At the age of just 26 and 24, Adam and Leteisha Howell established Paint Place Cowra, in the New South Wales rural town just over 300 kilometres west of Sydney.
Now the duo is about to reach 10 years of business success and have much to celebrate after taking the chance to open their own paint store nearly a decade ago.
Adam had already worked with the Paint Place Group for six years, but when the store he worked in suddenly closed, the two decided to take a leap of faith and open their own business.
“We had just bought our first house, and even though I was working in insurance at the time, we knew we had to do something quickly because we had only just acquired a mortgage,” Leteisha said.
“We knew that together with Adam’s knowledge and experience in the paint industry, along with my qualifications and experience in business, we had a great chance at starting a store that would really work for us. We also knew there was a market for a paint shop in town so it really was meant to be,” she said.
Within just one month of Adam’s former employer closing down, the two had opened a 90-squared metre store that offered just one brand of paint initially. With the help of the Paint Place group, Adam and Leteisha sourced the right suppliers for their store and the business grew from there.
“When we first started, we concentrated primarily on architectural, automotive and industrial paint. We focused on the retail side of the business as well as servicing the trade painters that we had, while also building up new brands. We started with Wattyl back in the day and just built on that customer base,” Leteisha said.
By 2018 the business had outgrown the original site, so the two moved to a significantly larger building of 320 square metres also in town. Upon moving stores, Leteisha said they had more room to evolve in blind and awning installations, which was a small concept they had worked on at the former store.
“When Adam originally started to work for Paint Place, he worked primarily in servicing window products. It seemed a natural progression for us to move into, especially because the market was there as well. It has definitely paid off because it is very popular and we now offer a wide variety of window furnishings to our customers,” she said.
Multi-branding is so important to an independent business, according to Adam, “otherwise you just cannot survive.”
“Our blind department brings customers in who are not only looking for blinds, but are looking to re-paint as well or vice-versa.
“It is such a natural pairing as well. Whether you are renovating or building a new house, paint and blinds go hand-in-hand and it just makes it easier for everyone having it in the one place as a one-stop shop. We quote their windows, custom order the blinds in and go and fit them for them and they do not have to do anything,” he said.
Australian Made products
As strong supporters of Australian Made products, Leteisha says she has seen quite a shift from consumers who now purposefully look for local made products.
“Taubmans is just one of the many brands we have in-store that are manufactured in Australia, but that goes for a lot of the products we now have, with only a small percentage being imported.”
“Luxury Paints is another Australian owned and made brand we offer along with the Paint Place Group’s own Black Label brand. This is also Australian owned and made specifically for Paint Place stores.”
Adam says the Luxury Paint brand has changed the game for most stores in the group because it offers a quality product at a reasonable price point.
“Luxury Paint is huge in the locally made space and has changed the game for most Paint Place stores. The brand also offers premium products as well. It is a small, family-owned business with a lot less overheads so the costs are reduced substantially,” Adam said.
Not only do Adam and Leteisha pride themselves on developing a one-stop shop of locally manufactured products, but the two also prioritise their customer service. All staff are highly trained under the watchful eye of Adam, who has passed on his years of experience to his team.
“Our staff know which products work for different projects and we are constantly onto new innovations as well. Having a one-stop shop is important because our customers know we will give them the right advice, the right product and they know the paint will be mixed well,” Adam said.
“They also like that when they visit our store they deal with the same friendly people every time. We are just like family and we have customers who come in for a coffee and chat. I was lucky enough to be trained by really good people and now I am passing on the same knowledge down to my staff, which is hard to come by without years of experience,” he said.
Two delivery vans now service customers outside of the store, including trades and residential customers to remote locations.
“It is so important that you do not wait for your customers to come to you. When I worked for the original paint store, the owners were very old school in that they did not really chase business, they just waited for customers to walk through the door.”
“This is why we make sure we service our trades properly in that we go to them, we deliver on-site, we are lot serviceable for them. Although we were quite trade orientated when we first established the business because Wattyl was based around the trade market, we have expanded into many other brands including PPG, Taubmans, Luxury Paints as well as Concept and Haymes, so we have everything that our customer’s need,” Leteisha said.
Today Paint Place Cowra competes primarily with Bunnings after their competing paint independent closed down.
“We have had a massive influx of customers after the other paint store in town closed down because I think they made the mistake of offering just one brand. Our business is also growing off the back of building and renovation activity in Cowra, as well as local farms needing to be serviced as well,” Leteisha says.
“I feel like when people are watching their spending due to COVID or the rising cost-of-living, it pushes people to undertake more DIY and they look for things to do themselves. We have also had a lot of people from Sydney and Canberra move to Cowra to enjoy the country life and renovate their homes.”
“There is a lot going on in the local industry so we do a lot of industrial coatings for those commercial aspects. We also service a lot of agricultural farms as well that come in and get the industrial coatings for their farm,” she said.
Paint Place Group of Stores
Support from the Paint Place Group was crucial in the early days, with the Paint Place team as well as fellow stores assisting the couple in getting their business off the ground.
“Even though we are part of the group and we have the backing of the buying group, we also have access to a wealth of knowledge through other members in the Paint Place Group. To have that really vast knowledge base behind us as well as the Paint Place team is so important.”
“We have our ten-year anniversary this year and pretty much everyone who has helped us along the way is busting to come and celebrate with us. All of the people we have formed friendships with over the years, including reps and management, are keen to come out and celebrate with us which is really nice,” Leteisha concluded.