Rachel Lacy grew up in a world of paint and colour as her mother was the founder of the paint store chain, Aalto Colour.
When Lacy followed in her mother’s footsteps she realised that the basic colour mixing challenges facing the industry, from boutique paint providers to big retailer paint providers and distributors, were the same.
“We wanted consumers to be able to buy paint colour at places where they think about colour,” she says. “For my mother, it would be an art gallery. She wanted to buy her living room wall colour there. For me, it is more the colours available at a homeware store.
“To do this, we needed to change the way paint is coloured; we needed to totally disrupt the sales channels, to totally disrupt the industry. To sell the colour separately from the paint, as art galleries and homeware stores don’t want to carry paint, was a fine idea but then we had to work out how to do that!
“As a small, high-end boutique paint company, we found that the traditional way of adding colour to paint was error-prone, messy and inefficient. You need base paints, liquid tints, tinting machines and shaking machines. Then you need to train staff to use all these elements. It is really difficult to get the same result every time. These issues are the same for large and small retailers.”
Lacy says that since the 1960s the process of adding colour to paint has basically stayed the same. She started thinking ‘what if you could change the way you add colour to paint?’
By removing complexity and inefficiency from the process, Lacy and her team have developed a range of innovative technologies to deliver colour to paint. Drikolor’s granulated pigments create a product that is safer and easier to use, transport and store and mean paint colours can be mixed by anyone, even the customer at home.
“We developed a whole new technology and can apply that technology to a much wider range of pigments. We knew that we will not only be able to disrupt the sales channel, but we can do it with pigments that conventional paint companies don’t have access to,” she says.
The potential of this novel technology was clear to see, but there was still a lot of work and testing to be done to get it ready for market.
“I approached Callaghan Innovation to help me with these challenges and they have been supporting drikolor with a range of services, without me having to invest heavily in my own R&D capability. They gave us space and capacity at their Gracefield Innovation Precinct to work with scientists and engineers to develop prototypes and work up a process to market-ready levels.
“They also provided us with a number of business R&D grants to support our product development, access to a student research assistant, and even found several experts who could oversee the sourcing and installation of plant equipment for drikolor.”
This year drikolor launched into the US with a colour range in architecture and design magazine, Dwell.
“We were one of five companies asked to compete at the Innovation Grand Slam Awards at the European Coatings show – this was against the giants Dow and Bayer – and we have also been granted a US patent. We are a great example of what government support can achieve – with Callaghan Innovation’s help we are taking New Zealand innovation to the world.”
Updated: 4 September 2015