This Couple Built a Company That Stops Painting From Being a Pain in the Can
In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what’s your business?
Natalie Ebel: We're Backdrop, "The New Way to Paint." Our company is reimagining the extremely antiquated process of painting your home.
Caleb Ebel: We've taken a first-principles approach and rebuilt every consumer touch point, starting with the paint can, which hasn't changed in 100 years. We offer a curated palette of 50 colors, 12x12'' premium adhesive samples so you don't have to deal with tiny color cards or expensive and messy sample pots, and we’ve produced the highest quality paint supplies. All of this is delivered right to your door, so you never have to go to the hardware store again.
What inspired you to create Backdrop?
Natalie: We first had the idea for Backdrop back in 2016 after living near a hardware store in New York City for several years. We would walk by and see people pulling their hair out while standing in front of the wall of 3,000 color cards. It became a bit of a running joke. We ended up putting Backdrop on hold for a bit while we were pregnant and had our first daughter, Colette. As soon as we were ready, we picked it back up and launched in fall 2018. Some people thought we were nuts for taking the leap as new parents, but we just went for it and couldn’t be prouder.
What has been the biggest lesson you've learned in producing and marketing?
Natalie: We've learned so many lessons, and we're only just getting started. One big one has been the importance of surrounding yourself with the most talented people, because no one can do it alone. We've partnered with world-class talent to help build our brand and website, Aruliden and Rebecca Zhou, respectively. We also have amazing advisors from some of the best direct-to-consumer brands of the past decade, including Warby Parker, Everlane, and Glossier.
What are some of the key ingredients entrepreneurs need to achieve success?
Natalie: We started Backdrop as a married team with a one-year-old daughter, which means we were fully committed to this from the very beginning. A combination of passion for Backdrop, a true belief in the opportunity and the problem we're solving, and the support of some of the most talented partners and advisors we could imagine have got us here so far.
What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?
Natalie: Some of the most creative people I know are expressing their creativity through new businesses, which I love. I have a ton of respect for anyone who has gone through the journey of taking an idea to reality.
What have you learned about fundraising, both good and bad?
Caleb: There are a lot of ways to finance your business. All of them have pros and cons, but in general, they're means to an end. My general advice is to raise as little money as possible in the early days and focus on really building a sound business that you understand deeply. Then, be prepared to invest in growth opportunities as they present themselves, which can be done out of cash flows or by selling ownership in your business. Just understand that every dollar of investor money you take comes with a great deal of responsibility and strings attached. There's no one right formula, because every business is different.
Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
Natalie: "Don't ask for permission." As a woman and an entrepreneur, you can't just take what you're offered. Go after what you want.