I Launched My Business From My Parents’ Basement
Step into Backdrop cofounder Natalie Ebel’s colorful world.
Published Mar 17, 2020 12:00 AM
What does it take to shake up an industry? In New Voices, we spotlight and celebrate the female founders who are changing the way we live, shop, and style our homes, one bright idea at a time. In their own words, they share the major milestones and less-than-shiny moments—from prototypes gone awry to seeing their first product “in the wild”—that make it all worthwhile.
For Natalie Ebel, paint is so much more than just a renovation tool. It’s a feeling, it’s a form of expression, and it’s, well, your everyday backdrop. Which is why she started a company along with her husband, Caleb, with the mission to make this DIY staple easier to shop for and way more fun to use. Backdrop is all about bringing color into your home—without that hardware-store headache that so often comes along with it.
Launched in late 2018 with 50 hues available in two different finishes, the brand is especially millennial friendly, with color names like Weekend Upstate and Mood Lighting—and Spotify playlists to go along with each and every one. After all, it’s Ebel’s hope that by making this once-intimidating product a bit more fun and accessible, it can find an audience not just among contractors and experienced renovators but renters and first-time painters, too. Here, she shares the standout moments that brought her closer to achieving this goal.
I Tapped Into My Lifelong Love of DIY-ing
I repainted my bedroom at least six times before I was 16—my dad painted homes as a side business, so I learned a lot from him. Later down the road, my husband and I painted each and every one of our New York City apartments. But each time, we had the same headache: We had to go to the hardware store five or six times just to get the job done. We wanted to know if this process was only stressful for New York City renters, so we sent out a survey to friends around the country to understand their experience a little better—and we learned that even for our frequent renovator friends in Kansas City, shopping for paint was always a hassle.
I Had My Big Aha Moment During a Major Life Moment
We started thinking about the idea in 2016, and then I got pregnant—I thought there was no way I’d start a business and have a baby at the same time. But when we were about to paint our daughter’s nursery—technically a closet in our small apartment—we went to the hardware store looking for a bright white and were faced with about 30 different colors. That’s when we began taking the idea of curating a line of perfect colors more seriously.
I Moved Back Home and Bootstrapped
My daughter was about a year old when we quit our jobs with little savings and moved back home to Kansas City to live with my parents for about eight weeks in the summer of 2018. I destroyed my parents’ basement by testing all the colors on the walls. But because my dad is a paint expert, being able to try formulas and swatches with him was really helpful. Getting his stamp of approval was a big deal to me.
I Got to Know Our Customers One-on-One
Caleb runs our customer service and I run our Instagram, so we regularly interact with the people buying our paint firsthand. I’m actually friends with one of our first customers, who posted about us on Instagram, because I’d messaged her back and forth so many times. She lives in Los Angeles, so when we moved out here, she shared so many many recommendations with us.
I Figured Out a Way to Separate Work From Life—Sometimes
Caleb and I spend every single hour together—so it’s important we take some time apart at least once a week. I’ll go to a dance class and he’ll go out to dinner and read a book. We’ve also become intentional about our time at the end of each day with our daughter. We turn off our phones for three or four hours, which is not the end of the world.
My workday kit:
See more stories like this: My Business Wouldn’t Exist If I Hadn’t Gone on Maternity Leave I Left My Career as a Beauty Exec to Take on the Cookware Industry Meet the Activist Entrepreneur Telling the Stories of Immigrant America Through Cookware