“The fact that everything was so uncertain when we started the business made us determined to make it adaptable and sustainable - both financially and environmentally,” says Rob Abrahams (picture above left). Last year, Rob, 32, co-founded online paint company COAT with Robert Green, 33 (picture above right).

“We left our jobs in June 2020 and raised startup capital from our immediate network, which got us from idea to production,” he says. “It means that lots of our family and friends have shares, which motivates us even more to do well.”

Since its launch in September 2020, COAT has received 250,000 visits to its website. It has been featured in Vogue magazine and several major newspapers. Their social media following has grown to around 20,000.

COAT prides itself on simplicity, speed and being as sustainable as possible in terms of packaging and ingredients for its paint. For banking, the co-founders use Starling, a digital, forward-thinking bank for business and personal customers.

Launching in lockdown

“At the beginning, it was very difficult to meet suppliers because of the pandemic,” says Rob. “The paint supply chain is very traditional - it wasn’t set up for video calls or remote working.”

Yet these challenges in communication became a good test: the suppliers that were flexible and adaptable were the ones they chose. Even though the team still hasn’t physically met the majority of their suppliers, they have managed to create strong working relationships to ensure that all orders are processed smoothly.

All paint is not made equal

Every pot of COAT paint is made to order. “We make every order fresh, which means there’s no production waste, and send it out the same day.” The paint is water-based, low odour, vegan (house paint often contains the milk protein casein, as a binder) and has minimal toxins, which is a positive for the environment and for customers.

Robert Green and Rob Abrahams, co-founders of COAT

What it says on the tin

To make choosing a colour as simple and eco-friendly as possible, COAT offers recyclable peel and stick swatches instead of wasteful plastic sample pots. Each swatch uses exact colour matches and can be moved around, removing the need to paint patches of different colours onto your walls. An individual swatch is A5 size, that’s 148 x 210mm, so big enough to give a good idea of how the colour will look.

When a customer has finished painting, they can send what’s left back to be recycled. This is useful as councils often classify paint as hazardous waste, which makes it difficult to dispose of. “Our customers can return the paint pots and we give them a credit for their next order.” COAT recycles the tin and the paint.

Environmental sustainability drives all decisions at COAT. “We’ve been carbon neutral from the start and we go beyond using water-based low-toxin paint. We only use recyclable packaging and our supplies partner provides plastic-free brushes and roller trays made from sugar cane,” says Rob.

COAT also makes quarterly donations to the homeless charity Crisis. “As a business in the luxury homeware and interior decorating industry, there was something about knowing there are still lots of homeless people in the UK, that made us want to support this cause.”

Better banking with Starling

Both co-founders are mindful of tracking their business outgoings to stay on course with their business plan. Visibility of their finances is part of the reason they love Starling. With spending categories built into the app, such as equipment, staff and marketing, it’s easy to see exactly where money is spent.

Rob has used Starling for his personal banking since 2018 and signed up for a business account last year. “The account set up was ridiculously easy - I applied in about five minutes sitting on the sofa,” he says. “The integration with Xero was the biggest deciding factor. Having customer service within the app too makes messaging really fast and effective.”

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