How One Woman Is Boldly Taking On The Paint Industry
Nicole Gibbons of Clare wants to change the game.
Beyond the furniture choices you make, the simplest way to spruce up your place is a fresh coat of paint. And for good reason — it’s typically the most cost-friendly (and easiest to execute) update you can make. On the flipside, it’s not the most modern process. Interior designer and TV personality, Nicole Gibbons knew deep down inside, there had to be a better solution on the horizon, which is why she launched her company, Clare, in July.
“Paint and color are such an important part of the design process but shopping for paint has always been a huge hassle — and I saw that as a huge white-space opportunity,” she explains. “I wanted to tackle something that hadn’t been done before and paint presented a unique opportunity to innovate in a very old-school category, while solving a big problem for people.”
Gibbons decided to think beyond her design firm, Nicole Gibbons Studio, and aspire to something much bigger. Turns out her hunch was right on the mark — Clare successfully raised $2 million in funding, a major feat for any start-up or woman of color. “[Launching Clare] required a tremendous amount of risk and sacrifice. Fearlessly setting out to raising venture capital in an ecosystem where the statistics show that women of color like me get virtually no support,” she shares. “Some might also say launching a company to create a better shopping experience for customers in a centuries-old industry that is also run by people who don’t look like me is also pretty bold!”
Clare has been able to carve out a niche in the market by taking a modern approach to a formerly mundane task. A few points of difference include a curated palette of 55 colors, premium formulas that are Zero-VOC and GREENGUARD Gold-certified, and no-fuss peel-and-stick color samples.
“Most people like to sample colors in their home before deciding on a final choice so we wanted to make this step super easy,” adds Gibbons. “Our perfect color swatches are pretty genius! They’re a large-sized square paint swatch that peels off like a sticker and you place right on your wall. It lets you see exactly what the color looks like on in one step with no mess, and they’re re-positionable so you can move them around your room.”
“The old way of sampling forced you to either rely on a teeny tiny free paint chip from the store, or buy a messy, expensive sample pot and tools," she elaborates. "And then, you have to actually paint the swatch onto your wall and wait for it to dry before you could see the color.” Not only is the new method time saving, but it's also wallet-friendly — think, two dollars each.
Another feature worth noting is the Clare Color Genius tool, which Gibbons describes as a “trusted design BFF to help consumers along the way.” She details how it works more in-depth for us: “It’s an algorithm-based questionnaire that assesses important criteria about your space, such as how much natural light it gets, the direction of the light, what existing furniture is in the room, and then it recommends the perfect paint color for you,” she explains. “It’s a great tool to give you some guidance on color choice if you aren’t sure where to start.”
Of course, we couldn’t help but ask Gibbons any at-home painting hacks she has learned along the way. “An extension pole is the secret trick to painting with less effort!” she explains. “If you notice, pros always use an extension pole and that’s because it gives you better overall leverage to paint faster and more efficiently. You also strain your body less because you won’t have to keep bending down to load your roller.”
Another insider secret? “Paint during the day when there’s as much natural light as possible. It will help you to see any uneven spots better and will ensure a flawless finish.”
Despite its super-fast growth, Gibbons still has her hand is every aspect of the business — from naming colors to managing the company’s finances, which can be exhausting at times. Her advice to other female founders is to be persistent. “Don’t be intimidated by any data that shows the odds may be stacked against you,” she advises. “Instead, let your passion and confidence in what you’re building guide your process.”
“Seeing my vision come to life with Clare is definitely my proudest moment,” she explains.
"I don’t know if I’ve had a terribly low point, but as a newly-minted startup CEO, one challenge has just been finding time for myself — balance is a constant struggle.”
She’s also feeling optimistic about the next phase of her company. “We’ve revolutionized the way people buy paint — and we’re just getting started," Gibbons says. "I hope to see Clare making homes beautiful all over the world! Right now, we’re focused on making our online shopping experience the best, but we’re going to continue to innovate so we can continue to deliver an amazing customer experience.”