Last summer, while his friends were packing for prestigious internships, Max Rhodes ’09 was driving to the local Sherwin-Williams store to buy exterior house paint. Come fall, his summer spent painting houses had made the enterprising history major $60,000 richer and the head of his own painting business.
This success was made possible by the help of College Pro Painters, Rhodes said, an international corporation that franchises exterior painting businesses to college students on one-year contracts.
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“I had tried founding my own business before,” he commented, “but failed miserably. College Pro really made the difference this time around.”
Rhodes started his first company during his sophomore year of college. The business — which ultimately was unsuccessful, he said — offered high school students in his home state of Oklahoma seminars on adjusting to collegiate life. The project failed not for a lack of trying, Rhodes noted, but rather for a lack of support.
Jordan Diediger, College Pro’s regional general manager, explained that this basic lack of support is what usually prevents “young self-starters” from establishing lasting businesses.
“College Pro provides the necessary guidance and financial support to help students be successful in their businesses,” Diediger said. “[But] this isn’t an experience for everyone. You really have to be the right person for the job. You need to be hungry, need to be ready to work hard.”
As part of College Pro’s selection process, Diediger meets with each applicant up to four times, but he only accepts about one-quarter of the students. After the decisions are made, the new franchise owners attend a number of College Pro training seminars in preparation for the job. They are also expected to raise $3,000 and procure a car before the start of the summer, said Diediger.
“It’s not an easy job, and it can go horribly wrong if the wrong person is set to do it,” Rhodes said. “College Pro has been banned from some college campuses because of this.”
But it can also be an incredible opportunity for the right person, he added.
“I wasn’t successful with much before I worked with College Pro,” Rhodes said. “I didn’t make the debate team, didn’t get into the a cappella group I tried out for, got rejected from tour guiding. College Pro really gave me an opportunity to reinvent myself.”
Building on the positive experience, Rhodes and Diediger have started recruiting Yalies for the coming summer. So far, they have chosen about a dozen new franchise owners, Diediger said.
One new recruit, Joey Mensah ’12, said he is looking forward to the summer.
“I’m on the men’s soccer team with Max and he told me about [College Pro],” Mensah said. “I’m really looking forward to learning about leadership and managing people.”
Indeed, Rhodes said, far from simply watching paint dry, his demanding experience over the summer has been valuable proof of his employability.
“I ended up with a really great resume bullet,” Rhodes said. “And it enabled me to get the job that I really wanted, which was a consulting gig with Bain & Company after I graduate.”
He added, “More importantly, I feel like I walked away from it just a much more complete and responsible adult.”
College Pro was founded in Thunder Bay, Ontario, in 1971. It currently operates in 29 American states and seven Canadian provinces.