Is College Pro Painters a Scam?

Over the next few weeks here at My University Money we’re going to be taking an in-depth look at a few cool summer job opportunities (even though by this point you should probably have something locked up if you want to say ahead of the game).  For our first “profile” I decided to look into College Pro Painters (CPP).  I remember sitting down for a lecture a few times every year and finding a little flyer on my seat touting the CPP program.  There would be numbers like $30,000 in a summer bolded in large letters, and it talked a lot about entrepreneurship etc.  To be honest, I remember thinking that it looked interesting, but since I had a great job with the Canada Border Services Agency, I wasn’t really thinking I’d look into it too much.

That was pretty much the extent of my firsthand experience with the company.  I didn’t even really know anyone who worked for them or ran their own franchise, but it always appeared to be a good deal.  When I started Googling around on the internet however, I found no shortage of feedback.  The only problem is that it appears like peoples’ experiences are all over the map.  I did a few hours of reading and I was amazed the entire time about the broad range of experiences people had working under the CPP banner and running their own CPP franchise.

Is There A More Iconic Summer Gig?

For people that aren’t at all aware of what College Pro Painters is, the basic idea is that students make money by running their own small painting business in the summer.  The theory is that they hire other students, make use of the CPP brand name, resources, and training, then go about making great profits over the course of a summer.  I did my share of painting jobs growing up, so I am definitely aware of what it is like to scrape and paint for a sweltering twelve-hour work day.  It is certainly not easy money, but then again, few student jobs are what people would consider “plush”.  The one consistent comment that I read in every single review of the company is that if you wanted to make any money at all, you had to be very dedicated and hard-working.  This is not a job for the faint at heart.

Two Completely Different Employment Opportunities

To really talk about CPP with any accuracy, you have to look at it from two viewpoints: as a worker bee, and as a franchisee.  By far the most passionate responses about the program seem to come from people who had taken the leap into being a franchisee.  I should admit that this would have never even occurred to me as a post-secondary student to take the risks involved with running your own small business (which is essentially what being a CPP franchisee is) for my summer job, so kudos to anyone who is willing to take on that risk.

Running Your Own College Pro Painters Franchise

The Canadian website TalentEgg.ca has had a couple of great articles on becoming a CPP franchisee and what you can expect.  In addition to the firsthand accounts highlighted in the respective articles, the comments section is filled with people who claim to have had similar experiences.  Obviously the saying, “You can’t believe everything you read on the internet” – Abraham Lincoln , is about as true as it gets, but there definitely seems to be an overall pattern to CPP experiences.  Here are the jot notes I compiled from my reading:

  • Being a CPP franchisee is A LOT of work.  Make no mistake, running your own business and learning so many new skill sets is not easy.
  • CPP provides a lot of training and promotional materials.  In exchange for this they take 24%-30% of total sales (NOT total profits).
  • Start-up costs alone will run most people in the $5,000 range.
  • If you have no experience painting, jumping right into being a franchisee is a bad idea (common sense should probably tell you that one rings true).
  • Think about the average post-secondary student you know.  Do you want them working for you?  Do you trust them to work hard, take pride in their job, show up on time, and never let you down?  Hiring painters has got to be one of the hardest aspects of the job, and also one of the most important.
  • Running your own CPP franchise can teach you a lot of entrepreneurial skills and looks great on a resume.
  • There is absolutely no guarantee you will make any money as a franchisee, and many people reported making very little.
  • It appears that the longer you stay with CPP, and the more experience you gain, the more money you will make and the better your profit margins will become.  Again, this makes a lot of logical sense to me.

Here a couple of quotes from the comments section of the article on Talent Egg that were revealing to me in terms of revealing what the realities of being a franchisee would be.  Again, this is not saying it’s impossible to make money with CPP, but it is important to realize this isn’t like buying a couple cans of paint and a few brushes before hanging up a sign and letting money roll in:

It is true, College Pro takes a large chunk of the money coming in, after royalties, guarantee fund, admin fees it may be up to 35% initially, if you have high sales this % will go down. 

