Phoenix grad to pitch business idea to reality show panel of investors

A Phoenix High School graduate will try to sell his idea for a franchise graffiti-removal business to a panel of wealthy investors on a reality TV show on Sunday.

Paul Watts will pitch his business on ABC's new "Shark Tank" show, where just about anything might happen. He could get lots of cash, or the folks with the big bucks could tell him his dream is garbage.

Watts' 4-year-old Graffiti Removal Services, based in Sacramento, already has been prospering. He's won contracts from neighboring towns such as Galt, Rancho Cordova and Woodland. Clients are attracted by his ability to provide mobile service, match paint to cover "tagging," or blast it off with environmentally-friendly solutions. He also can cover walls with wax that makes future removals easier.

Watts will endure a high-pressure encounter in front of millions of viewers. He says he can't discuss the outcome other than to say, "I'm there to see if they can help me. I'm the first company in the nation to offer franchising and training and the demand is high because graffiti removal is a $25 billion a year business in the U.S."

"Shark Tank," which premiered Aug. 9., is an American version of a Japanese series called "Dragon's Den." Five entrepreneur "sharks" decide whether they will invest in each contestant's company and what share of the business they will get for their money. Before the show, contestants decide how much money they need to get from the sharks. They must get that amount or they get nothing.

Watts' business already has contracts with towns to remove graffiti on specific routes twice a week. He also handles calls from individuals who want tagging removed.

He can do these kinds of jobs on his own, but on TV he'll ask the sharks for investment cash to take the business to the next level — franchising — his younger brother, Brent, said in a news release.

"He is facing the sharks to ask for financial support," Brent Watts wrote. "But the sharks have other ideas, wanting to control his business and have him as their employee."

Paul Watts "doesn't take it lying down," his brother wrote. "He fights the sharks, going head-to-head in their tank for what he knows is best for him and his company. It'll be one of the best episodes yet."

Brent Watts and Chris Gallegos, his partner in the company, graduated from Phoenix High School together in 1990. Both teach at Washington Elementary School in Medford and work for the company in summers. They're also available to give four-day training sessions to franchisees.

"It has a lot of potential to expand," Gallegos says. "It's one of those things that are always going to happen, as long as there are kids around. I think the sharks will invest in it. If they want to buy it, that would be great, if they offer the right amount of money. I say go for the gusto."

Paul Watts says he believes his chances of luring the investment cash are good, because people who buy into a tested "business in a box" have a 75 percent success rate, while those who go it alone with a new idea fail 80 percent of the time.

Paul Watts says ideal candidates for franchises include seniors who have seen pensions disappear and Iraq veterans looking for work.

"Shark Tank" producers found Graffiti Removal Services on the Internet and contacted Paul Watts three months ago, asking him to send them a five-minute video of himself and sign a pledge of silence about the show until it airs at 9 p.m., Sunday on KDRV, Channel 12.

Paul Watts says he's able to do an instant, on-site, non-toxic paint-over with perfect color match, pressure-wash walls with biodegradable cleaning solvent (even blasting tags off trees without harming the tree) and polishing over glass etched with graffiti without having to replace the window, a technology not possible a few years ago.

He also cleans up "street spam" — those small, plastic signs stapled to utility poles and trees, blighting whole intersections.

"Graffiti sends a message of apathy and decay and removal sends the message that graffiti will not be tolerated," he says in a video demonstration on his Web site,

He says only about 10 percent of graffiti is done by gangs. The rest is the work of "wannabes." With fast, repeated removal, it doesn't come back, he says.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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