Former Fall City girl means business with painting company

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FALL CITY - While most interns are lucky to get free office coffee as a perk of their temporary employment, Elyse Allen will receive her own business, a sizable salary and an impressive line on her résumé - give or take a few paint-splattered shirts.

Allen, 19, is a University of Washington freshman and one of a select group of interns who will participate in the College Works Painting program this summer. The 24-year-old program, sponsored by the National Service Group, is an intensive management internship that trains highly-motivated college-aged students on how to start a painting business. With supplies provided, interns are required to hire and train a painting crew, market their services and complete jobs during the summer.

Allen, a Fall City native whose parents own a business, says she has inherited an entrepreneurial spirit and is looking forward to the challenge.

"Really, the only way you can learn to manage a business is to manage a business," Allen said.

Allen, who attended Fall City Elementary and Chief Kanim Middle School, but then went on to Eastside Catholic High School, is a premed major and hopes to run her own medical practice in a small town some day. Allen will be the first College Works Painting intern to set up shop in the Valley.

"I chose the Valley because I grew up here," Allen said. "It's just a community feeling. When I moved out to Seattle, I completely lost the feeling of closeness with people around me. You never realize how beautiful the Valley is until you move to Seattle ... it's an excuse to come out here on the weekend."

Allen said she was just sitting in her chemistry class when a clipboard was passed to her with information on the internship. It immediately sparked her interest and after a competitive interview process, she was selected. Each year about 13,000 applications are received while only 750 interns are chosen. Most interns make about $700 per week on average. California-based College Works Painting supplies all the tools and training to 23 divisions in 23 states. Each business paints 20 to 30 houses each summer.

"Painting is not what I want to do with my life, but I want to own my own business. The ability to manage my own business is invaluable knowledge. I think it is a very valuable internship in that respect. Painting is not hard to learn and if you're going to learn how to run your own business, painting is a good field to start in," Allen said. "My dream is to retire on a horse farm."

The internship, which has received rave reviews from The Princeton Review, teaches students how to manage a business from start to finish. Each selected intern, or "manager," will oversee the marketing, sales, management and customer relations of a house painting business in an area of their choosing. Interns are provided with licenses and the insurance necessary to manage a successful business during the summer.

"It's pretty straight forward. It's easy to train people how to paint," Allen said.

What Allen is paid depends on the accuracy of the estimates she gives customers prior to signing a deal with them. If the estimate is accurate, she gets 18 to 20 percent of the profit.

"It's kind of a rewards system," she said. "Customers know that if I don't give an accurate estimate, they don't get charged for it."

In the "preseason," interns focus on marketing and lining up jobs for the summer, which Allen is doing now. She has booked two jobs so far.

Allen will hire her crew in May and start working near the end of May or early June through September. The crew will do only exterior work and prices fall in the middle range compared with professional painting services.

"You get big-company experience with the attention to detail of a little company," Allen said.

Allen will be supervised by a district manager who was in her shoes last summer. A fellow University of Washington student who did well in the internship last year was appointed as a district manager this year - Allen hopes to do the same.

"One thing we try to focus on is prep work. Prep work is over 60 percent of a good paint job," she said. "We try to focus on prep work because the paint isn't going to stick to the walls if you don't prepare right."

Allen said the program boasts a 97-percent satisfaction rate. She said customers don't sign the second part of the contract until they are completely satisfied.

College Works also offers full worker compensation and liability insurance, as well as Parker Paints, which are formulated for the climate of the Northwest. Parker is a Northwest-based company and has designed its paints with a special sealant to protect against water.

Valley residents interested in a paint job from Allen's team may reach her at (425) 941-9989.

Staff writer Melissa Kruse can be reached at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at

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