Lakewood OH

Students paint houses, form individual small businesses

By Nicole Hennessy


To provide college students with hands-on work experience is the goal of Textbook Painting, a Lakewood-based company that works in Westshore communities as well as St. Louis, Pittsburgh and cities between them.

A Textbook Painting employee working. Photo courtesy of Michael Murray

Each summer, college students run their own branch of the painting company, acquiring skills such as estimating, customer service, painting and safety.

Bryan McCarthy of Lakewood and Nick Grandy of Bay Village both participated as painters last summer, and are now doing so as managers.

“I’ll be the manager for the Lakewood (and) Westpark area, and Nick will manage the Westlake, Avon Lake (and) Bay Village area,” McCarthy explained. “That’s our area, so we’ll manage all those jobs, we’ll book all those jobs and whatever money we make from that is basically ours.”

With these profits, the managers pay their painters and a percentage to Textbook Painting, the model for which the company’s president, Michael Murray, equates with that of a franchise.

Though this position doesn’t have to pertain to a student’s major, for Ted Bradfield, another student manager, it does.

At Miami University, he’s creating his own major. “It’s a mix between entrepreneurship and business law,” he said. In essence, running his own small business, he says he’s able to take what he’s learning in the classroom and apply it to his summer job.

Much of what the students paint is exterior work — a lot of deck staining and trim. Here and there, they might do garage doors or fences.

Each year, Murray tries to incorporate a charity project – last year’s was the painting of Martin Luther King High School. And each year for the past five or six years, his company has donated money to Fairview Hospital’s cancer center.

When he was in high school, Murray painted on a crew. In college, he managed his own painting business. And when he graduated, he and a friend started Textbook Painting.

“The experiences that I got, managing employees, working with customers … I felt like I learned so much from that hands-on experience, that I wanted to try to recreate that for other students,” he said.

For students interested in getting involved, there is a selective interview process. What Murray points out as something important is that it costs nothing for the managers to start their business. Everything they need as far as supplies, insurance and equipment is provided.

He says he expects this group of students to make anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000 during the summer.

“They’ll be the first ones to tell you that they’ve been working harder than most college students are,” Murray said. “They’ve been coming home for weekends and spring break, working on their business since February.”

While there aren’t that many opportunities to advance within the still-growing company, there are a few positions for top performers interested in sticking around. An Ohio State University student who went through the program was hired full time as a general manager for a store in Tennessee.

As far as getting customers, each student takes on the responsibility similarly — calling people, knocking on doors and advertising however they can.

“We also have a new online marketing campaign that started this year,” said Bradfield.

“But the cold calling is definitely our primary means of generating business,” Grandy added.


SIDE BAR: Textbook Painting is still looking for new recruits this summer. To apply, go to



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