While most students were spending their free time relaxing over spring break, sophomore Alex Contreras began an internship with College Works Painting, a house-painting company founded in Canada and based in California.
Serving as a branch manager, Contreras got to choose where to base his operations for the company in Illinois, so he chose Galesburg. The internship offers Contreras a chance to gain hands-on experience running a business, recruiting employees from the Galesburg and Knox community, painting houses, managing marketing and handling customer service.
“It’s kind of an overwhelming experience in learning every aspect of the business world,” Contreras said.
College Works Painting gives Contreras the ability to operate his own small business with a big brand name backing him. The company trains its interns, helps with the start-up costs and offers any assistance needed to run the business. They will also provide house- painting training for Contreras and his employees as well as connections with another company that supplies painting equipment.
Contreras initially heard about the internship through Facebook, when his girlfriend’s friend was looking for people to hire. Interested in starting his own business someday, he contacted the company and applied for the internship. Contreras then worked his way through a series of interviews, starting with the district manager, followed by an interview with the vice president and ending with the president of the company.
Over spring break, Contreras went door to door in Galesburg from late morning till early evening. He collected a number of leads and phone numbers from local residents interested in the company’s services. If homeowners call him back asking for an estimate, he returns and shows them different areas of the house that may need a new paint job. Contreras bases the estimate on College Works Painting costs, which include labor and material fees. He estimates that he spends about two hours per visit.
In the summer, Contreras will start working on production. “Right now I’m just building a clientele and getting the word out there about my business,” he said.
Until summer hits, though, Contreras will continue to balance his time building the business, finishing classes and working for the Office of Admission. He spends most of his weekends working on marketing or doing estimates, adding up to around 20 hours a week.
“It’s been a lot of fun learning how to run a business, but it’s just been very overwhelming,” he said. “I’ve learned so much just from talks with supervisors and training.”
He’s also encountered some bumps along the road. Several potential customers have missed scheduled appointments or decided to take more time to compare prices of College Works Paintings to other companies in the area, sometimes opting for a competitor.
Still, Contreras feels the internship is offering him a rewarding experience. Managing his own business with College Works Painting gives him the opportunity to prepare for his future in the business world.
“I took the internship for the experience and the holistic aspect of learning how to run a small business at a young age. … It’s definitely something I want to continue after Knox,” Contreras said.