Plaster Fun Time, a popular destination for greater Boston parents to bring their kids, has sold to a new owner. Chris Ling is the new CEO of the plaster painting business which has nine locations across greater Boston and a manufacturing facility. The business was sold by the Selvaggi family for about $2 million.
Mark Selvaggi started Plaster Fun Time with his brother, sister, and mother in 1995. The family learned about plaster painting in the 80s from mother, Nancy Selvaggi, who worked as a high school disciplinarian. She designed plaster painting sessions for troubled high school students as a way “to provide an activity where everyone could be a winner," said Selvaggi. In 1995 Mark Selvaggi had just graduated from the University of North Carolina and began speaking in earnest with his brother Joe Selvaggi about growing the plaster painting concept in Boston. The first location was opened that same year in Reading, MA. After several years of organic growth, a break came for the family when they opened a location next to an after school arts center in Natick. Families dropped pupils for lessons while the adjacent Plaster Fun Time became a favorite hangout for families. Sales at that store paved the way to opening other locations and establishing a manufacturing facility.
By 2013 however, Selvaggi found himself increasingly alone in the business. Brother Joseph Selvaggi would pursue a political career while his sister Laura wanted to spend more time raising her family. Selvaggi considered buying out the equity of his family members. Another side of him was enticed at the idea of starting a different career. Ultimately, a family decision was reached to sell the business, and they went about the process of preparing an exit. The family hired Juli Rossi, a business intermediary at Park West Business Partners in Kansas City Missouri. She looks for buyers who are beyond the curious stage and demonstrate commitment to the acquisition process. Rossi says, “the ones who respond quickly and follow up are the ones who close deals." She says Chris Ling was 'very responsive' regarding his interest in Plaster Fun Time.
Ling valued that Plaster Fun Time had both manufacturing and retail businesses. The Selvaggi family had decided to invest in a manufacturing facility after once being threatened by news of a supplier going out of business. Ling believes the multiple revenue streams make the company more stable than if it were retail alone.
By summer 2015 Ling had taken over full time. After selling the business Mark Selvaggi wanted to help other entrepreneurs organize their financial lives. He now works as a financial advisor for New York Life in Waltham, MA. He often talks with business owners about figuring out what their companies are worth. Selvaggi admonishes against some of the practices by uninformed business owners, for example, valuing the business at a multiple of annual revenue. Instead, he advises owners to calculate EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest Taxes Depreciation and Amortization). "This is the standard way to calculate a price across different industries," said Selvaggi. He also advises current business owners to think carefully what life will be like after selling the business. For him, there were several adjustments required to feel normal in his new life. Selling a business “is a mixed bag of emotions," says Selvaggi. “I’m happy and stress free, but of course there are times I miss it.”
When owners retire, it’s a life or death decision for the business