Washburn student: Painting to earn business skills

Washburn University student Kyle Emerick is comfortable throwing a football for his university team, and this summer, the enterprising entrepreneur will become comfortable with a paint roller in his hand.


Emerick, 20, is starting a painting business as part of the College Works Painting program in Irvine, Calif.

College Works recruits college students to serve as interns in its national company, mentoring them in starting their own businesses. The company offers support as the students hire crews and paint houses during the summer, Emerick said.

A company representative gave a talk at Washburn in Emerick’s accounting class, he said. When he heard he could make $9,000 in the summer while learning about marketing and other business issues, Emerick applied and was hired.

“It was a five-step interview process,” he said. “It’s a real-world experience as far as managing your own company.”

College Works provides training, which began in mid-February and has been held in Kansas City. Along with talking about how to hire painting crews, marketing and teaching a five-step selling process, Emerick said, the company teaches the students to paint and about Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations.

Although Emerick hasn’t been a painter before, he isn’t worried.

Matthew Stewart, CEO and co-founder of College Works, said the skill level to paint houses is more about hard work and constant inspections throughout the process to ensure quality isn’t suffering.

“We insulate everybody from the really difficult challenges in our industry,” he said. “They can’t go above three stories, only single-family homes, primarily exterior. When we do the interior, it’s the walls, not the cabinets. Exteriors of houses aren’t as difficult.”

Stewart considers his company to be a “training business.”

“Basically what we view as the product is the resume of the college student,” he said. “We put them through quite a bit of training. We have people who travel around the states and help them with their quality. The quality of the job is as dependent on the person inspecting it as the person actually doing the work.”

Emerick plans to hire two crews of four to five people each to paint for him. He already has secured three painting jobs for $15,000.

Emerick, a high-energy, outgoing man who has a definite idea of his future plans, said the experience filling multiple roles in the painting business will serve him well in the future.

“In high school, I knew I really wanted to be a business guy,” he said. “I’ve always liked being independent. I love the control of having your own operation going.”

In fact, he started his first business in his hometown of Papillion, Neb., a suburb of Omaha, as a second-grader going door to door selling candy. He laughed as he recalled trying to hire his step-dad to act as “muscle” for the business when older kids were taking the candy for free.

His father didn’t take the job, but Emerick began learning the challenges of working for himself.

He is now a sophomore in the Washburn School of Business, majoring in finance and accounting and minoring in leadership. He also plays for the Ichabods’ football team and says, “Football is my real passion.” Immediately after college, Emerick said, he plans to be a financial management officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. He attended Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Va., last year.

Someday, he said, he will return to the Midwest and start his own business.

The opportunity to intern for College Works will give him those skills, he said. But although the practical marketing and selling skills are important, Stewart said, it is something else too.

”I think really that the top skills they’re getting are organization skills, time management skills, interpersonal skills, communication skills — the more foundational elements of being a leader,” he said. “One-third of our interns want to be engineers, not business people. Twenty-five percent want to be lawyers. Maybe 25 percent want to go into business. They’re looking for skills that will apply to all those different professions.”

College Works will hire about 2,000 interns from 19 states to manage painting teams. The company takes a portion of earnings from each home painted but compensates interns and makes the up-front investments in supplies and training.



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