Primed for Surface Perfection
Pink Elephant, LLC elevates painting and flooring solutions for all spaces
Pink Elephant, LLC, located in Peabody, Massachusetts, provides commercial and residential painting services and installs commercial and industrial flooring in facilities throughout the New England region and also New Jersey.
Phellipe Sousa wanted a memorable name for the business he started in 2011. He brainstormed on animals and colors, he prayed on it, and then it came to him: pink elephant. “My daughter Bella, who was just three at the time, kept repeating it: ‘Pink elephant, pink elephant!’” he says. He decided that he was on to something and went with that name. Today, his office is filled with dozens of toy elephants given to him over the past decade.
The company’s projects range from corporate offices, factories and hospitals to retail stores, multifamily residential buildings, schools and churches. Its staff assesses needs and recommends paint and flooring solutions to architects and owners for new construction and renovation projects. Founder and Co-Owner Phellipe (pronounced “feh-LEE-pay”) leads the firm’s commercial services division.
Pink Elephant also serves as a subcontractor for residential painting projects and helps homeowners achieve stunning paint results. Co-Owner Sheila Wynne manages the residential division, assisting homeowners with color and design choices. She is their main point of contact from project ideation through completion.
“We’re always listening to our clients,” Phellipe says. “We collaborate on projects with them, provide assessments and then create a plan of work that fits their needs.”
“We sometimes hear from them about their bad experiences with previous contractors,” Sheila says. “We guide them through the entire process, working with them to fulfill their requirements and achieve their expectations.”
She says determining the best choice for a project often involves walking clients through various options. For example, when appropriate, Pink Elephant’s team recommends elastomeric coatings for building exteriors, which provides waterproofing and energy-efficiency advantages, among other benefits. For commercial and industrial projects, intumescent coatings are often suggested due to the product’s fire-retardant properties.
Pink Elephant has been recognized with multiple service awards by Houzz, a popular online platform for home remodeling and design.
Phellipe moved to the U.S. from Brazil with his dad, Rosivaldo, when he was 12. He learned the painting trade while working for his father. “I was his apprentice and translator,” Phellipe says. He inherited his dad’s entrepreneurial mindset and started his own business doing what he knew best: residential painting.
Pink Elephant opened its doors not long after the Great Recession hit. It didn’t occur to Phellipe that he was starting a business in less-than-glorious economic times. “We didn’t think about overcoming the odds, we just worked hard,” he says.
Sheila had just graduated with a nursing degree, and she and Phellipe were newly married. She decided to put her scrubs aside and help him to pursue his dream of becoming a business owner.
“I’m definitely more reserved than Phellipe, so it was a big step for me,” she recalls. “But even as a kid I always enjoyed home improvement projects and working with my hands. At Pink Elephant, I get to use my love of decorating and design.” Her organizational abilities and affinity for finance were critical skills in helping the business to grow, especially during the first five years. She moved into her leadership role in 2017, or as Phellipe puts it, “she stepped into the light.”
Sheila also came up with the tagline for Pink Elephant: “Don’t let your painting needs be the elephant in the room.”
Pink Elephant plans and executes commercial painting projects of all sizes, with a focus on minimizing disruption to clients’ operations. “It’s crucial that businesses be able to function while we are working,” Phellipe says. “Proper planning and scheduling are essential. We typically perform our work around our clients’ hours of operations, often in the evening. We establish a designated service entrance for our crew and do our best to accommodate clients’ needs.”
In 2018, the company completed a specialty painting project for Apothecare, Inc., a pharmaceutical lab in Brockton, Massachusetts. The project required adherence to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines. This included extensive preparations before any renovation work in the existing space could commence. “We first treated the cement walls with an antifungal product to kill any microbes,” Phellipe explains. This was followed by the application of a special primer to seal the concrete before the wall was enclosed in Sheetrock. Finally, Pink Elephant’s crew applied an epoxy finish over the Sheetrock.
Commercial and Industrial Flooring
Phellipe is passionate about the growth of his business. “We pursued commercial projects intentionally to expand our business,” he says. “Large projects are the perfect fit for our professional strengths: financial management, quality control and scheduling.”
Pink Elephant started its industrial flooring division in 2015. “We’re experienced in the application of epoxy, urethane resins and cementitious urethane systems for commercial and industrial facilities,” Phellipe says. These coating systems are durable. They provide heat- and chemical-resistant solutions and increase longevity for floors with high foot traffic and heavy machinery use. They are typically used on steel handrails and I-beams, and on concrete, drywall and masonry.
“The key is applying epoxy coating systems correctly the first time,” Phellipe says. “Companies strive to increase their productivity. Therefore, much importance is placed on efficiency for the entire production and manufacturing facility. That’s where we come in: evaluating specific project needs, recommending the right systems and then correctly executing the application.”
Several of the company’s industrial flooring projects have involved installing cementitious urethane floor systems. The blend of cement, aggregate and other fine materials forms a strong and durable floor that is impervious to water and liquid chemicals. “This is a specific system and challenging to apply correctly. It requires several multistep procedures,” Phellipe adds.
Pink Elephant recently installed epoxy flooring at the 50,000-square-foot manufacturing facility that was remodeled as a bakery for Jessica’s Brick Oven Inc. in Methuen, Massachusetts. “The original facility had a dairy-brick floor with numerous grout lines between the bricks,” Phellipe says. “Using the existing brick surface would have meant a bumpy ride for the bread carts.” So, the bakery’s primary need was a smooth surface to allow for easy transport. This alteration was also critical to maintain the bakery’s cleanliness and ensure longevity.
“We recommended a cementitious flooring system because it allowed us to add a quarter-inch of thickness to the floor and fill in the grout lines of the original dairy brick, instead of pouring cement over it. This approach will give them an easy-to-maintain, non-skid floor that will last a long time,” Phellipe says.
Character, Service and Barbecue
Phellipe hires for character: integrity and a strong work ethic. “I believe that character is something we’re brought up with and that skills can be taught,” he says. “Character can’t be bought.”
In the field, Pink Elephant has a six-person epoxy crew and runs paint crews of three to five people. “As a leader, I do my best to set the example by serving them, in the field and from the office—sometimes by picking up a paintbrush and working alongside them,” Phellipe continues. “We serve each other and our clients with a good attitude and with humility. Skills and experience may vary, but as people, everyone in our company is valued equally, and they appreciate that.”
During the summer months, Pink Elephant’s leaders like to throw a barbecue at the end of a long day, especially during big commercial projects. They invite the other contractors to join them, making them feel welcome and wanted. “Our Foreman, Dener, is also our Barbecue Master,” Phellipe adds.
Phellipe and Sheila also recognize crew members on their birthdays by delivering a cake to the job site. “It makes them feel special and remembered,” Phellipe says.
Serving the Community
The team serves the community by donating services on renovation projects for local nonprofits and religious organizations, such as the Beverly Bootstraps Thrift Shop in Beverly, Massachusetts, and Netcast Church in Danvers, Massachusetts.
Sheila says it’s definitely rewarding being an owner. “It draws on lots of skills I enjoy,” she elaborates, adding that although she and Phellipe are no longer married, they remain “amazing business partners.”
“Sheila took charge and learned this business,” Phellipe says. “It’s been extremely gratifying to see the leader she’s become while managing the day-to-day operations and overcoming challenges in a male-dominated industry. She is fearless!”
He concludes: “For me as a leader, the most rewarding outcome is seeing the fruits of our work come to life—the quality of our work for clients, the expansion of our business and the great people I’m surrounded by.”