Nick Lopez had a dilemma when he started classes at Michigan State University. The out of state tuition and cost of living were expensive, and working a ‘typical’ student job wasn’t going to pay the bills. Lopez put his entrepreneurial hat on and devised a creative way to make money and put himself through school.
In 2013, Lopez opened LIME Painting after discovering a gap in the market and a need for high-end commercial and residential painters. What started as a way to put himself through college, quickly turned into a budding company for Lopez. Now, LIME is thriving and has generated millions of dollars since it opened its doors.
LIME continues to grow and it may not be long until Lopez sees franchises opened up across the United States.
How did you get started in the commercial and residential painting industry?
I began my painting career as a means to pay for out-of-state tuition. As a first generation and independent college student, I didn’t have any other means to cover tuition and the cost of living. I needed a source of income that would pay more than what a cafeteria job would pay, so I started my own business. Little did I know that I would stumble upon a huge need in the market. It turns out that high-end homeowners desire quality and are willing to pay for it to maintain one of their highest valued assets, but there are very limited options to do so in the marketplace.
Nick, tell us about LIME Painting’s launch in 2014 and the company’s growth over the last four years.
After spending five years in college fine-tuning a business model that could scale and be duplicated, I moved from Michigan—where I attended college—to my home state of Colorado and launched LIME Painting to prove out the model prior to franchising the business to scale across the country. Within the first four years, LIME generated $5.5 million in gross sales and $1.2 million in gross profits in high-end residential painting and contracting services.
How does LIME Painting go about working with a customer? Can you walk us through the steps from when a client contacts the company until the job is finished?
LIME has two main employee positions that consist of account managers and production coordinators. From the point that a customer contacts LIME, the account manager assesses the property, builds a scope of recommendations, and advises the customer on the scope of work. Prior to the project kicking off, the account manager schedules all contractors needed from designers to craftsmen consisting of masons, carpenters, gutter installers, and painters. Once production begins, the production coordinator works directly with the account manager, customer, and contractors to coordinate the logistics of the account from finding the right color to providing samples and auditing each phase of the recommended scope to ensure a job well done. The account manager provides a final walk-through with the customer and closes out the account. Project scopes vary, but LIME’s 10-step production model helps to ensure consistency and reliability while also ensuring quality.
Lopez has found high-end properties to be a ‘blessing’. His career and responsive work impressed many property owners in the beginning, and helped to grow the business early on. Now, working on high-end properties is one of LIME’s calling cards.
You work with many high-end property owners. What kind of care does it take to work with such valuable properties compared to others?
Working on high-end custom properties is very much a blessing that comes with a great deal of responsibility. At LIME, we have a saying that sets the foundation for how we approach our craft: “We work in a beautiful place, for beautiful people, and with beautiful people.” Being a part of a premium brand that is best in class for customer service and expertise means that we do what we say and we do it with integrity and a commitment to meet or exceed customer expectations. Our culture is very much about excellence and being the best version of ourselves personally and as a company. LIME’s work on high-end properties results in an excellent customer experience. It’s much like what separates a four-star hotel from a five-star hotel: exceptional customer service and best-in-class service expertise.
Lopez not only owned and operated his painting company while attending classes at Michigan State, but he did it from another state. It taught Lopez a great deal about business and how to manage his work, school, and social life.
You previously owned another commercial painting company while attending business school at Michigan State University. How difficult was it to run a business and attend classes in a different state?
College taught me a lot about myself. What started off as a wide-eyed ambitious 18-year-old’s quest to go to school out of state quickly became a test of my ability to persevere. Being an independent college student meant that out-of-state tuition and cost of living were expensive. With no means to financially support this dream, creating and running a business became more than just a job. Owning a business allowed me to live out the beginning of the legacy that I would build throughout my life. In conjunction with the pressure to support my college expenses, I also worked hard academically by making the Dean’s List more semesters than not. It was a season of my life that challenged my willpower, but because I stuck to my vision I was able to see past the countless sacrifices that I had to make.
Can you tell us about the LIME Light Outreach program?
LIME Light Outreach, Inc. was created as a means to give back to the community that I am successful within. I have a deep appreciation for the people I work with and for, because, without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. LIME Light is a way for me to give back to the community that has given so much to me. LIME Light is a Christian-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit. It is tailored toward the youth and empowers them with LIME Light’s 4 Pillars of Knowledge—Faith, Family, Patriotism, and Prosperity. Knowledge is power and the youth are our future. LIME Light raises funds, creates campaigns based on LIME Light’s 4 Pillars of Knowledge, and partners with established nonprofits to reach the youth with varying campaigns.