College pro talk about the 24% royalty but what they don’t mention is that after all the deductions they take from the Zees is amounts to roughly 29-30% of total sales. This is not including workers compensation, phone bills, gas for travel and cash you have to pay for ppl to cold call for you. Your labour cost is another 25-30% of your total sales. And your material can run you another 10 -14 percent of total sales based on your experience.”

I Just Want to Paint Dude

If you are just looking to get a painting job for the summer, there were again several different accounts online.  Many people said that they earned $18-$20 an hour while working with their buddies in an outdoor setting for the summer.  One could certainly do worse than that.  On the other hand, there were also many accounts of complete mismanagement and shoddy business practices where people worked for managers they didn’t know before hand.  It appears that oftentimes franchisees have felt the need to save money EVERYWHERE – including wages – and this leads to many conflicts.  I would be really leery of working for someone I didn’t know and/or had no track record in the painting business.  There is just too many risks for me considering the summer season is the prime earning opportunity for most students.

Who Needs a Franchise to be an Entrepreneur?

Here’s my take on the CPP business model: is there brand name and “organizational help” really worth all of the fees they charged you?  If you are the type of person who wants to take entrepreneurship by the horns, gather up a few hard-working buddies, and start a business, then do you really need these guys’ help?  I don’t quite understand why their training is any better than asking a professional painter of any kind to come help you once in awhile or paying them for a day to come help you with a new type of project.  IF (and that’s a huge if) I had the ambition to start doing my own thing, I would be awfully tempted to ditch the CPP business model regardless of a few of the cool success stories they have helped produce.

Does anyone have any firsthand experience with the program?  They certainly appear to have marketing down correct if my post-secondary experience was any indication.

20 Comments

  1. Canadian Budget Binder

    I don’t know much about the company besides they train and hire students. We’ve had them come to our door every single year since moving in our house. We’ve seem to some work in the neighbourhood. Personally, I’d just do the work myself if I had to go as far as to hire a student to paint. The other option would be to just find someone on kijiji because they probably will do just as good a job but for cheaper. If you want a professional then pay for a professional.

  2. Trevor Milgaard

    Scam company with a horrible reputation. Only via the use of elaborate corporate shells have the principals of this operation avoided being buried in lawsuits and criminal charges.

    30 percent royalties? are you kidding me?? Mcdonalds charges 8 percent and it’s,..well, Mcdonalds

    Basically they prey on naive students, pump them full of fantasy and then farm them for a few weeks in the summer for ridiculous fees.. What’s left of the kid at the end of the summer “isn’t the company’s concern”

  3. 3rd Year College Pro Franchisee

    Reading this article really made me understand the amount misinformation that is out there on the internet. As a third year franchisee working for College Pro, I can speak from experience(as a young entrepreneur, not painter) on the subject. This position is not for everyone, in fact it is not for most people. It means putting in long hours, 15-30 hours per week during the school year (business size dependent) and 40-80 hours per week during peak times of the summer. Anyone who has entrepreneurial experience will tell you that this is pretty standard, running a business is a round the clock job. Royalty rates are high compared to other companies (not 30% however), because the amount of coaching and support that is given to the young entrepreneurs throughout the process. Yes- there are start-up costs (as with any business), no- they do not need to be in the $5000 range. It is really dependent on the size of business someone is running and how resourceful they are. My biggest concern with your article is that it states that people without experience should not jump into this position. Starting up I had absolutely no experience and was given more than enough coaching/training to be a successful painting franchise owner. It is true, many people are unsuccessful and make very little profit. Generally this is the product of not putting in the work that is need to run a successful business and not using all the resources provided to you by the company. No promises are made amounts of money that will be earned or success of the business. Promises of a memorable summer, a lot of hard work and a steep learning curve are however made. As for myself, this has been both the most difficult and rewarding experience of my life so far. It is not for anyone who is not committed and passionate towards an entrepreneurial lifestyle.

