International Women's Day 2020: interview with Annie Sloan
Tell us a bit about yourself – what is your name and your business?
My name’s Annie Sloan and the name of my business is Annie Sloan Interiors (you can see what I did there) and I am known for inventing Chalk Paint® in 1990, when I was 40. Which is interesting I think, as I started my business when I was a little older. I had been doing other things, writing books and working in furniture restoration and running a small independent business, but 1990 was when it really took off. My children were small, all under five years of age, and that was a huge motivating factor. I couldn’t continue working the hours I had been and missing them growing up.
How did you come to create this business?
I did it because I wanted to stay at home more for my children. Inventing Chalk Paint®, which can be painted in the morning, left to dry, then waxed and returned to its place in the home before the boys came back to school gave me and so many others the flexibility that we needed. It democratized the process of furniture restoration and of interior design so that rather than me doing everything for people they could do it themselves. Teach a person to fish and all that. Once people saw how easy, and how enjoyable it was, there was no going back.
Question 3) What inspirational people have you looked to throughout your career?
The people that inspire me or gave me strength are other creative women. Virginia Woolf and the other women from the Bloomsbury Set. I also devoured Germaine Greer’s theories when they first came out, the idea of conditioning and that a woman can do anything a man can do, she has simply been conditioned to believe that she couldn’t was a liberating concept. It’s also something Victoria Woolf explored in Orlando. I’m also lucky to have had a very sensible father, who although born in 1909 was staunch in his belief that women can do anything.
What was the single proudest moment you’ve had in business?
My proudest moment…it is difficult to highlight just one. Starting our own factory felt like a real arrival at something. Chalk Paint® is now made inhouse at my factory in Oxford, in a building where I also have my studio and the Annie Sloan Interiors offices. We’ve built a brilliant team who I’m also incredibly proud to come to work with every day.
What advice do you have for anyone starting out?
The thing that I have to constantly remind myself is “no one else is going to do it”. You have to do it yourself. That’s very difficult, but it’s true. You know your business better than anybody. I also think it’s important to be kind to everybody; there’s this fallacy that to success in business you have to be tough and hard and horrible but in my experience it’s been the opposite.
And finally, if you were a Chalk Paint colour, which would you be and why?
Florence is the first colour which came into my head. Because it’s vibrant and unusual and not everybody’s cup of tea. It’s warm and it’s cool just like me!