From IdeaPaint’s early days, it was apparent the product shouldn’t be bound to the confines of any existing product category.
Our greatest challenge—and also what excited us the most—was that we were creating and defining an entirely new category and the best part was (and still is) that we got to make the rules.
Along the way, we were a bit naïve at times.
But, our lack of industry experience and preconceived limitations fueled more creative results (that worked!), all while teaching us a few very valuable lessons.
Naiveté #1: Let’s build an entire team out of non-paint industry people
Lesson: Make it your own
The Inside Scoop: Every kit of IdeaPaint has two cans that get mixed together – people in the paint industry call this a two-component product and typically label the two cans A and B. The paint people told us we had to label IdeaPaint the same way. But our team, with no knowledge of the paint industry, was always confused: “So do I pour A into B or B into A?” “Is B the little can or the big can?” It wasn’t long before one of our brilliant teammates came up with a creative and obvious solution: label our cans THIS and THAT. Now, customers love it when they open our kit and instructions and see “Pour THIS into THAT and stir”. Any chance we have to let our customers see our company culture is another chance to make them believers.
Naiveté #2: It will be easy to execute our dream launch in less than 5 weeks
Lesson: Bite off more than you can chew, then chew it
The Inside Scoop: Our venture funding and first distribution deal came together a mere five weeks before the date of the NeoCon tradeshow, a major industry event at which we always envisioned the official launch of IdeaPaint. We wanted to make a big impact at this event and even considered hiring Aerosmith – turns out they were busy (and expensive). Despite this short timeframe, we negotiated and planned to coat dozens of walls throughout the tradeshow venue with IdeaPaint. The goal being to own the show, stand out and make sure every one of the 50,000-plus attendees tried and interacted with IdeaPaint. Two weeks prior to the event, we convinced the conference organizer to let us paint 300% more space, including walls on the streets of the main entrance. With about one week left, running purely on iced coffee and desire, we were nowhere near completion. The fact that the building closed at 6PM made our enormous task seem all the more unattainable. So, in a caffeine-fueled craze we decided nothing would stop us. Dodging show organizers and literally hiding from security guards and cameras, we spent multiple nights inside the venue designing and painting walls to ensure a dream launch. We took on a much bigger endeavor than we planned, but our insistence on making it happen led to IdeaPaint winning “Best in Show” in the face of multi-billion dollar corporations…not to mention endearing our first few thousand customers.
Naiveté #3: If we build it, they will buy it
Lesson: There is a hard working person behind each and every sale
The Inside Scoop: To say that we are enthusiastic and passionate about IdeaPaint is a gross understatement. As such, we thought that if we could develop the product, get a national distributor, and execute a decent launch event, sales would start rolling in. Well, it didn’t exactly work that way. A few weeks after our launch, we realized that none of our distributor’s sales reps (or any customer, for that matter) knew anything about our product. So, we set out on a national training blitz, again fueled by iced coffee - this time adding in friends’ couches, red-eye flights and limitless excitement to give these sales reps all the training they needed to sell IdeaPaint. Although some of our methods were unconventional (lobster bakes instead of conference room training sessions), our excitement and enthusiasm was transferred and within two months we had 95 sales reps spreading the buzz of IdeaPaint. We immediately learned that behind every sale was a hard-working sales rep, and today we challenge ourselves to always over-deliver when it comes to supporting our distributors’ salespeople.
Jeff Avallon and Morgen Newman are vice president of business development and vice president of international sales, respectively, of IdeaPaint.
Tune In: Mr. Avallon and Mr. Newman will share their sucess story on CNBC's "How I Made My Millions" which goes behind the curtain to reveal how everyday people have taken ordinary ideas and turned them in extraordinary businesses. Companies that have surpassed that magic number of a million dollars
The progman airs Thursday, February 17th 9p | Midnight ET.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified the titles of Mssrs. Avallon and Newman.