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College students run summer painting crews

New Hampshire Union Leader

June 16. 2013 8:57PM
Aseeb Niazi, 21, of Manchester, left, helps paint an oceanfront home in Hampton on Thursday with Amir Parajuli, 19, of Manchester. Niazi runs his own painting business through College Entrepreneurs Painting Services. (MICHAEL COUSINEAU / UNION LEADER)

Decked out in shorts and a T-shirt, Aseeb Niazi was too busy improving the look inside a million-dollar oceanfront house last week to enjoy the view outside.

The University of New Hampshire student was leading a five-member painting crew in his summertime business venture.

"This job is essentially teaching me everything," said the Manchester resident, who serves as chief marketer, supervisor and accountant. "I want to run my own business in the future, and I'm learning every aspect."

Forty miles inland, UNH student Tyler MacKay is pursuing a similar painting venture in Bedford, writing job estimates and supervising painting crews.

"It's a stepping stone for running my own business," said the Bedford resident.

The 21-year-old students have signed on with separate national college painting firms that provide students training and a cut of the profits while letting them learn valuable lessons about running a business.

They already found real life isn't as neat as their book-learning world.

"In my opinion, they're sky and earth," said Niazi, a Manchester resident working with Collegiate Entrepreneurs Painting Services. "With book learning, everything's clear-cut. There's a script for everything."

For MacKay, the former captain of Bedford High School's football team, is studying marketing and entrepreneurship at UNH's business school.

"A lot of it is sales, sales and sales," he said.

But with his painting business with College Works Painting, he said, "it's about building up relationships."

Competitive advantage

About 75 percent of recent UNH grads indicated on a survey that they had worked at an internship or gained other career experience prior to graduating, according to Venky Venkatachalam, associate dean of academic programs at the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics at UNH.

"Relevant real-world experience adds significant value to the students' career, starting with job search," he said in an email last week. "In this competitive world, showing that a student has internship and/or real entrepreneurial experience provides a competitive advantage over others in their job search and beyond."

Profit, performance

Flipping burgers or lifeguarding at a local pool might fill some college students' summer work schedules, but not for these guys.

Last week, Niazi, a junior double-majoring in international affairs as well as international business/ economics, was painting inside a Hampton house on a gloomy morning, joined by four other painters that included a friend from their days at Hillside Middle School in Manchester.

House owner Mary Jane Solomon was impressed with Niazi.

"He really sold me when we met," she said. "We loved his enthusiasm."

Niazi said he is expected to make 20 to 30 percent profit on average, but that depends on how well he manages his material and labor costs. He recalled one job where a ladder damaged a roof.

"That's coming out of my bottom line," he said.

MacKay said he learned in high school to juggle playing sports, holding a job and performing in the musical, "Grease."

"My best performance is when I'm busy," he said.

Future plans

MacKay last week was on site of his second painting job so far this summer, with more potential clients saying they wanted to commit later this year. His commission starts at 8 percent and escalates at certain revenue targets.

Bedford home owner Fred Hurwitz said he had solicited multiple estimates, with MacKay's neither the highest nor the lowest.

"The fact he was local was in his favor and the fact he was younger doesn't bother me as long as he's capable of managing his subcontractors," Hurwitz said.

Niazi, who hopes to make between $8,000 and $10,000 this summer, said he works 60 to 65 hours a week. MacKay, who hopes to make $10,000 to $15,000 this summer, said he works 40 hours or more.

Both painting bosses hope to start their own businesses.

Niazi said he wants to work overseas for a while, "but I want to open a business here, maybe an import-export business of some sort."MacKay hasn't fine-tuned his plan yet. "I don't have any specific business I want to start, but I want to market toward the college market," he said.

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