Cara Worthley had worked as an elementary school teacher for several years when she started to feel an internal yearning to chart a different course. Perhaps she would enjoy something else more; maybe there was a better option for her. “I wanted a more creative and hands-on outlet,” she explains. So Cara started painting interiors, which soon led to decorative painting and refinishing furniture. When a friend fortuitously introduced her to Chalk Paint® decorative paint by Annie Sloan, Cara knew she had found what she was looking for.
“I literally searched ‘women small business painted furniture,’ and all paths kept leading to Annie Sloan,” Cara recalls.
She made her foray into Chalk Paint with an online purchase—selecting Versailles and Duck Egg Blue, the signature wax, and Annie’s book Creating the French Look. “I fell in love with the product right away,” she says. Cara has since turned her interest in painted interiors into a new career, going from Chalk Paint consumer to full-fledged retailer (aka stockist). Her shop, Mélange on Main, in Burlington, Vermont, is an exhibit of the product’s many creative possibilities. For Cara, like so many other Chalk Paint stockists, the paint has become much more than a DIY commodity. It served as entry point into a new life of creative entrepreneurship.
Annie Sloan hoped her paint would carry that kind of influence from the beginning. “Very early on, I realized that there are people without formal training who share a love of paint and color,” she explains. “Everyone has the ability to be creative, and I wanted to establish a paint that anyone can use. That’s where Chalk Paint started.”
Annie attributes the recent growth of Chalk Paint’s popularity to the economic downturn that started in 2008. Rather than completely redecorating a home or discarding old furniture, people looking for budget-friendly options began refinishing and painting what they already had. Chalk Paint struck a special cord with these DIYers and upcyclers because it did not require sanding or priming.
For many women, it also offered the possibility of starting a business that would complement family life. Annie wanted to ensure that Chalk Paint remained within the hands of small, independent business owners and support local shops, so she opted never to franchise. The result has been a flourish of innovative possibilities, where each retailer can exhibit Chalk Paint as she sees fit, and work the hours that best suit her.
Since 2011, when the first American retailer started selling Chalk Paint in Brandon, Mississippi, the network of U.S. stockists has grown nationwide. Each shop bears testimony to the entrepreneurial opportunities created by Chalk Paint. There’s Deborah Waltz’s inspiring studio in Costa Mesa, California, and Patty Brees’s bevy of creative projects on exhibit in Tempe, Arizona. Amanda Pierre started out blogging about her refinished furniture, and is now a full-time stockist in Santa Cruz, California. And Amy Chalmers of Reading, Massachusetts has found uses for Chalk Paint nearly everywhere, including on velvet upholstery.
That’s not to say that all Chalk Paint stockists are women. Annie explains that while women established most of the retail outlets, their success often attracts partners to the endeavor. “We have lots of husband and wife teams, and families too, whether its fathers and daughters, or mothers and sons,” Annie explains. Annie herself has recently collaborated with her son Felix on her recent book, Annie Sloan’s Room Recipes for Style and Colour, which the pair co-wrote.
Those familial partnerships are part of a much larger stockist community that Annie has worked hard to grow. Stockists have a global support network on Facebook, and can also meet one another face-to-face at the annual conference. Annie explains that with her own shop in Oxford, England, she sees herself as a stockist, and understands the challenges of running a small shop. The community that has grown around Chalk Paint, she says, is integral to the product’s success.
In all, the number of Chalk Paint retailers is approaching 500 in the U.S. alone, not to mention the stockists throughout Europe, and in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Japan. One can even purchase Chalk Paint in Dubai. As Annie Sloan’s and her stockists’ Chalk Paint creativity continues to find new forms of expression, be sure to find the retailer near you for fresh inspiration.
(This was originally posted on freshstylemag.com)