We Do Lines: No, It's Not What You Think

We Do Lines literally paints lines in parking lots. How three guys took a clever name and a simple concept and built a successful company with franchises up and down the East Coast.

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Line up: We Do Line's Chris Couri, Dan Rella and Tom Darrow now have 17 parking-lot striping franchises up and down the East Coast.By their own admission, Chris Couri, Dan Rella and Tom Darrow aren't exactly in the most exciting industry in the world. But a clever name and a unique growth strategy has helped them transform We Do Lines into a successful franchise company with 17 locations up and down the East Coast.

Before you conjure up images of Al Pacino in Scarface, it's not what you think -- We Do Lines literally paints lines in parking lots.

Couri, 35, Rella, 55, and Darrow, 45, say the parking lot line-striping industry is a $600 million market in a $29 billion parking industry, which has traditionally been dominated by construction crews, asphalt and sealing mom-and-pop operations. Now they're staking their claim. They started the Ridgefield, Conn.-based company in 2008, when they were looking to add services to their existing landscaping and irrigation businesses -- since then, they've turned We Do Lines into a successful franchising company, which charges a franchise fee of $25,000 and helps franchisees learn the line business at We Do Lines University.

As Couri explains, it all started with "a kick-ass name."

When you think of franchises, you think of McDonald's and Subway. Is there really a market for franchises that paint parking lot lines?

We think so. It's a very fragmented industry. A lot of people were doing it as a part-time business model, making good part-time money. You can do a lot of work by yourself or with a helper. We wanted to make it more scalable because the real issue is that there isn't a ton of motivation for anyone to grow these businesses. And once we realized it could be treated as a full-time business, we were all over it. Why not build it up and leverage the economies of scale?

OK, about that name. When people hear it, do they snort... with laughter?

After Tom had the idea to do the striping, we were sitting in an office doing our due diligence and thinking about what we'd need to do if we were going to turn this into a scalable business model. I said that we need a kick-ass name -- a great name, because the business itself is not that exciting. And We Do Lines just kind of came out. I was somewhat kidding, but I remember the look on Tom and Dan's faces. They said, "That's perfect." I said, "We can't call it that. Really." But the more we thought about it, we thought that maybe we could. It's edgy and memorable, and we figured it would help stretch our advertising dollars. And so we registered the name and logo and literally our first few customers were a day care, a nursery school, a church. The name makes a difference in that people don't forget it, but there has been no negative connotation. We get a lot of laughs, and when we call and say the name, there's inevitably a chuckle at the other end of the phone line, but it's been a great ice breaker and people remember us and check us out on the website.

Why franchise? The parking line industry seems like a pretty basic, uncomplicated business.

It can be, and yet it's a lot more involved than people might suspect. We have a We Do Lines University at a training center in Florida where we bring down franchisees, and for one week we do field training, which includes a two-day safety course. A big part of what we do is safety. It's a dangerous business -- you have to secure the area and make sure nobody's going to get hurt. Incidentally, we have the We Do Lines name and logo on all our parking cones, so we use that as a branding opportunity. But there's a lot to it, especially if you're painting a parking lot for the first time. While it's fairly easy work to repaint parking lines, laying them out involves a lot of geometry. There isn't a lot of room to hide in this line of work. If you get a parking lot layout wrong, people notice.

We also work with the fire marshal, to make sure the parking lot has a fire lane, and the parking lot has to be compliant with the American Disabilities Act.

So are you competing with companies that put down the asphalt for parking lots?

Actually, a lot of asphalt guys are our clients. They'll refer us, and we'll refer them. A lot of them don't want to do the parking lines. It's that philosophy -- you do what you do best and outsource the rest. There's a lot of merit to that and it's a good fit. They know that once we show up and do the job, they'll get paid. We're a necessary piece of the parking lot puzzle, and usually the last piece of the puzzle.

Names: Chris Couri, Dan Rella, Tom Darrow
Company: We Do Lines
Ages: 35, 55, 45
Location: Ridgefield, Conn.
Founded: 2008
Employees: 5
Revenue: Undisclosed

Tags: best business names, best company names, business names, Chris Couri, company names, Dan Rella, Entrepreneur Spotlight, franchises, parking lots, parking lots painting, parking lots striping, starting a business, Tom Darrow, unique business ideas

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