Twenty-two-year-old Filip Matic had always "wanted to be my own boss," he says. In 2018, Matic, now a senior at the University of Milwaukee, got the chance to start his own business when he signed up for College Works Painting's internship program.
The 6-to-8-month program gives interns the chance to start a local branch of College Works Painting, an interior and exterior housepainting company, for which they hire their own contractors and find their own customers. It provides them with resources like sales training, marketing materials, and insurance, and offers feedback as they build the business.
While College Works' interns find varying degrees of success, Matic was able to grow his business far past that initial eight months. It's now in its third year, having officially separated from College Works and rebranded as Matic Custom Creations. Between November 2020 and June 2021 alone, MCC grossed more than $110,000.
"It seems like a lot of the kids are in it just to do it for the summer and never do it again," he says. But Matic was always in it for the long run, including making sure he built long-lasting relationships with clients. "I still have clients from College Works that call me to do stuff."
Here's how Matic was able to build a business that brings in six figures while still in his early 20s.
Over the years, Matic tried finding customers in numerous ways. "My first year, I was doing door-to-door leads," he says. "Those leads were good, but they were kind of hard to get and took a lot of time."
Early on, he created a profile on HomeAdvisor, an online platform for finding local home services, but found the site's fees for finding leads too were large and that customer service was unresponsive when he needed help.
In early 2020, Matic created a profile on Thumbtack, an online marketplace of local professionals. Soon after, the company reached out about partnering: For $500, a Thumbtack expert would coach Matic on adding details to his profile that would help it pop up in appropriate client searches. The money would then be added as a credit to Matic's account, which he could use to pay for conversations with prospective customers, or "leads," as Thumbtack calls them.
The deal helped Matic find success on Thumbtack. In 2020, 9 of the 13 jobs MCC performed came from the site, with Matic paying a total of $1,400 for conversations with leads. "I think the high end was $75, and the low end was $15 or $20" per accepted lead, he says. Considering his company is now pulling in tens of thousands of dollars, it was a worthy investment.
While Matic focused exclusively on housepainting during his first year in business, by the second, he had expanded the company's offerings, adding carpentry.
"We would do a painting estimate," he says, and customers would then say "we're [also] looking to get our new deck filled." He realized if he expanded his subcontractor base, the company could easily take on more projects.
Video by Stephen Parkhurst
Even though his company is now independent from College Works, because of their years-long relationship, it still refers clients looking for carpentry to him.
Matic also recently started taking projects across state lines. "We just painted an apartment complex in South Dakota," he says. His painters were willing to make the trek: "Wherever there's money, people are willing to go."
Matic's biggest piece of advice for anyone looking to start and grow a business: "Always make sure you do a solid job with your customer," he says. "You never want to leave a job where you know a customer won't give you a five-star review."
"Sometimes you may end up losing money on a job," he says, "but if that means they refer you to someone else because [they're happy], that's what matters."
This story has been updated to clarify the process Matic used to find leads on Thumbtack.
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