Executive Q&A: Fresh Coat President Tara Riley
Riley spoke to 1851 Franchise about the painting franchise’s history, why the franchise is prepared for growth and where she sees the brand going in the future.
Fresh Coat Painters has been filling a void in the painting segment since its founding in 2004 by providing professional painters for jobs of all scopes and sizes, both commercial and residential. The 175-unit franchise brand has seen dramatic growth in recent years and recently earned a spot on Entrepreneur Magazine's prestigious Franchise 500 list. Thanks to its comprehensive breadth of services, Fresh Coat has become a go-to resource for clients of all stripes.
1851 Franchise spoke with Fresh Coat President Tara Riley to learn more about the company and why now is the time for franchisees to get on board.
1851 Franchise: Tell us about the history of Fresh Coat.
Tara Riley: Fresh Coat started in 2004 when Co-Founders Gary Green and Ralph Martin realized there was a fantastic opportunity to provide quality painting services in the residential space. As the story goes, Gary’s teenage daughter constantly wanted her room painted a different color and Gary struggled to find any painters willing to come out to paint just one room. He realized there had to be a lot more people out there needing the same thing, so he convinced Ralph to join him in starting a business that would fill that need. They launched by advertising a $199 room and committing to getting projects done within three weeks and it didn’t take them long to realize not only were they right, but it was an incredibly profitable and scalable business model. Ralph used the original business to vet out and document all the systems, and once he felt he had it locked in, they started franchising. We are now over 175 units and growing.
1851: What void does your brand fill?
Riley: Historically, we have always filled the void of providing high-touch customer service in the residential space. Now, thanks to our growth we are also able to fill a big void that exists in the commercial arena. Because we have an extended network of great franchise partners, we can be a one-stop-shop for retail establishments looking to repaint many units nationally. As it turns out, there just aren’t any national painting companies out there. Most painters are very small operations, with one to four painters at the most, and they don't do a lot of marketing, so it can be tedious for owners, property managers, and general contractors to track down and manage painters in every market needed for a big national project. Instead, they can work with our national accounts team, and we’ll coordinate the rest! Our franchise owners love getting business in their in-box.
1851: What are some of the brand’s most important milestones over the past five years?
Riley: Fresh coat will cross the 200-unit mark this year, hopefully in the third quarter. We are currently at 175 locations. Our franchises are scaling well and I’m very proud of the diversity we have attracted. In 2020, over half of our new franchise owners were minority business owners, either women or minority groups, and that trend is continuing. This makes our brand much stronger. We actually have not one, but two mother-daughter teams each buying their own business launching soon.
1851: What are your brand’s key differentiators?
Riley: We consider ourselves to be the most affordable painting franchise, providing great values and low startup costs. We are unique in providing our national accounts and commercial programs to franchisees with no extra fees. Our competition charges thousands of dollars for their owners to gain permission to do commercial work. So, our franchises are really getting two franchises for the price of one in that regard. We have a strong commitment to helping our franchise owners grow profitably, commercial business is an important part of that equation.
We back up our commitment to supporting growth with our Winner’s Circle program, which is unprecedented in franchising. The Winner’s Circle gives new owners who qualify an opportunity to earn their entire initial franchise fee back by hitting key revenue milestones. I absolutely love writing winner’s circle checks!
In addition, we have a program to train painters and give back to the craft from an employment standpoint. Over the last 20 years, the trades have not necessarily been in fashion for young people. Because of that, there is an aging-out of skilled craftspeople in the industry. We need to resupply that, and we are very committed to creating an environment to bring younger people in, show them there is a career to be had here and that they can take pride in the craft.
1851: Why is now the time to invest in Fresh Coat?
Riley: Not only are our tenured franchisees scaling quickly, but stronger people are coming on. The bottom line is that you can get in now, early, and be confident your franchise’s equity will continue to grow. Our retention has gone up every year since I’ve been here, which shows us we are doing the right thing for our franchise owners. We grew 44% in our system-wide sales year-over-year from 2020 to 2021. In 2021, we had six record months, and we’ve started off 2022 strong as well, so the future is bright.
1851: What are Fresh Coat’s current growth goals?
Riley: This year, our objective is to add 50 new franchises, and from there, I see us being at over 400 units within the next three years and over 500 units in the next five years. To become an iconic brand, we need to be industry-leading in customer service, franchise systems and technology. Within five years, I want Fresh Coat to be the number one painting company in the U.S., whatever that takes.