Friday, 16 October 2020 11:09

Meet the Owner: Pamela Gruhn of Frenchic

    Pamela Gruhn, Founder of chalk paint brand Frenchic, has always had a passion for giving old furniture a new lease of life rather than seeing it relegated to landfill.

    In 2014, there was an upcycling revolution happening in the UK. A DIY trend was soaring, and there was a lot of consumer interest and moral obligation to live more sustainably. Pamela recognised a gap in the market and wanted to create a paint that was not only eco-friendly but easy to use for beginners, as well as being the choice of professionals. A successful product has to have authenticity and be born of a personal passion, and that is how Frenchic was born.

    Using £15,000 from a pension nest-egg, Pamela decided to wager it all on the business. She found a factory that could accommodate what was needed to get started, and working from her dining table, she launched a few colours with Frenchic’s first Original range – the brand was then built organically from there. She created a Facebook community early on, which encouraged more stockists and allowed Frenchic to broaden its ranges, accessories and reach. Its online community now boasts over one million followers and is a global haven for people to share their creativity and take inspiration from others.

    Here, Inex Editor, Rebecca Kemp, finds out more about Pamela and the brand.

    Please provide us with a description of your professional career.

    Before I started Frenchic, I was a marketeer and had my own recruitment agency off Fenchurch Street. Before that, I actually worked in the motor-racing industry! Later in life, I discovered the joy of upcycling furniture, saw a gap in the market for a paint company that could tick all the boxes, and the rest is history.

    What inspired you to start your own company?

    I’ve always had a passion for bringing old furniture back to life, and at the time there was somewhat of an upcycling revolution happening in the UK. A DIY trend was booming, and there was a surge of consumer interest and moral obligation to use more sustainable products. I wanted to create a paint that was not only eco-friendly but also one that was easy for beginners and the choice of professionals. In my opinion, a successful product has to have authenticity and be born of a personal passion - Frenchic has both.

    What was the vision behind the Frenchic brand?

    The vision was to create a brand that was so much more than just paint. With Frenchic, it’s the paint, the passion and most importantly, the people. We are now a global community for upcycling creativity and inspiration – particularly on social media through our fan forums. We also champion the independent retailer with over 600 stockists across four continents – something which has always been so important to me personally.

    Who has been your greatest source of inspiration throughout your career?

    Definitely our amazing community of customers and followers. Frenchic really is one big family, connected through a mutual love of upcycling and creativity. Our social media following is over one million now, and the Facebook forum is like a global haven for people to share their work and take inspiration from others. I’ll never get bored of seeing the incredible things people can do with our paint; it inspires me each and every day.

    What has been your biggest accomplishment to date?

    Earlier this year, we received a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the innovation category for our Lazy Range which is a huge achievement and a true honour for us. Everything we produce has the customer and environment in mind, combining exceptional quality with ease of use and eco-friendly ingredients. The journey to get to this point has been a true labour of love. A start-up with humble beginnings, no exterior funding, but simply a pure passion for paint – so to have the royal seal of approval is a dream come true for the whole team.

    What has been your most notable project?

    I would say developing the Lazy Range has been particularly notable, and not just because of the Queen’s Award win! For the Lazy Range, we created a unique chalk and mineral paint with a wax infusion. The innovative addition of wax means that the paint is self-priming, self-levelling and self-sealing. It’s unlike any other chalk paint out there and was the first of its kind in the decorative market. Achieving this unique formula was no easy feat, and required extensive research and testing to ensure a quality product was brought to market, but we worked tirelessly to make it happen – and it paid off!

    How important is sustainability andupcycling to you?

    The need for a truly eco-friendly paint brand is one of the main reasons I started Frenchic, so it’s absolutely paramount to me. Of course my love for upcycling has to do with a passion for crafts, but a huge driving factor behind the brand was to see fewer household items being relegated to landfill. I learned that millions of tonnes of furniture are thrown away in the UK every year, and I couldn’t believe it – there’s just no need when you can completely transform an entire room with paint alone. There’s basically nothing you can’t paint, from plant pots to front doors, garden fences to children’s toys.

    Do you feel there’s more that the interior design industry could do to be more sustainable?

    I think there is always more that can be done. A hugely important factor for our products is that they have no added VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and zero toxins. VOCs and toxins are regularly used in traditional paints and solvents, and they play a significant role in the formation of the ozone layer. Frenchic has proved that you can have the highest quality product without including these harmful substances, so I would hope that many more companies are able to do the same.

    How has the pandemic made an impact on your business?

    We are extremely lucky to be part of an industry that has thrived during this time. We saw a 500% increase in sales during lockdown, but more importantly, I was determined to help our network of independent UK retailers survive, some of whom didn’t qualify for Government grants and were struggling. I don’t mind saying that this was a lot of work! We were shipping tonnes of paint each day and working around the clock, seven days a week, as a lot my stockists offered a contactless delivery service or collection. Their shops are now open again and in great shape, as this has grown a whole new customer base for them. At the start of lockdown, I made a promise to my stockists that I would get them through by continuing to supply, and this is undoubtedly one of my proudest moments in business to date.

    What can we expect to see from you over the next year?

    My main focus has and will continue to be, to help our network of over 500 UK retailers survive this year. We will always support independent retailers who are at constant threat, so I am still going out and hand-delivering supplies so that they can still operate. We’re always ready to take on more stockists, it’s the heart of this country, and I’ll always support them. Looking to the future, we have more ranges, more colours, more limited editions – so watch this space!

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