Doors opening for Smart Wall Paint

Company provides low-cost way to achieve an inspirational environment that encourages teamwork

 

When Ronan Clarke was asked by a US multinational to fit out an office space with 25 whiteboards a number of years ago, he had little idea that this unusual request would lead to the birth of an innovative new business.

Working in the construction industry at the time, Clarke struggled to find a viable solution but it planted the seeds for something much better.

With the construction industry in meltdown, the whiteboard idea proved not alone a lifeline but the inspiration for Smart Wall Paint, a venture producing an innovative paint that turns any flat surface into a reusable whiteboard. An entire office can, therefore, be turned into a giant whiteboard surface.

“It’s a unique low-cost way of investing in your space to provide a more inspirational environment that encourages teamwork and ideas. Once you are finished, you can simply wipe away and start again,” Clarke explains.


10-year guarantee
Kits for a small wall (2m2) start from €79 on the company’s online shop. It is applied in one coat with a roller, dries within six hours and has a 10-year guarantee. Unlike conventional whiteboards, it does not produce a shadow.

Trading for less than a year, Smart Wall Paint has already won significant overseas orders and is on course for turnover of €700,000 in 2013. It has a pipeline of other products in development to tackle a global market that Clarke estimates to be worth €2 billion. The firm is a participant in Enterprise Ireland’s High Performance Start-Up programme.

Smart Wall Paint was recently awarded top award in the PwC Docklands Innovation Park Enterprise Award. The finalists, all of whom are participants on the Dublin Institute of Technology New Frontiers Programme funded by Enterprise Ireland, pitched their investment proposals and were questioned by an experienced panel of judges on their business plans.

The prototype product was developed for Clarke by two highly experienced UK paint technology specialists. It can be applied with a roller to any wall surface, effectively turning an entire room or a corridor into a whiteboard. It has already proved popular with educational institutions and corporate bodies. Installations include Dublin, Limerick and Waterford Institutes of Technology, Vodafone, Microsoft, SAP, Marks & Spencer’s and Coca-Cola.

“Lean manufacturing companies love it. They love to have all of their processes mapped out so we’re a natural choice for them,” Clarke adds

Clarke sees huge potential to develop the education market at first and second as well as third-level, and has already has installations in a number of primary school as well as Glenstal Abbey secondary school.


Business model
Employing seven staff, the company has an outsourced business model with two manufacturers, one in the UK and one in Ireland, producing the product and a logistic firm, M50 Webstore, managing order fulfilment. "We can have a product shipped to somewhere like the United States within 48 hours. This means that we can really concentrate our resources on sales and marketing to grow the business,” Clarke explains.

Just 10 months on the market, Smart Wall Paint has already developed three routes to market encompassing trade distributors, retail stationers and an online store, www.smartwallpaint.ie

Some 90 per cent of trade is export, and while it aims to become a leading player in the European markets it has also received orders from as far away as Canada and Australia.

While the initial product was pushed out to market quickly, the firm has complimentary products at research stage. It is working with DIT CREST to develop a clear erasable paint. The company is applying for a patent for the new product with DIT CREST and is being funded by Enterprise Ireland.

Clarke says that the firm aims to double its 2013 turnover next year to €1.4 million. It was backed from start-up stage by Bank of Ireland, and is now seeking investors to help develop its global potential.