On Business: College Works Painting

College student runs a summer business in Cary

CorrespondentMay 26, 2014 

TJ Ragsdale, a student at UNC-Chapel Hill, is learning the ins and outs of running a painting business during a summer internship with College Works Painting.

COURTESY OF TJ RAGSDALE

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    To get a free estimate on a home-painting project, contact TJ Ragsdale with College Works Painting at 919-723-8739 or tragsdale7@gmail.com.

— TJ Ragsdale is only 19, but he’s getting a sense of what it’s like to run his own business. The rising sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill is an intern for College Works Painting.

“I started in January, doing marketing and going door to door,” said Ragsdale, who was assigned to work in the Cary territory. “People have been really receptive. When you say door to door, people think you’re trying to sell a vacuum cleaner. I’m asking are they interested in a free quote.”

College Works Painting operates nationwide, teaching undergraduate students to manage their own business. The interns are trained in marketing and hiring and are fronted money for painting supplies.

Interns are expected to spend their spring semester marketing their business and lining up clients for the summer. By the end of May, painters need to be hired for the upcoming jobs.

Ragsdale helped paint a house earlier this month so he could better understand the process.

Ragsdale, who is pursuing a double major in business and economics, expects the experience to strengthen his application to the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School next semester. His earnings will help pay his tuition.

“Being able to say you’re doing this for experience and not just to make money is a cool selling point,” he said. “People seem to trust a college student who wants to work hard.”

By mid-May, Ragsdale had lined up 16 jobs for the summer, booking more than $50,000 in revenue. His goal is a minimum of 20 to 25 clients. For the first few jobs, a district manager will be on site as an adviser.

College Works’ prices are competitive, Ragsdale said. “We fall in the middle, price wise. We carry liability and full worker’s comp. We have the backing of a big name and we’re on Angie’s List. That brings trust.”

He said College Works is the biggest account holder at Sherwin Williams, which earns him a sizable discount on paint.

Ragsdale has already learned that success requires hard work.

“I was putting in 20 hours a week during school,” he said. “Now I’m working about 50.”

He expects to put in 60-hour weeks during the busiest parts of his season.

“It takes a lot of effort,” Ragsdale said. “You have to be persistent. Success doesn’t come easy. You face a lot of adversity. But that’s important. People quit because they’re not prepared to face problems.

“You have to get out of your comfort zone with any career you want to pursue.”

Ragsdale figures the experience he gains this summer will serve him well in the future.

“I want to go into consulting after graduation, and businesses will be coming to me with problems. ... This summer I’ll be solving homeowners’ problems, whether it be peeling paint or water rot. Mostly, I’ll be working hard and having fun.”

Do you know of a business in Apex, Cary, Fuquay-Varina, Holly Springs or Morrisville that you’d like to see featured? Email carynews@newsobserver.com.

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