May 29, 2012 | last updated May 31, 2012 8:36 am

Ashland's IdeaPaint Goes Clear

Ashland-based IdeaPaint has come a long way since its launch in 2008.

The company, which makes dry erase paint for homes, offices and classrooms, just launched a product that CEO Bob Munroe believes will push IdeaPaint to $100 million in annual revenue in the next several years.

True to its appearance, the new product is called CLEAR, and it can be painted onto any smooth surface, allowing it to function as a whiteboard.

The earliest version of the company's paint-on whiteboard product, launched in 2008, was white. Then customers began asking for different colors to match their wall paint, Munroe said. IdeaPaint launched its Cre-8 formula (now known as Create) in numerous colors in the several years that have followed. Later versions were also odorless and water-based. The colors became pretty popular, accounting for 23 percent of sales.

"We soon realized that no matter how many colors we had in our palette, we were never going to have all the colors the market wanted," Munroe said.

So they decided to go clear.

IdeaPaint's newest concoctions are made at a research and development lab in Michigan, where Munroe says his company has an exclusive contract. IdeaPaint pays the lab a fee plus performance incentives, and as a result, all of the intellectual property developed there belongs to IdeaPaint.

Two Big Markets: Home And Commercial

During his telephone interview with MetroWest495 Biz, Munroe was en route to the airport to fly to Charlotte, N.C., where he was to meet with representatives of Lowe's Co., the home improvement retail giant.

CLEAR is currently only available in the commercial market, but that will soon change.

Lowe's will launch IdeaPaint's new product in all its stores this summer. Other retailers like Sherwin Williams will also carry the brand. Both retailers have carried the company's other products for several years.

The company will also add nine employees this year, mostly in sales and marketing, boosting the headcount to 40.

IdeaPaint has also developed a relationship with MDC, an Illinois-based wall design and coating company. Munroe said MDC's job is to expand IdeaPaint's name recognition and traction in the architecture and design community so industry professionals will recommend, or "spec," the products for proposed commercial spaces they're designing.

Munroe thinks there is good reason to choose IdeaPaint over whiteboards: they keep traditional whiteboards out of landfills, it's a smaller shipping footprint, and he said it's cheaper per square foot.

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