When she was a 22-year-old emergency nurse, Grace Glass never imagined that seven years later she’d be running a growing natural paint empire.
The entrepreneur co-founded Natural Paint Co with her business partner James Mount in 2015 after seeing how toxic the house paint industry was.
People were largely unaware of the health risks of using many chemical house paints.
“No one in the industry was looking at our indoor air quality or how reliant the industry was on petrochemicals and unstable practices,” she says.
“James and I thought there had to be a better way to do it.”
The pair started importing natural paint from Germany in 2015. At the time, the country was seen as a world leader in the non-chemical paint industry.
But Glass says they found that the paints wouldn't stand up to what New Zealanders expected from it.
"Kiwis like their paints to be really washable and durable, and the paint from Germany wasn't providing that,” she says.
“We quickly realised that if we wanted to make a go of this, there was a huge market opportunity there for us to create the paints ourselves.”
This decision plunged them into months of research as the pair looked to tick off a big checklist of things the natural paint would have to offer – ranging from the ingredients to how robust the paint was.
“We knew that no matter how good the product was, no matter how sustainable or healthy, if it didn't meet the quality we needed, it wouldn't work,” she says.
“We went down quite a journey of testing and trialling and getting the formula to work.
"A lot of people think we must make it in our garage but it's a properly scientific process and more about what we've taken out, rather than what we've put in.”
All the Natural Paint Co’s paints are made here with non-toxic ingredients, relying on natural chalks and clays in their formulas.
Glass says the company’s paints have been thoroughly tested to make sure they can withstand NZ’s wide range of temperatures.
She says focusing on e-commerce was a “natural fit” for them.
“It was really unheard of when we first started seven years ago – now, post-covid, everything's moved online.
“So, not only were we trying to help consumers realise that the chemical paints on the market weren't all that good for them, but we were also trying to educate them to buy paint online.”
Despite those early hurdles, after just a year Natural Paint Co became profitable, driven by huge consumer demand.
As the business grew, Glass was faced with a tough decision.
She wasn’t sure if she should take the leap into the natural paint world full-time, because she’d have to leave emergency nursing behind – a career she was truly passionate about.
“I ended up jumping on a plane and going travelling,” she says. “Then I came back and decided to just do it as I knew the product was needed.”
Since then, the company’s expanding customer base has forced it to increase in size. A team of two grew to 10 in seven years.
Last year, the company had a capital raise that brought in $1.4 million and it now has 187 investors.
She says it's been a big – but exciting – change.
This year Natural Paint Co has widened its range from just 100 carefully curated paint colours to 150, but Glass says it doesn’t plan to add any more colours. She feels giving customers too many options can overwhelm them.
Its paints have a 25-year interior guarantee, which Glass is proud to say is the highest in the industry.
“There’s a real market here where people are craving and wanting a product that is better for them – and the planet,” she says.
“What we're trying to do here at Natural Paint Co is bring more awareness – and change the paint industry for the better.”