Tina Kuligowski, founder of Spray Erase tells us about creating erasable spray paints.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Spray Erase.
Tina Kuligowski: I work for the Department of State, and I’m currently in Sri Lanka. Before this, I worked in D.C., leading a pilot project to install WiFi in our embassies and consulates around the world. I was placed in an office with walls that had paint on them, which turned them into a giant dry-erase board. My team and I lived in that office, covering the walls with diagrams, task lists, meeting agendas, doodles, and art. One day, as we were preparing for a scheduling meeting, I had someone draw out a three-month calendar, including holidays. It took about 45 minutes! I thought it would be nice if we had been able to just use a stencil that outlined a month and apply some erasable spray paint. I was sure someone must have invented dry-erase spray paint, but after some research, I found that no one had, so I decided to create it myself.
How does Spray Erase innovate?
Tina Kuligowski: Our very product is an innovation and can be used to not only make business presentations and meetings more effective and creative but can be used in classrooms or at home, too, for fun or as part of a lesson.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business, and how are you coping?
Tina Kuligowski: This is more of a learning opportunity for me; I never expected the business to take right off and start making money. The pandemic slowed down the ability to get my product to market by about a year. However, I feel like the pandemic has provided opportunities in the homeschooling market that didn’t exist before. I do have a “day job, “which gives me the freedom and the security to continue to try different things to sell the product. For example, I am putting together the pieces to launch a spray erase video contest to see how people are using the product and then turn around and use those videos to further market the product.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Tina Kuligowski: I haven’t been forced to make difficult choices yet. I still have room in my budget to experiment with different marketing strategies, which will hopefully launch the product into a worthwhile stream of income for me or run it to the ground. One lesson in particular that has really come to light is that I need to emphasize the use of stencils with this product. I think in the next batch of spray erase, and the packaging should absolutely include stencils.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Tina Kuligowski: In the early stages of marketing the product, I am relying on the experts, such as those in public relations and social media marketing. At the moment, I’m tapping into my IT skills to assemble all the elements for the video contest.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Tina Kuligowski: I don’t know if there are any other products like Spray Erase. One might think that’s a good thing, but there is a challenge to Introducing a new type of product, socializing the how what and why it should be used, and driving people to want a new and previously unheard-of thing.
Do you have any final thoughts?
Tina Kuligowski: I’m so thankful that I pursued this. I’ve learned so much about what it takes to create something from nothing. I’ve applied for and received a patent, and a registered trademark is in the works. The product has a website and a presence on Amazon, and the feeling I get when I hold it in my hands, pop the top off, and demonstrate it for someone makes me feel so proud and accomplished. I never thought of myself as an innovator or even someone who has a creative side, but this adventure makes me realize that creative thinking is a part of everything that I do, including the day-to-day routines that exist in working, raising a family, and having recreational pursuits.