  4. Kyle

    Thanks for the comment 3rd Year. I have received such a large amount of feedback both supporting and criticizing CPP that I honestly have no idea what to think at this point! It appears experiences differ by huge amounts.

  5. Concerned Student's Mom

    As a mother of a college student who started the process of taking on this challenge my concerns were enormous and I could not find any answers to these issues online or within the company profile. I ended up speaking with local paint suppliers and was not surprised to hear their personal experiences with well-meaning hard working local college students wanting to make some cash and get some real business experience.

    My concerns: 1. hiring kids (18 and older) to paint someone’s home correctly is not easy, they do not know how and cannot get that knowledge in a few days of training. So, the job that your name as the student in charge gets attached to every job. Inadequate prep, overspray, painting windows shut, drips on brick etc. a 1 year warranty does not make a difference when the paint peels 3 years later due to inadequate prep. and now your student’s good name in the community is not so good anymore by no fault of their own. Can’t control or trust every kid you hire when expected to hire 15-30 kids over a summer!
    2. They provide liability insurance-a kid falls off a ladder…have you been 2 stories up on a ladder? Kid breaks his neck, leg, the neighbors car…whatever. Liability insurance is all fine and dandy but the hurt or dead kid’s lawyer is going to sue your student, the homeowner, the ladder company, the paint company, the Student Painter Assoc. and anyone else who might have cash. So your hard working student is trying to finish college with a lawsuit hanging over his head….great way to start his life as an adult.
    3. No way to keep your grades up and run a successful business-only so many hours in a day and something will have to give.
    4. Hiring friends….bad idea-when you have to fire them for whatever 1,000 reasons people get fired. Just can’t paint well-who knows! Now your student has lost good friends for nothing. Mixing money and friendship is a bad idea but they tell you to hire friends.
    5. Damages to the property – again, they have liability insurance but your student’s good name in the community is now MUD because every time Mr. Jones comes home he can still see that paint stain in the crevices of his brick home.
    6. Equipment costs, gas, cell phone, travel time to meetings-all of these expenses that have to be put out long before a dollar is billed all on the hopes of billing enough to cover Corporate’s profit, supplies and employee salaries and all before your student makes a penny (if they ever do)….these are college kids-most without the means to cover those expenses especially for a summer job…it may be different if you were going to continue the business for a lifetime but this is a summer job.
    7. Internship that earns no college credit-NOT AN INTERNSHIP-play on words.
    8. Possible Profits-self explanatory.

    There are many more concerns, I believe these company’s prey on ambitious students using their goodwill and good name in their own community to make a huge profit from all the hard work the student puts in with a ton of liability, loss of personal time and relationships and the possible soiling of your kids good name. Local paint suppliers in our area have dealt with and had to help homeowners to correct poor paint jobs as well as seen good kids get taken financially and personally from this “so called” business experience. Run….Run Fast and do not get taken-if something goes wrong-and something will, your student will be a horrible risk.

  6. Kyle

    Those are great questions and insights concerned mom. Certainly a lot for a future entrepreneur to take into consideration.

  7. Anon

    Currently working as a painter. Perhaps I do not understand the flow of money for the franchisee, but what always seems to happen is that my franchisee low balls estimates on the amount of hours required. As such, when we go “over budget” our pay is cut by a percentage. Usually dropping from $9 an hour down to minimum wage. Part of that also means we are required to work 50 or 60 hours per week instead of 40, while only being payed for the 40, and College Pro does not provide overtime pay. I feel ripped off, but then again, I’m not a finances person.

  8. Kyle

    Ouch… sounds like a systemic issue!

