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West Chicago

College student getting lesson in running Wheaton-based business

Wheaton native Chris Stiegal, a freshman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is running his own painting business.
Wheaton native Chris Stiegal, a freshman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is running his own painting business.

WHEATON — At 18 years old, Wheaton native Chris Stiegal is juggling college classes, a social life and a burgeoning painting company.

Stiegal is a freshman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Through his participation in College Works Painting, a business internship program, he is gaining valuable experience in operating his own business.

“To say that I’m an 18-year-old freshman in college who ran his own business is something amazing to have on my resume,” Stiegal said during a recent telephone interview.

College Works Painting provides students with the know-how to start their own house-painting companies. The goal of the program is to teach future business leaders how to successfully operate their own enterprises by providing real-world lessons including information on how to find clients, hire staffers, and set budgets and estimates for each painting job.

Shortly after beginning his first year of college in the fall, Stiegal heard a presentation in one of his classes about the program and believed it was something he needed to pursue.

“During the presentation, they told us this was something that would improve our communication skills, our business presence and general understanding of what it’s like to run your own business,” he said.

Stiegal was one of nearly 4,000 applicants for the program. He went through five interviews before he was selected to take part in it. Stiegal and about 30 other interns went to Madison, Wis. for an intensive two-week training course where they learned the ins and outs of operating a start-up business.

“There was so much energy during the entire process, it was just something great to be part of,” he said.

As a College Works Painting intern, Stiegal said he can purchase painting supplies through the organization much cheaper than if he purchased it on his own.

“We’re able to keep our costs low and pass that on in savings to our clients,” he said.

When the spring semester started, Stiegal hit the ground running to market his business in the Wheaton area. He and some temporary employees canvassed multiple neighborhoods to offer exterior painting services beginning in late May.

By the time warmer weather arrives, Stiegal will have trained painting crews ready to tackle the outsides of houses and business across the Wheaton area. Stiegal said College Works Painting only insures their interns for work on the exteriors.

As a Wheaton native, College Works Painting assigned that area to Stiegal.

“They generally place you in your hometown because the feeling is you’re more comfortable working in your home town than in an unfamiliar environment,” Stiegal said.

While Stiegal is passionate about his painting business, he said the program has already taught him what it means to hear the word “no” as an answer.

“I think it’s a huge thing. I knock on doors and people tell me no all the time. I’ve learned to shrug off the negativity. You can’t get sad or down like that. You can’t have one person get you down,” he said. “I’ve learned to keep attempting to close the sale and be confident in my abilities.”

For more information on Stiegal's painting business, contact him at 630-967-4365 or

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