Learn about Florida Entrepreneur Gary and Debbie Tutor:
Anchor Coatings, Inc., was originally founded in 1972 by a retired paint contractor and his two sons, both Chemical Engineers. At the time, it was called Anchor Sealant. Over the course of 16 years, the business grew from a relatively unknown brand to one with an excellent reputation throughout Central Florida. In 1988 they decided to retire and shut things down. The business sat dormant for a year until current owners, Gary and Debbie Tutor, saw an opportunity to breathe new life into it.
"Debbie and I first moved to Florida in 1986," Gary said. "We're both originally from Aurora, IL. We were more than ready to get out of that cold weather. Before the move, I worked in the construction industry. I was a structural steel worker and a foreman."
Debbie added, "We'd been coming to Florida for years. My grandparents had a home in Lake County, so we were very familiar with the area. When we came down, we had a dump truck and a bobcat that we put to use doing some landscaping and excavating type work. We didn't know anything about Anchor Sealant, or even that it was for sale, until our realtor brought it to our attention."
After doing their research, Gary and Debbie were convinced that it was an opportunity they couldn't pass up. In July of 1989, they bought the formulations, the right to produce and sell the formulations, equipment, other assets and received several months of training from the previous owners. Even though Gary and Debbie were swimming outside their lanes with the purchase of a paint business, they weren't unaccustomed to hard work and they were determined to make it work.
"We not only sell paint, we also manufacture it," Gary said. "We had a lot to learn in the early days. Some days we'd work until 11pm to get everything done. We also weren't a household name like other well-known paints, so getting people to know and trust us was an early challenge."
Debbie described another challenge, "In those days, there was no color automation or computers to help with tint and color matching. You had to do everything by hand. It was like baking a cake. Too much or too little of one ingredient can affect the entire cake. Before we started using computers, I became a real tint master."
Once Gary and Debbie decided on a niche, they put a lot of energy and resources into advertising, marketing, networking and, by 1992, they made significant headway into The Villages. Debbie shared that at one point, Anchor Coatings was the go-to paint contractor for The Villages. They had issues with paint pealing off privacy walls and Anchor Coatings was their saving grace. With the retail storefront and the ability to ship their products across the U.S. and internationally, Gary and Debbie grew the business by selling quality paints and sealants and by developing genuine relationships with their customers.
"We buy only 100% acrylic polymers," Gary said. "Our paint has no clay fillers, we add extra mildew protection and UV blockers and most products are energy star rated. From auto distributorships in Buffalo, NY, to farmers in the Midwest and a gentleman that owned 40 truck stops, our customers were and continue to be very diverse. Regardless of the customer or the order, what we enjoy most is satisfying our clients and the feeling of accomplishment that comes from seeing our products on a completed building. We also love and truly value our repeat business. You can pick up the phone and call us directly. Our clients appreciate that."
Gary and Debbie shared what the future looks like for Anchor Coatings. "We're hoping to wind things down in the next five years or so," Gary said. "Maybe even turn the business over to our employees or possibly keep it in the family." Debbie added, "It's always ideal for someone in your immediate family to take over your business, but some of our employees are like family to us."
After 42 years of marriage and 20 years in business, Gary and Debbie are more than qualified to offer life and business advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
"Owning a small business is rewarding, but it's not for the faint of heart," Debbie said. "I'm a big dreamer. If I'm dreaming, I'm dreaming big, but it's tough because when I said we're moving to Florida, Gary thought I was crazy. He was making good money and we had two school age kids at the time. We went through a lot of adversity, but now we're stronger. There were times where we had to look at paying the bills or feeding our kids. It's been a complete whirlwind, but it's worth it. Remember that success should be more than just money. Decide what success means to you and go after it. Lastly, remember to put some money away for rainy days. Gary is a saver. Because of that, we were prepared for and successfully weathered the recession."
Gary added, "If the ambition is there and the drive is there, follow your dreams and don't give up. There were several times where we wanted to give up and go back to our jobs and let someone else worry about running the business, but we didn't. Looking back on it, we've always been great partners. In fact, it blows the minds of our family and friends that we've been able to have such a good relationship at home and work. Don't underestimate the importance of a having a good partner and good employees. Hire people you trust"
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