  9. pissedfranchisee

    College Pro takes you under their wing, tells you about the amazing opportunity to run your business. They tell you start up costs are low, they tell you they will train you and be there every step of the way. What they don’t tell you is how much money they will suck from your business, and how they will put you into debt and ruin your finances. This who “program” is a scheme to make money off students. Yes some do very well, however others do not. You get assigned a specific area you can paint and market in, what if you are assigned a poor area where no can afford painting, or every rents their house. What if you are assigned an area with brand new housing and there is nothing to put paint on. What if you spend all your time cold calling and then fail an exam? College pro is terrible idea, you should save your time, money and sanity and just avoid apply to their attractive ads. Ignore their false promises and do your research before you sign your life away.

  10. jo

    Had the franchisee in south Lethbridge paint trim and stain a fence. The experience was AWFUL. It amouted to a total SCAM she sub contracted and the job was never completed properly, within a week the paint was peeling and the fence stain never cured. It still has not and the job was done in August and it is now Nov. 1. Even though the paint supplier agreed that the work was in all respects unsatisfactory CPP provided no satisfaction. I paid to have the surfaces properly scraped and sanded and the subcontractor refused to so , he smashed plants and refused to use drop sheets and would not clean up the messes he made. My place is now a total embarassment and draws negative comments. Do not use this company.

  11. ACTUALstudentANDfranchisee

    I am a franchisee, full time student (17 credits per quarter), AND I play baseball for my school; not mentioning that baseball takes up about 8 hours of my day alone.
    Hiring a college student is not the issue, hiring a worker with little experience is the issue. As a franchisee, you can’t trust everyone you hire but you have to. You could hire any painting company and get a 30 year old employee that will do the same work as a college student, noting that being a painter at that age probably resulted in not taking advantage of a program such as this one and having no college experience. No offense, since I do come from a family where I am one of the first to go to college. College pro isn’t about running a painting business, it is about running A BUSINESS. The coaching and teaching isn’t about painting, it’s about teaching general business skills that you could use later on in life. This program gives young adults like myself a chance to discover their likings in life. For example, what if someone entered this program and decided they hated business and saved themselves thousands of dollars by not taking business courses in college? Or what if they entered this program, decided they loved it, and went on to be a successful business owner later in life? This program isn’t about the royalty percentages, the start up costs, or even the profit. This is about the experience. The life lessons that we franchisee’s learn from this is incredible, whether it’s negative or positive. You truly get out of the program what you put into it. Anyone who does “average” profits around $10000 in a summer. I don’t know about everyone else growing up, but as a 19 year old student athlete that sure helps me pay my own rent and tuition. Most franchisee’s come out of college debt free, which is an amazing thing. Keep in mind that this is an average summer. AVERAGE. That means that you run 1-2 crews for the summer. That’s it. That’s nothing! Like I said, you get out what you put it. Of course people look at the royalty percentage and start up fees, but this includes equipment, classroom and field training, and you have a coach to go to through any problem. Of course people would think “why don’t I just start my own painting business?” College pro has a name. College pro brings us (franchisee’s) customers that we can add on to what we receive through our own marketing. Also people believe since we are college students that doing a bad job doesn’t help at all. College pro takes the positives and negatives for the reputation points, not the franchisee which bring us back to the learning perspective. This whole program is a learning experience for myself and for all of my co-workers. Oh, did I mention that all paint jobs come with a lifetime warranty? Not a 1 year warranty. College pro forces you to be smart with your money. As a student and young adult, how could you possibly handle $100,000+ in sales without any experience and coaching if you just opened up your own business?

    I could go on and on about this, but the people who get negative results at the end of their franchisee career are usually the ones that shouldn’t have done it in the first place and couldn’t put in the hours.

  12. ACTUALstudentANDfranchisee

    I also forgot to touch up on 2 things. When getting hired you sign a waiver stating that you are aware of the dangers of painting, just like you would for any other high risk job. The people going into this know what their getting into.

