Of course interviewing a celebrity can be intimidating. Lucky for me I was too busy with my daughter’s sixth birthday party mermaid extravaganza to obsess about the upcoming interview until the night before. By obscess I mostly mean, worry about important things like:
- What am I going to wear?
- How much sleep I will loose by getting up early to drive across the country (yes you can drive accross the whole country by mid-morning)?
- What’s the best lunch restaurant in Neuchâtel to eat with your 6 year old daughter?
Annie Sloan is best know for her boutique brand of chalk paint. I knew I didn’t want to write another post about how chalk paint sticks to any surface or a tutorial on waxing. What I really wanted to know from this successful woman, had more to do with the idea that she raised three children AND created a successful career simultaneously. I wanted to know how she created a word-of-mouth sensation without much of a marketing budget and how she became a Pinterest sensation. I wanted to know why bloggers (like me) evangelize ASCP (Annie Sloan Chalk Paint) without any compensation at all- not even in the form of free products.
Neuchatel is a charming city on the shores of the beautiful turquoise lake in the French region on the far west of Switzerland. Coco and I got up rather early and headed off for the long drive and a girls day out. I had lined up a sitter for the demonstration and interview, (which ultimately fell through-but thank heavens for iPads).
Victoria Sparkes is the owner of Bateau Rouge, she is also my art dealer. And now you know how I managed to score an interview with Annie Sloan. Bateau Rouge is a small gift shop and creative studio on Promenade Noire number 8, one of the main streets in Neuchâtel. The chalkboard sign in front, alerts you to specials and treasures inside.
The shelves are full of colorful paints, knobs and artwork to beautify your surroundings. My little birds are perched all over the store.
The real feature that day, was a stencil demonstration by none-other than Annie Sloan herself.
I was surprised at how unpretentious and relaxed she was. I didn’t know what to expect exactly: a bigger entourage, a large colorful hat embellished with feathers – she is British after all -and an artist. In reality- Annie Sloan was quite normal. The news crews from Neuchâtel were on hand to document the entire process and add to the excitement.
Stenciling as you may remember, is nothing new. It’s making a re-entrants onto the craft market with sophisticated laser cut patterns for all types of decor. Annie Sloan carries a line of stencils as well as, fabrics and of course her paint products. She showed us how easy it is to use them and how flexible they are in achieving a customized work of art. She answered lots of questions including several regarding painting fabric with chalk paint.
She is so honest & down-to-earth she even told a story of how one of her favorite linen jackets had faded and rather than tossing it out, she dyed it using black Annie Sloan chalk paint. She then reached for it and showed us that it was the jacket she had brought along for the day – a little eccentric perhaps, but the jacket was indeed very black and a perfect way to demonstrate that the products do work.
After autographs and photos and fielding lots of questions, she took a few moments and we sat down in a sunlit corner of the shop. She shared with me her journey as an artist and as an educator and how merging the two careers have become a satisfying business and brand. She told me that her desire to practice her art and decorate her surroundings led to creating ASCP- which properties of adhesion, mixability, ease of use, and a beautiful color pallets made it a welcomed solution for DIY’ers decorative needs, and filled a nitch in the marketplace. She told me about writing her first book 27 years ago when her oldest son was just a toddler. While raising 3 boys she managed to continue writing books~ 24 more, as well as working as an artist.
She shared with me that serendipitously her husband an IT professional and a left brain balance to her right brain creativity -built her a website very early on. That internet presence combined with her own early adaptation to Facebook and Twitter are important contributors to her success. Social media has indeed played a large part in her ability to market her brand at a very low cost. It’s hard to search Pinterest for more than a few minutes without running a crossed a mention of Annie Sloan chalk paint. She attributes luck too much of this success and claims that a great product sells itself. She says that by continuing to fill niches in the market with her products she can continue to grow her business and remain successful in spite of lower cost competitors. For anybody that has used her product, we all know that it’s hard to beat. Brand loyalty among her users is significant-I believe it’s because her brand is dependable. When you invested so much time and money into a piece of furniture or cabinetry (or just about anything you want to craft by hand), it provides a lot of peace-of-mind knowing what outcome to expect. And while her products are not inexpensive, they really do work. Thats the reason why bloggers like me, want to shout from the rooftops and tell every one about ASCP.
Annie credits her distribution channel of stockist as another strategy of success. By selling paint through experienced stockist, she is able to provide customers with necessary support. In addition to their stockist, customers can reach Annie Sloan and her team via Facebook and other social media any time of day. She is very quick to answer questions and assist customers through social media. I left Bateau Rouge feeling inspired by a strong woman with a vision, and a disire to share her talent and passions. And because of that desire, she has become incredibly successful along the way. I’d interview celebrities like this everyday if I could. Now Annie, could you just invent something that makes dinner and runs errands so I have more time to paint?! Special thanks to Victoria Sparkes at batue rouge and Annie Sloan and her team for making days like this possible.
***On a side note: when ever possible, match your gelato to your outfit .