At the beginning of the year we knew we wanted use this space to highlight some of the many incredible women in business that are disrupting the status quo and incorporating sustainable practices at the same time. Today we are excited to introduce you to a new series: the Sustainable Business Spotlight. We hope that you find these stories helpful and inspiring—no matter what your career path. Know of a woman-owned business that has sustainability in their business model? Please let us know who you would like to see featured in the comments!
Who: Nicole Gibbons, founder of Clare
Where: New York, NY
What: A curated paint collection that you can buy online and have shipped directly to your house, Clare also sells paint tools and peel-and-stick swatches for easy color testing.
How did Clare get started?
I always wanted to build a business and I felt like there was no one speaking to me in that space. I started doing a lot of media and was on a show on OWN. The next step after that is usually products or licensing, but I didn’t want to do that. I was inspired by younger start ups and creative, innovative businesses doing a better job than the old guard. It takes fresh thinking to reimagine experiences.
Nothing felt right at first, I felt like any idea I had wasn’t solving a real problem. It wasn’t until I was helping a friend pick paint colors, trying to show her colors on a phone when I saw how complicated the process was. The website was hard to navigate and it was practically impossible to shop for paint online. Paint is a product that touches every home and color is so important, I wanted to make the process inspiring and pretty.
What changes did you make/feel needed to be made?
I wanted to bring more of a design forward experience to paint shopping. Plus, making it easier better, and faster. An average brand has 3,000 colors and that’s a really overwhelming amount. As a designer we’re all about curating colors. I already had colors that I knew and loved so I wanted to bring the same designer led experience to paint. We also wanted every step in the process to feel fun and interesting. Even the names are playful! We really reimagined the business through the whole experience.
How is Clare doing things differently from an environmental standpoint?
People care more now than ever about what they bring into their homes. Certain paint brands can be shady and misleading about what’s in their paint and calling it safe. At the end of the day, paint is a chemical product. But we wanted to give our customers confidence through transparency. All of our paints (and colorants) are zero VOC, GREENGUARD Gold certified, and are free of hazardous air pollutants, toxic air contaminants, and EPA chemicals of concern. GREENGUARD Gold is the highest level of certification and requires paint formulas to undergo rigorous testing for more than 360 VOCs and hazardous chemicals. We also disclose our ingredients even though we’re not required to. We just really wanted our customers to have peace of mind.
What has been your biggest lesson in building this business?
It’s really hard to build the right team. Everyone thinks a start up is glamorous, but when you’re building something from nothing it’s really freaking hard. Putting processes in place is really freaking hard. Not everyone can think strategically. You have to have a lot of skills and be able to learn quickly. There’s no road map to follow and that learning curve is steep. A lot of people can get beat down by the pace of learning and the constant need to adapt.
What advice would you give an aspiring business owner?
A lot of people think it’s easy to run a business but don’t get fooled by what you see on Instagram. The reality is you’re working 100 plus hours a week and not really turning it off on the weekend. The more accountability you have, the harder you have to work. You have people relying on you and you have to think hard about the kind of business you want to build. It can be overwhelming and it’s very, very difficult. There are no boundaries.
What other companies do you admire?
The idea of venture capital backed businesses is really glamorized; so I admire founders who built a business without a lot of outside money. Boll & Branch, from the beginning, built a really healthy business without outside funding. It wasn’t until they were more established that they raised money to expand the brand. Also, they have a wonderful ethos about fair trade and better for you products. Blueland too! They make eco-friendly products that reduce single use plastic. They really practice their beliefs and I admire their values and how much they educate their customers about their choices.
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