At 15, he had embarked on a business career with a retail hardware store in Peterborough, Ontario. The following year found him employed in the Montreal hardware and paint store of James H. Douglas where he first became enamored with the prospects of the paint business. The ensuing romance fostered the development of a Canadian paint enterprise that has become synonymous with quality and leadership.
For the sum of twenty-five dollars, Walter Cottingham purchased a formula for Gold Paint in 1887 and established manufacturing facilities at 56 St. Peter Street, Montreal. He soon was able to supplement his own meager production through the acquisition of a number of agencies for British paints. Before long, he had gained a reputation as the most important jobber (wholesaler) of good quality paints in Canada.