For many students, having a job when they are out of class during the summer months is not that unusual. But for Mabry Harrison, joining the Young Entrepreneurs across America internship program has not only given her a job, it is teaching her how to run her own business.
Harrison is a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she is studying mathematical decision sciences among other things. She joined the program, which selects students, trains them and then gives them the resources to run their own business, after a presentation in one of her business classes.
“I became involved when a speaker came into my class and asked if we would like to make money while running your own business,” Harrison said. “That really got my interest, so I went to the informational meeting and signed up. After two separate interviews, they hired me.”
In the program, students receive an exterior painting service to run including coming up with business plans, marketing plans, hiring employees, setting up appointments and seeing individual projects through to completion.
Harrison is the branch manager for the Lexington chapter of Student Painters, and she is completely responsible for making sure all aspects of the company are running smoothly. As part of the company, Harrison is responsible for giving estimates, scheduling upcoming painting projects and overseeing the workmanship of between 10 and 12 painters. Most of the employees are college-aged students as well.
As part of the program, Student Painters in Lexington has partnered with Sherwin Williams, which gives discount prices on paint as well as training for the student in house painting. Luis Gonzalez, manager at the Sherwin Williams in Lexington, said he believes the student painting program is a valuable teaching tool not only for owning a business but in being a good worker.
“I think it is a great idea to help young students learn how to earn a dollar,” Gonzalez said. “Today it is hard to find youth who are willing to work for something. It goes a long way in helping them learn from the business perspective as well as the work perspective. I stand behind this program, and I think it is good that they are showing the youth that life is more than just sticking your hand out. It teaches them the value of earning a paycheck.”
The purpose of the internship program is to give students real-world experience about the pros and cons of owning a business without having to financially burden themselves with the responsibility of an independently owned small business.
“There is definitely a lot more keeping track of everything than I thought,” Harrison said. “You have to make a schedule and stick to it or the business will get away from you. Also, I have learned you have to be very specific about what you want or don’t want. Sometimes people don’t understand, and it isn’t their fault if you haven’t explained it properly.”
Harrison said she has gained some invaluable insight about what it takes to be a small business owner. She said although she is just beginning her college career, she could see herself opening her own business one day.
“It is a wonderful program, and I have become very close with everyone else who is running their businesses,” Harrison said. “We get together and discuss issues, just like real business owners do. … I have really enjoyed it so far, and I have even considered having an entrepreneurial minor. In the future, I want to start out working for someone else, but whatever I end up doing, it would be nice if I could own my own business.”
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