    Also about the part how students can’t get good grades and do this at the same time.. Like I said, I’m a student athlete. Juggling three things at once isn’t easy, but I make it happen while getting excellent grades. The students entering this position should be doing this for their own benefits and should be responsible enough to be able to do both while keeping their grades up.

  13. Anon

    I’m looking in to being a painter as well, but it sounds like from my research that they pay the same no matter how fast or slow you get the house done. Then if you take wayyyy too long your pay sits at minimum wage. I think they do this to make sure the franchise manager doesn’t lose all their money to labor costs. If you paint faster you would make more per hour.

  14. CP Parent

    Here is a reality check. College Pro hands out a lot of Koolaid up front about support and growing entrepreneurs and training etc. But nothing is free. A capital investment is required contrary to what they claim. The franchisee needs a work truck and equipment. that is about 5 grand. Then, if they haven’t got enough in sales downpayments they will need a float to cover the cost of paying their painters before the job is done. College pro takes their 30-35% off gross not net. with the remaining 70% gross, the franchisee pays for wages and other fixed and variable costs. Then they have to pay their “recoverables”

    Recoverables, this is where the scam comes in. College Pros says they “give” franchisees training and marketing support but they don’t “give” anything. they charge franchisees for mentoring (admin fees), all marketing materials and the required training junkets. They also push “marketing teams” as a way to drum up business and pay for the wages of the marketers up front but the franchisee has to repay this over and above royalties and all other costs to the company. then the franchisee pays all taxes.

    At the end of the summer, the franchisee needs to make about 90K in sales just to break even. they won’t tell you this. Instead they will tell you that worst case scenario your hardworking college student will come away with about 12K. I watched my ambitious and enthusiastic young entrepreneur work 70 hours weeks dealing with unhappy customers, employees who took full advantage and a ruthless company culture just for the privilege of having the spirit sucked out of him. He ended the summer 10K in debt, a failed semester at school, a lost season with his varsity team and an anxiety disorder. He has left university to work so he can pay what he still owes.

    In my experience, this is an exploitative corporate model that indentures vulnerable students.

  15. College Pro Business Coach

    As a previous franchisee and business coach in College Pro I wanted help shed some light on some of the concerns and mis-conceptions.
    College Pro as a company is within a larger, publicly traded franchise company. It is not a scam.
    Where the issues come up is the fact that College Pro will be the hardest thing anyone entering the program has ever done up until this point in in their life. Hence why it’s an entrepreneurial development company. Entrepreneurship isn’t easy.
    Therefore, the results vary tremendously as responsiblity is put solely in the franchisee’s hands. For this reason College Pro is an amazing program for the right person and a horrible program for the wrong person. The interview process is designed to help weed out the ‘wrong people’ but as we all know you can’t learn everything about a person in just three 90 minute conversations.
    College Pro offers all the training, materials and mentorship they can to a franchisee but in the end the franchisee will get out of it what they put into it. The royalties charged for this begin at 24% and significantly decrease the bigger the business.
    In the series of 3 interviews a candidate goes through there is also a call made to their parents, a 126 page Franchise Disclosure Document & a 26 page Franchise Agreement signed before anything is made official.
    With the amount of reviews online for this company over the last 45 years and it’s intent to be transparent, anyone entering this position should know what they’re getting into.
    Remember, the more succesful a franchisee is, the more succesful College Pro is. And training students and people who have never ran a business, poses an interesting challenge for the young corporate leaders within College Pro. A challenge that they must take seriously if they want to keep their jobs and make the positive impact most in their roles are so passionate about.
    On a final note, the horror painter and customer stories do come up in the odd case that the ‘wrong person’ is selected to run a franchise or the franchisee bites off more than they can chew. This can get messy and causes a lot of grief for all levels in the company, customers and the individual painters.
    To make sense of the variance in experiences I like to use Tim Hortons as an example and why you might choose to go to some locations and not others. Each store/franchise is ran by different people in different ways.
    As a potential franchisee, painter and customer ask lots of questions and make an informed decision!

