Interview with COAT Paints founders Rob Green & Rob Abrahams

Founded in 2020, COAT Paints was established by founders Rob Green and Rob Abrahams to revolutionise the paint industry, fueled by their dissatisfaction with environmental impact. We invested in COAT in 2021 out of our VC fund. Check out their recent interview with The Retail Bulletin.

Interview with COAT Paints founders Rob Green & Rob Abrahams

News / 21 Aug 2023

Originally published by The Retail Bulletin.

Rising as the UK’s pioneering B Corp certified paint company, COAT is strongly dedicated to carbon negativity and embraces eco-friendly practices across its operations.

At the heart of their ethos lies a belief in the importance of the human element, fostering a sense of belonging and crafting improved spaces. COAT Paints transforms the painting experience through its direct-to-consumer model, providing inspiration, guidance, and a thoughtfully curated range of 100% water-based, low-toxin paints tailored to order. Through community engagement, COAT empowers a new generation of environmentally conscious homeowners to responsibly renew their spaces.

We talk to founders Rob and Rob to find out more…

How did your backgrounds and experiences lead to the creation of COAT Paints?

Rob Green: My background in product leadership at a major paint company allowed me to see the industry from the inside out. I saw how ‘big box’ retailers operated and identified the gaps that needed filling. Together with Rob, who I’ve known since our time at BMW, we saw an opportunity to challenge the status quo and make paint more accessible and sustainable. Our passion for brand marketing and start-up culture came together to form the foundation of COAT Paints.

Rob Abrahams: Our shared experience at BMW and subsequent careers gave us the perspective to identify the consumer problem that needed solving. With Rob’s insights from his time in the paint industry and my own background in marketing, we were equipped to create something truly innovative. Our friendship provided a strong foundation for collaboration, enabling us to have open discussions and make decisions that drive the brand forward.

Could you elaborate on the market positioning of COAT Paints?

Rob Green: Our approach to COAT has always been more than just selling paint. We view ourselves as a lifestyle brand, focused on providing a service and aesthetic that enhances the way people create homes they love and feel safe in. We cater to various needs, from helping customers overcome colour paralysis and choose complementary schemes to collaborating with commercial interior designers for more customised projects. At the heart of our positioning is sustainability, with our eco-conscious approach and unique made-to-order model.

Rob Abrahams: That’s right. COAT is all about reimagining the painting experience, from offering curated colors that customers can trust, to providing support and guidance throughout the entire process. We’ve built a brand that challenges the dated norms of the paint industry while also addressing the need for environmentally friendly options. Our exclusive made-to-order model and 360-degree recycle scheme set us apart as a brand that’s focused on reducing waste and embracing a circular approach.

Working as friends and business partners can be quite a unique dynamic. How has this relationship influenced your journey with COAT Paints?

Rob Abrahams: Starting a business with a close friend has been incredibly beneficial. We know each other well, which means open discussions and understanding are second nature. This familiarity removes the need for second-guessing and allows us to be transparent about our thoughts and feelings. We’ve divided responsibilities based on our strengths and interests, which has created a harmonious partnership.

Rob Green: Absolutely. Our friendship has translated into a strong working relationship. We laid out our roles and responsibilities from the start, making it clear who handles different aspects of the business. This clarity and openness have been crucial in avoiding misunderstandings and conflicts. Plus, we’ve been supportive of each other’s personal lives, which adds to the overall stability of our partnership.

Maintaining a balance between personal and professional aspects can be challenging. How do you manage this balance and provide support for your team?

Rob Green: We recognise the importance of coaching, therapy, and mentoring, both for ourselves and our team. Having mentors who have gone through similar experiences helps us navigate the challenges of leadership and personal growth. We also provide access to therapists and coaches for our team members. Mental well-being is a crucial aspect of maintaining a healthy work environment.

Rob Abrahams: Our leadership style is centered around creating an environment where vulnerability is embraced. We believe that fostering an atmosphere of openness and trust enables creativity, connection, and ultimately, better performance. By leading with vulnerability ourselves and encouraging our team to do the same, we’ve built a culture of trust and mutual support.

With a team of 15, how do you approach recruitment in a startup environment?

Rob Abrahams: Our recruitment strategy combines personal networks, standard recruitment processes, and specialist recruiters. We prioritise attitude and alignment with our values over specific skills. We’ve paired younger junior members with experienced individuals, which has proven to be a successful way to develop talent within the team.

Rob Green: We’ve also looked for people who fit into our culture of passion and dedication. We’ve been fortunate to have individuals who not only bring their skills but also share our enthusiasm for the brand. While we do face challenges in recruitment, finding the right attitude and potential for growth is our primary focus.

Considering the market challenges, how do you navigate supply chain issues and market fluctuations?

Rob Green: The supply chain has posed challenges, especially in the context of the pandemic. However, we’ve managed to stabilise it by focusing on local sourcing and shortening supply chains. We’re not entirely immune to market fluctuations, but we’re strategically positioned to minimise the impact.

Rob Abrahams: The market itself is unique in that it remains relatively stable over the years, regardless of macroeconomic shifts. People are always decorating, whether they’re moving or simply enhancing their current homes. While we’ve experienced cautious spending, we’ve introduced initiatives like the Club COAT loyalty program to incentivise and retain our customers.

What are COAT Paints’ plans for the future?

Rob Abrahams: Looking ahead, our goal is to continue growing within the premium online paint segment. We’ve successfully expanded into Europe, launching in France and establishing a European made-to-order facility in Belgium. We want to be known as the go-to brand for premium online paint while keeping our commitment to sustainability and a circular economy.

Rob Green: Yes! Our plans involve substantial growth while staying true to our core values. We envision becoming 10 times the size we are now within five years. We’ll continue to offer superior service, curated colors, and innovative solutions, while also being mindful of the impact we have on the industry and the environment.

Lastly, what makes COAT Paints an amazing people-centric business, and how do you contribute positively to people’s lives?

Rob Abrahams: COAT Paints is special because we’ve built it with the intention of making things better for everyone involved. From our customers and staff to the broader community, we’ve focused on creating a positive impact. Our commitment to transparency, open communication, and the well-being of our team members allows us to foster a culture of trust and growth.

Rob Green: Our approach to supporting our team goes beyond just words. We offer practical resources like access to therapists, coaching, and a flexible work environment. This contributes to a workplace where vulnerability is encouraged, and creativity and connection flourish. Our brand isn’t just about paint; it’s about creating a brand that truly enhances people’s lives and the spaces they inhabit.

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