Creating the Backdrop of Our Lives
For as long as we can remember, painting your home has been considered a chore, a painful process that was more frustrating than fun. Thankfully, in 2018 that all changed. Driven by their own experiences of standing wide-eyed in the hardware store, overwhelmed with the thousands of color choices before them, Natalie and Caleb Ebel knew there had to be a better way… Fast forward three years and they’ve proven just that!
From curating the perfect color palette to sourcing the highest quality supplies, Backdrop has transformed the paint industry as we know it and they have no intention of stopping anytime soon. Now that they’ve all but conquered the do-it-yourself world, this crew is capturing the hearts of commercial designers and makers as well. Recently introduced, Industry by Backdrop* is the new way to paint…for professionals too!
Somewhere in the middle of parenthood, perfecting pigments, and major mergers, the D.Lab team was lucky enough to steal a few moments from this pair’s busy schedule. Join us for our creative chat with Natalie and Caleb, the powerhouse behind paint’s most instagrammable brand!
*Are you a designer, realtor, architect, paint contractor, or photographer? Industry is for you. If you purchase or spec paint for your profession, Backdrop is here to help! Apply to join the new way to paint, today.
Natalie and Caleb, you’re a husband and wife duo that’s spent the past couple of years turning the outdated paint industry on its head… Did you guys imagine Backdrop would gain such influence on the market SO quickly?
Caleb: It’s been really fun to see how the brand has resonated with our consumers in just these first few years for Backdrop. In the paint category, there has been very low brand affinity and very little innovation, so there was an opportunity for Backdrop to take a new approach and really put the consumer at the centerpiece of the experience. We do that in a lot of subtle ways, from the packaging to the color curation, to the color descriptions, to the sampling process, to the quick and easy ordering, and most importantly with a really great quality product.
All that influence has led to some pretty big changes as of late. Like, really big. Could you tell us a bit about your new parent company, Schumacher, and how this partnership impacts the brand as we know it today?
Natalie: We’re definitely excited to be a part of the F. Schumacher Co (FSCO) family of brands alongside design house Schumacher, luxury floor coverings company Patterson Flynn, and their growing media businesses Frederic and Freddie. It’s a really special place that has deep heritage and expertise in the home design category, but also has an exciting growth and entrepreneurial orientation which makes us feel right at home. Backdrop brings extension into a new category in paint and resonance with a younger digitally native consumer segment and FSCO allows us to tap into infrastructure, resource, style expertise, and a century of learnings.
Creativity and innovation have been integral to Backdrop’s success, what’s something you do personally to keep that energy flowing?
Natalie: Creativity sometimes happens spontaneously so you have to create the space and the environment for those moments to occur. Which can be hard when you’re a parent and running a business and trying to do a million things. It also requires you to expose yourself to a lot of stimulus – art, music, travel, design, etc for those points of inspiration to occur. I’m also particularly collaborative so I take inspiration from people around me and we build off one another.
Your color palette is small but impactful. What’s the thought process behind a more controlled offering?
Natalie: Our palette has about 58 colors today and it’s growing. But, we’re really thoughtful about each color’s unique purpose and our conviction that we’d love to have it as our own backdrop. There’s no hard line in the sand as to a specific number of colors in the palette, but we’re careful to do the hard work so we’re not thrusting decision paralysis onto our customers.
Backdrop’s knockout branding has been a key player in shaking up the paint can, so to speak. You obviously made a lot of great decisions along the way, can you tell us more about your process in building such a notable brand?
Caleb: Well, thanks for the kind words. The brand is an ever-evolving living thing.
The most important things for us in building Backdrop were authenticity and staying true to our unique point of view. We wanted to build a brand that:
- had ingrained social impact and responsibility in its DNA
- didn’t take itself too seriously
- didn’t lean on jargon and other crutches we were seeing in the category
- put the consumer first.
We tried stripping everything down and saying if you were to start a new paint company without the baggage of 100 years of legacy decision making, from a first principles approach, how might you do things differently. So every touch point, including the paint can, was rethought because we weren’t encumbered.
One thing that is exciting is that we see our customers being proud to say what their backdrop is. It’s energy and emotional connection and affinity that we hadn’t seen previously in the category.
A love of shirking the status quo is shared by both Backdrop and Durasein, how do you all cultivate that spirit within the team?
Caleb: It’s helpful to have a team that is new to the industry, which means we have a fresh perspective on most challenges we approach by default.
Backdrop partnered with The International Rescue Committee before you even sold your first can of paint. Tell us more about who they are and what folks can do to support their efforts?
Natalie: From the beginning, we wanted to try to make Backdrop a role model for both our category and just what it looks like to build a new brand in this age. Social impact ingrained in the fabric and DNA is important. We love the work of the IRC and deeply care about their mission to support displaced refugee families, so it made sense to share a portion of each sale so our customers can also support displaced families with each purchase. We’re also really proud to be the first Climate Neutral Certified paint brand as of 2020.
It’s no secret that you guys stay Dunkin’ on the competition… Are there any exciting new collaborations or projects coming our way?
Natalie: Dunkin’ was a fun collab this spring! We’ve always got a few things in the works. It’s really fun to think about unexpected points of discovery for the brand. Can’t say anything too specific just yet, but stay tuned!