When Mike Mills was diagnosed with panic disorder at the age of 22, he turned to art as a way to manage his anxiety. He soon discovered painting by numbers was easy enough to allow him to ‘zone out’ from everything else going on around him. But as Mike’s paint by numbers passion grew, he couldn’t find the quality and design choice he wanted, and this led to starting Paint Plot in 2018 with his partner Tova.
Fast forward two years, and Mike’s sister Rebecca Keogh and her husband Bree help run Paint Plot’s operations on Australia’s Gold Coast, while Mike and Tova split their time between Australia and Sweden.
After initially distributing exclusively to the US market, Paint Plot was keen to expand into the Asia Pacific region. It started distributing kits in Australia and New Zealand in January 2020, and local customers can now see how easy it is to create artwork they can be proud of.
“What our customers love about paint-by-numbers is there isn’t any pressure associated with it. So anyone can paint it. I’m hopeless at art and even my paint by numbers look pretty good,” Rebecca says.
When shipping goes off track
Having established a strong customer base in the US, orders continued to flow when the global pandemic hit in March. But as global shipping became less reliable, the online business started experiencing problems.
“We were despatching directly from warehouses internationally to the US and when the pandemic hit, international shipping came to a grinding halt. It was very sudden, very unpredictable,” Rebecca explains.
“Customers in the US were buying more online, but there were delays and our international shipping partners couldn’t provide accurate tracking information. We couldn’t tell our customers when they would receive their orders. They were understandably getting very frustrated.”
As things started changing rapidly around them, Rebecca and the team went into business survival mode to figure out a way to get things moving again.
Thinking local for global delivery
Rebecca had already established a great relationship with their local Australia Post account manager. So she decided to change her distribution model completely, and deliver everything directly from Australia – nationwide and overseas – with Australia Post.
“We knew we could rely on Australia Post’s tracking,” Rebecca says. “Even if we can't control global shipping timeframes, we can make sure Australian customers have visibility of their package with Australia Post’s tracking. We can communicate effectively with them. That has enabled our business to survive through this as we stabilise and rebuild.”
While they initially had to limit orders to keep up with demand, Rebecca’s team has resumed international shipping and are getting painting kits into the hands of keen artists once again.
“Australia Post has also helped with warehouse efficiency, with our account manager always available and offering suggestions on how best to get orders packed and posted.”
And by accommodating multiple daily pick-ups and even weekend delivery, Rebecca says the service has really impressed customers.
“People generally don't get as much time to paint during the week. So if their Paint Plot products arrive on the weekend, they're stoked. Then they can spend Sunday painting, we've had some really positive feedback about the weekend delivery service.”
By shifting to local distribution, Paint Plot has also been able employ more local staff in its Gold Coast warehouse – including those who had lost their jobs in tourism and hospitality as a result of the pandemic.