LIME Painting’s website states that the company is based on “values based.” How important is it for the company to be in touch with your own moral values?
LIME Painting is a values-based company. Personally, I’ve found that I am the best version of myself when I don’t try to separate my belief in values from my work or personal life. I think that this is true for many others, and for those who agree, LIME provides an opportunity to embrace the values as mission philosophy. Even more so, LIME provides an opportunity to own a business that subscribes to that philosophy for business.
Lopez has major plans for expansion and LIME’s franchise program could see branches pop-up across the United States. There are a lot of benefits to franchisees buying into LIME and Lopez can help them establish their own branch with unlimited possibilities of success.
Tell us about plans for expansion. There is a link on the LIME Painting website regarding franchises. Is there a chance for others to buy their own LIME Painting store or business?
I opened my first painting business 10 years ago when I was a freshman in college. I quickly learned that high-end homeowners viewed the process of getting their home painted as a negative experience. I was frequently complimented for very simple things like showing up, being responsive, and doing a good job. When I realized how many people had negative experiences and that there is a huge need within the market for a high-end painter, I decided to build a business model that would service this need and be scalable. Fast-forward to five years removed from college and I am launching our franchise and providing others who want to own their own business—but not be in business by themselves—with the ability to own a high-end painting business.
What characteristics do you look for in individuals who want to buy a franchise?
LIME’s franchise opportunity is a sales and marketing business with no painting experience needed. Our franchise owners vet customers and talented craftsmen and marry them together while providing the systems, structure, and brand for the two to successfully work together to provide high-end painting and contracting services. We are looking for savvy business people who want to leverage a massive $30 billion painting industry and a $300 billion home improvement sector. LIME’s franchisees should also be interested in working with a very affluent demographic and be capable of representing and growing a premium brand. In general, franchising is a great way to be in business for yourself but not by yourself while leveraging the brand’s resources and equity.
What steps would a potential franchise owner have to go through to join the LIME Painting family?
One of the largest benefits of working with an emerging franchise like LIME is the direct access and mentoring from the founder. I’d be happy to personally speak with anyone interested in joining the LIME family. You can email me directly at [email protected] or learn more about LIME’s franchise and begin the franchise discovery process by downloading a franchise discovery kit from limepainting.com/franchise. Currently, there are many prime markets available.
Where do you foresee franchise owners coming from in the future?
In the future, franchise owners will come from markets that are concentrated with high-end properties. Whether that is high-end homes, resorts, hotels, and properties of the like, franchise owners will operate a LIME franchise that services affluent areas throughout the United States.
In the first four years of LIME’s existence, the company made $1.2 million in gross profits. Can franchise owners expect to succeed to that degree when opening their own store?
Our franchise development team is highly experienced and does a tremendous job of awarding our franchises and not selling them. If we can do a good job of getting owners into the LIME family that have the right make up, success will follow. Like anything great though, owning a LIME business requires work ethic and an ability to learn and implement the proven processes that netted $1.2 million in gross profits.
Additionally, early adopters who join LIME’s franchise will have direct access, coaching, and training from the founder who generated these profits. An advantage of the LIME franchise is that you have a proven system, process, and brand tailored to service and capitalize on a need for high-end painters in the high-end market.
LIME’s franchise owners have access to the technology, training, and support to aid in launching and scaling LIME’s business model. Owning a business is risky, and professional counsel and proper due diligence should always be rigorously pursued prior to owning any business.
Through the franchise program, what do you foresee as the timescale for going national to be?
Because LIME is headquartered in Denver, CO, we are currently focusing our marketing efforts on the southwest part of the United States so that we can more easily support those franchise owners. From there, we will expand to the northwest, Midwest, and east coast. Our model is extremely unique, and I am looking forward to bringing our much-needed solution to many high-end affluent markets across the country.
FRANCHISE DISCLAIMER: This is not a franchise offering. A franchise offering can be made by us only in a state if we are first registered, excluded, exempted, or otherwise qualified to offer franchises in the state, and only if we provide you with an appropriate franchise disclosure document. Follow-up or individualized responses to you that involve either effecting or attempting to effect the sale of a franchise will be made only if we are first in compliance with state registration requirements or are covered by an applicable state exclusion or exemption.
Lopez has been in the painting industry for 10 years altogether and has learned a great deal about business. He tries to use that knowledge to help others and to teach the lessons he has learned.
What secrets or lessons have you learned since opening LIME in 2014 that you can share with aspiring business owners?
