also developed new tooling for our cans, so they can be held at the same time someone paints. With us customers can paint easily and with confidence, then come back again and again.”
They cover a broad canvas, stretching from beginners to professionals and students to ladies who lunch. Many are part of Frenchic’s Facebook community that now numbers close to 250,000.
“Painting furniture is therapeutic,” explains Gruhn, “and our prices are within reach of most pockets. With one of our pots you can reinvent a uPVC door for £6.95.”
All investment so far has been done in house. Gruhn and her team of eight work from an extended home-based office in Surrey and she has recently expanded Frenchic’s warehousing capacity.
Exports, a growing proportion of output, make up some 30 per cent of sales with Greece, Malta and Finland notably strong markets for the products currently sold in 27 countries including Australia.
Bringing more distributors on board will help cement Frenchic’s place in the paint industry, says Gruhn “that began as an add-on but has become a mainstay”.
But there’s one feature in the business’s model that has always been core and won’t change – the central role of the stockists, those independent, high street retailers under constant threat from superstores whom she has championed continuously from the outset.
“I am always looking for more, support them as much as possible and won’t sell them out,” Gruhn vows paying tribute to the importance of social media as a key recruitment tool.
Everyone loves the idea of a fresh start and that’s what a brush with Frenchic makes possible she believes. But there has been one casualty amid all the success.
“I pretty much work every waking hour,” she admits. “My social life has gone for a burton.”