'How I turned a great idea into a profitable business'

Sometimes great ideas fall by the wayside because their owners fail to commercialise them to their full potential. For Zoe Piper, one invention proved too great an opportunity to pass up.

Speaking with My Business, Zoe says her business Ecolour, which manufactures and sells paints free from carcinogenic chemicals, is now taking the Australian marketplace by storm.

“It was actually invented back in the 1990s, but the person who invented it – they won Beyond 2000 back in the day – didn’t quite have the business skills to commercialise it. We ended up acquiring it about seven years ago, and myself and my business partner have been growing it ever since,” she explains.

The primary difference of Ecolour’s paints is that they are free from volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which, according to the company, are responsible for paint fumes that are not only bad for allergy and asthma sufferers, but are also linked to cancer.

While many paint manufacturers now produce low-VOC versions, Zoe suggests they are still no match for Ecolour’s product.

“What they’ve done with their low-VOC ranges is take their full-VOC products and start taking out some of the VOCs, whereas our product was created in a very different way, so it wasn’t reliant on VOCs right from the very beginning. So what you find with their low-VOC ranges is that they just don’t perform as well,” she says.

Having worked in a range of business-related areas, including IT, project management and private equity, Zoe admits she initially knew very little about paint. So what made her decide to take on this particular business?

“It’s a big market and it’s a better product at the same price, so I figured that we should be able to do something with that,” she enthuses.

Ecolour targeted key sectors such as home builders and hotels with its product range, spruiking not only its health benefits and lack of overpowering smell, but also the fact that all of its paints are manufactured and owned here in Australia.

The decision paid off big-time, with Ecolour quickly gaining traction Australia-wide.

“Companies like Grocon have done a lot of work with us; Stockland have just put us into some of their display homes as well. We do a lot of the major hotels, so the new Sheraton down in Melbourne for example ... the Hilton down there, Rydges, as well as a number of others,” Zoe says.

The next phase of growth for the business, according to Zoe, is to tap into the booming DIY market.

“We are starting to get a bit more happening on the retail side, so anybody can get on our website now and order our paint online and have it delivered for free direct to their door,” she says.

“We’ve expanded our presence as well, so we’ve got a store down in Melbourne as well as our factory and shop in Byron Bay.”

But don’t expect to see Ecolour’s products on the shelves of hardware stores any time soon.

“We find that it’s more convenient for the consumer if we just deliver direct to their home for free,” Zoe says.

“They don’t have to go to the hardware store, wait in line, wait for their paint to be tinted, lug it out to the car, hope it doesn’t spill in the car on the way home, and then lug it inside. We take out all of that process as we can just deliver it for them for free straight to their door.

She adds: “What it also means is that if you’re not going through the hardware stores, you don’t need to give up a 40 per cent margin on your product!”




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