How a Cincinnati company plans to grow to 180 locations this year

A Cincinnati-based company is on an aggressive growth path, having more than doubled its revenue in the last five years, and now it plans to grow to 180 locations before the year's end.

Fresh Coat Painters, headquartered at 10700 Montgomery Road in Montgomery, currently has 140 locations in 40 states, including five locally. The franchise organization plans to grow that to more than 180 locations by the end of the year, adding 50 new territories.

President Tara Riley told me the company has more than doubled revenue in the last five years, closing 2018 with $31 million.

The company has facilitated that growth by focusing on recruiting. Fresh Coat gets about 1,000 inquiries a month. In any given year, it only rewards 50 or 60 new franchises.

"A misconception in franchising is that we'll sell to anyone, and that's not true," Riley said. "We look for people who have a drive to own their own business. They have to like this industry."

Fresh Coat provides home painting services. Riley said the company's philosophy is that no job is too small – if a customer wants their front door painted, Fresh Coat will do it, knowing that it will likely not be the last painting job that customer needs done.

Riley joined the company in 2014. At that point, it had about 80 locations and one recruiter. She told me that she saw a business in Fresh Coat that had solid fundamentals but needed help scaling. She increased the recruiting staff to four and got them to be picky on who they let in.

The majority of Fresh Coat's growth comes from tenured franchisees who see about 22 percent revenue growth year-over-year, she said.

But the business is not without its challenges. Like most blue-collar industries, finding skilled labor is becoming increasingly difficult.

"A lot of the master tradesmen in the industries are baby boomers, and they're retiring," Riley said. "For every seven people retiring, one enters."

"When we started this push 20 years ago to send everyone to college, there was an attitude that you don't want to work for a company with your name on your shirt. Rather than racking up a bunch of debt, you can have a high-paying career that benefits society," she said.

Fresh Coat is trying to combat that with an apprenticeship program. Riley said she has seen people enter the company as an apprentice and go on to open their own franchise.

"These are good paying jobs where an entry-level painter should be making minimum $15 an hour," she said.