FRENCHIC, the British-made paint brand knocking spots off rivals with eco-friendly formulas for reviving furniture and homes, is looking to turn over £3million next year after securing a new US trade deal.
Selling via 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. This is the burgeoning re-use movement dedicated to breathing new life and quality into old items. No toxins, no bad pongs, no need to stir or shake, beautiful colours and certified safe for children, their toys and pets, these were all must-haves on entrepreneur Pam Gruhn’s 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.
However, with no paint fitting the bill and a small £15,000 pension nest-egg she was prepared to wager to get the revolution for 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 ranges from its original to easily applied 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. “Our paints are both a creative outlet for generation rent and for those who value the past and their heirlooms. Vintage brown furniture is coming back in a different guise,” she says. “Frenchic has 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 reach customers in colder climates really quickly. We’ve developed new tooling for our cans, so they can be held at the same time as someone paints.”
Customers cover a broad canvas, stretching from students to ladies who lunch. “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.
Greece, Malta and Finland are strong markets, with the products currently sold in 27 countries, including Australia. Bringing more distributors on board will help cement Frenchic’s place as a mainstay in the paint industry, she adds.
A core feature of the business model is the key role of the stockists, independent, high street retailers under constant threat from superstores who Gruhn has championed from the outset.
Everyone warms to the idea of a fresh start and that’s what Frenchic does, Gruhn 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.”