As a high school student, Ben Hildre’s life looked very much like that of the stereotypical teenage boy. He was carefree. He had few responsibilities. And the biggest decision he had to make was which parties he should attend on the weekends.
Then in December of his senior year, Hildre’s then-girlfriend came to him with some big news. She was pregnant. He was going to be a dad a lot sooner than he expected. It was a major wake-up call for Hildre, who described himself as the “typical dumb jock” type of guy who liked to have a good time all the time. Suddenly, even though he’d been dreaming of leaving Minnesota for California and pursuing an acting career, he realized that it probably wouldn’t pay the bills – not with a baby on the way!
“I knew I was kind of destined to work with my hands,” Hildre recalled. “So back in the early 2000s, I picked up a newspaper – that was when they still had job listings – and the first thing I saw was painting.”
Hildre went on the interview, got the job and dove into the work. After all, he had a new baby girl to support and he wasn’t going to let her down.
“It was a lot of hours and a lot of time but I enjoyed it,” he said. “And whatever it is I’m doing, once I get into it, I’m not just going to do it 50 percent. I want to go 110 percent.”
Hildre spent time working for other people and learning all the ins and outs of painting and then two years later, he started his own company, Minneapolis-based Bucket Painting, at the age of 21. He wasn’t fully confident he would succeed but he was ready to give it his best shot.
“I was like ‘we’ll see how long this lasts,’” Hildre said. “When I started, I had about a month’s worth of jobs. Now 20 years later, I’m strongly self-employed with four employees and we do inside, outside, commercial, residential – you name it.”
During that time, Hildre has learned a lot not just about his trade but also about who he is as a person.
“I’ve faced so many roadblocks and had plenty of days where I’ve lost money and still showed up the next day,” he said. “That’s how you grow.”
Running a successful painting company isn’t all Hildre has been up over the last two decades, though. In addition to getting married and having two more children, seven years ago he came up with an invention that would end up being a game changer for him. And he owes his oldest daughter a large chunk of the credit.
“One night, she and I were watching Shark Tank and she turned to me and said ‘Dad, you should create something,’” Hildre said. “Then the next day at the job site I was working at, I arrived and noticed that all the painter’s tape that we’d used the day before on the trim had fallen off.”
This – and the fact that taping off trim was extremely time consuming and provided very little financial reward – caused an idea to spark in Hildre’s head. He had a friend work on a few prototypes for him and with a little tweaking, the BUCKETEDGE was born. The multiuse painting tool can be placed on top of trim or other surfaces and prevents paint from dripping onto them – no tedious taping required. Using this tool has not only saved Hildre tons of time, money and frustration but it’s also been embraced by professional and DIY painters across the globe and can be found in paint stores, on Amazon and at large big-box retailers like Walmart. Plus, it’s currently attracting the attention of international buyers, a fact that amazes Hildre when he reflects on his journey.
“I’ve gone from being a kid who could barely finish high school and was looked down on because I was a painter to someone who may be getting a nice-sized offer from a European company for one of my ideas,” he said with a laugh. “That’s like the sweet cherry on the top of the cake and it’s been cool to have this adventure later in life.”
Whether you’re thinking of starting your own business or trying to turn an idea into an actual product, having the right mindset is key to your success. So how do you keep yourself on track no matter what life throws at you? Here are Hildre’s tips and suggestions for keeping your eye on the prize:
- Have a thick skin and be resilient: When you’re launching a new venture, Hildre said, you’re probably going to be attempting to do something better than somebody else. And people may criticize you for it, which can cause you to start second guessing yourself. Instead of letting it get you down, remind yourself of what’s driving you. “If you have good intentions in what you’re doing, then just know that you’re doing the right thing no matter what,” he said.
- Give back: Whether he’s dropping off lunch for employees of the paint stores he works with, sponsoring youth sports teams or throwing in a free extra service for his customers, Hildre is all about giving back. When you can incorporate kindness and selflessness into your business, he said, you’ll get so much more back in return.
- Relationships matter: When you own a business, making sales is critical for keeping your company afloat. However, Hildre said, your focus should be on creating long-term relationships rather than just closing deals. When you take the time to get to know your customers as people and not just as account numbers, good things will follow.
- Stick to your word: “My word is very important to me and my honesty gets me in trouble sometimes,” Hildre said. “But if that’s the other side of the sword, so be it.” Always be up front and honest with your customers so there are no misunderstandings or unclear expectations and if you say you’re going to do something, make sure it gets done. That’s how you build your reputation and it’s how you get customers to trust you – and to refer you to their friends and family.
- Embrace the struggle: Being an entrepreneur isn’t easy. It comes with late nights, challenging days and long hours. But by recognizing that the obstacles in your way can teach you valuable lessons and make you stronger, you’ll be better prepared for any unexpected situations that might come your way. That’s always a good thing, right?
To see the BUCKETEDGE in action, visit Hildre’s Instagram page here.
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