  16. Jessica

    I worked as a franchise owner for two summers in university. I thought it was an amazing way to get real world experience. For me, it wasn’t about the money initially. I wouldn’t make that much working minimum wage somewhere else, so if I hit that I thought I’d be happy. I really just wanted a different experience and to build some of the skills. It was really tough, there were days that I felt in over my head and days that I wanted to quit, but overall I am so glad that I did that. I graduated with way more experience and stories to discuss in my interviews. Not to mention because I actually gave it my all, I ended up making more money that I had hoped. Nothing was promised to me, I knew it was a what-you-put-in type of thing. You have to be a hard-working indivudual. Without risk there isnt reward, this is real life. And I definitely was well trained and supported, I knew nothing coming in. If you don’t want risk, you don’t have to do something like this, but there is no other way to get the same level of experience and skill development.

  17. ACTUALstudentANDfranchisee

    Why is everyone ignoring the fact that this website was clearly set up by a College Pro shill in order to mitigate the outrage over their horribly unethical practices? As a recent franchisee I can assure anyone who is interested (realistically=nobody) of the dangers which are involved when doing business w/ these people. IF you are getting your house painted by them you can be reasonably certain that the franchisee who is managing the operation has practically no real training or experience providing the service which they are encouraged to present themselves as an “expert” in. IF you are a franchisee it is IMPERATIVE that you immediately do a realistic assessment of your prospects for making money with this company (basing this STRICTLY off the contract you have with them) and, if the projections are questionable (as they most likely will be), that you should CUT TIES IMMEDIATELY. Is there a more iconic multi-level marketing scam? It has historically relied on the naivete of young students and their modest bank accounts as a resource to be exploited in order to advance it’s own interests.

  18. Alexander Pezzutto

    I am going into my second year as a franchisee this year and would love to clarify some things:

    1. College Pro is by no means a scam. It is a franchised business opportunity made available to students. A franchise provides a system that, for those who follow it, has almost guaranteed success.

    2. College Pro does not take 30% in Royalties. It is 24% for the first bit to cover all of our training, but then drops down to as low as 3%. The average first year franchisee makes between 10k and 20k. However, for those who push themselves, work hard, and grow, they can do more. I did 75k last year in profit.

    3. The main key to success in this is doing what our coaches says and working hard. For those who do this, they do not fail. Every time I see people failing it is because they are neglecting one of these categories. For some young new franchisees, they may have to first learn what hard work is.

    4. For many of us, even if we don’t make a ton of money, the world-class training alone is invaluable. The relationships we make with other highly driven people is worth so much to me.

    So, for anyone looking to be a painter or marketer, I cannot guarantee your experience because there are certainly first year franchise owners who are figuring things out and may not be very good at it yet. But if you are working for a second year or more, you are almost certain to have a great job. Most of our painters makes 8-15k in a summer and some have made over 40k. I made about 20k as a painter before becoming a franchisee.

    If you want to know more, feel free to contact me on facebook at College Pro Painters Lethbridge.

  19. 2nd Year Franchise

    It’s interesting reading the miscommunication from what College Pro provides to people. The purpose of the program is to Educate Secondary level education students how to properly run a business, in which they do so. It isn’t for everyone, which causes people to miss their goal and become profitable. The major thing here is I’ve learnt more about running a business with College Pro than I have from My University Experience ( B+ Average), You pay 8 Thousand + dollars a year in Tuition for your education, With College Pro, you get payed / possibly lose $5,000 to learn about business. If a person can look at that model and see why it benefits them to run a business with College Pro, then you will like this experience. Yes, it’s hard at first because these skills are not taught in High School or by most parents but are needed to get a real jobs. These skills do not come naturally to you which is why its difficult your First year as a franchise, you’re learning skills that are really needed to get a job and get you up the ladder in the work force.

  20. Pam

    They scammed me, took my down payment and never finished the job

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