I’ve learned that being in business for yourself is a very lonely gig at times. It isn’t for everyone and it isn’t easy by any means. From highs to lows, it’s you who must navigate the ship. Owning my own business has been like an advanced personal development program. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process. Personally, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
You are a member of the board of directors at Colorado UpLift. Tell us about this program and why it is important for you to be involved with it.
Colorado UpLift is a nonprofit that works with the youth by partnering with schools and drastically improves the student graduation rate. What started as a job placement program has evolved into a much more advanced version of its younger self. Essentially, Colorado UpLift improves the lives of at-risk kids by keeping them in school and giving them the resources to be productive members of society. It’s a beautiful program and it’s important for me to be involved with it because our future lies in the youth. I also feel that my own testimony can be of inspiration to these kids.
Nick, what is a day in your life like?
The first thing that I do is head to the coffee maker. I then get straight into my workday. I work six days a week and rest on Sundays. I also hit the gym or driving range when I find the time within my week. Sundays are one of my favorite days of the week. I wake up a little later, head to church and brunch, and spend the day working on house projects with my wife.
What makes you smile?
My wife and children make me smile. They are my inspiration, my source of strength, and my stability. Ultimately, they are why I do what I do. My life is about legacy, and that legacy lives through my family.
What scares you?
Failure scares me. I have an incredibly high standard for myself and a vision for who I want to be. Not realizing that version of myself is what motivates me. I also have a very keen awareness of the legacy that I am building for my family. If I did not become the man that I am capable of becoming, I would feel complacent, and that scares me. Every day I make an intentional effort to invest in my work and in myself, so that I can continue to become the man that I am capable of becoming.
What is your secret talent?
Which historical figure do you most admire?
I most admire Jesus Christ. He led the largest movement known to man. Regardless of religious association, the life that he lived was admirable. He was a compassionate man who led with love. He used his power and influence to create positive change that removes oppression from people. His life and story are a beautiful testament to what a man should strive to be. Not to mention, he also led the largest movement known to man.
Nick, do you have any hobbies?
Whenever I get the chance I am out hitting the links. Whether I am golfing for business or leisure, golf is at the top of my list. I also like to fish. Being from Colorado, I enjoy fishing any river within the Rocky Mountains and taking in the beauty around.
What are you never without?
It’s rare that you’d find me without my wife. She is definitely my best friend and partner in crime.
Can you share two of your favorite quotes with us?
“Winners win.” — Gary Vee
“Chase nervousness and uncertainty! Seek it out, run towards it!” — Ed Mylett
Instinct versus expertise: Which is more important and why?
For me, it is most definitely instinct. Throughout my career I have succeeded because I got up and took action. I went out and shook hands. More specifically, I went out and knocked on doors. During the peak of the great recession, I went out and knocked on multi-million dollar homes with zero years of painting experience. It was my instinct that told me that I needed to keep pushing forward as success would come from my actions. In my opinion, the difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is simply because they have the ability to take action. Too many people hope and wonder and only think about the day that they will act.
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world, what would it be?
The one thing that I would change, if I could, would be the pain and suffering that comes from oppression, poverty, and drug abuse. I often look around and am saddened by homeless people in urban areas. It is a stark contrast from the affluent suburbs that I live in. For there to be such brokenness in this world compels me to appreciate, be grateful, and to give back as much as possible. Many people living in poverty do so as a direct result of their environment or because of mental illness or drug abuse. This is a sad reality in America today.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
LIME’s franchise is a low overhead business that allows for a home office with minimal employees. In 2017, I operated my business with four full-time employees and we generated $2.2 million in gross sales. LIME has a proven and effective subcontractor partnership model that allows for scalability within a market. LIME also has an effective estimating process that is tailored to high-end properties and custom scopes of work for properties that meet that niche. LIME also has a proprietary technology platform called LIMEWare that provides a hub to effectively operate and run major components of the business. LIME Elite Academy is rigorous and complemented with an ongoing adult learning management software that continually keeps franchise owners updated on the latest and greatest things related to running a LIME business.
Lopez’s work ethic shows with everything LIME has done and continues to do. From building his own brand as a college student to licensing franchises, LIME is on the cutting-edge of commercial and residential painting.
As an entrepreneur, Lopez has shown he can do anything when he sets his mind to it. He is building a lasting legacy, one that will carry on with his company into the future. LIME continues to grow, and with a highly intelligent and motivated owner it doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.
For more information on LIME Painting, please visit https://limepainting.com/.
Journalist and author. Contributor