Growing up the ninth of 11 children, Aaron White learned the value of hard work at an early age. It's a trait that's served him well as the owner of Aaron's Painting and Small Repairs in Columbia, Mississippi.
Columbia (claim to fame: birthplace of football great Walter Peyton) is a city of 6,600 located about 35 miles west of Hattiesburg and 120 miles north of New Orleans. Aaron's father Edwin H. White was in the real estate business there while raising eight sons and three daughters with his wife Elaine.
"My dad believed in work," Aaron says. "That's all we knew." He started helping on the family rental properties at age nine. Roofing, repairs, yard work, painting – whatever was required to keep those properties looking good, he did it. At 17, he struck out on his own in his favorite trade – painting. It's how he paid his way through college, earning an associate's degree in communications and business from Brigham Young University-Idaho.
"I love it," he says. "Each job is different. You make your own hours, you're your own boss. But mostly, I like to improve things. To take an old wall and hear the comments from the homeowners on how much better it looks when you're done. It gives me a high like nothing else."
A stickler for quality control, Aaron chooses to work alone or with a crew of no more than three. His uncompromising attention to detail has helped him carve out a niche refurbishing older homes. Good products, equipment and procedures are essential in this market, he says.
He recently invested, for example, in a tool called the Paint Shaver Pro, which he says helps him remove multiple layers of paint down to the bare wood much better and faster than traditional hand scraping, and without the potential damage of rotary sanders. He then sands the wood to what he calls a "Pinewood Derby car" smoothness.
Thorough caulking is the next step, and he says it's the most important in the entire process, along with selecting the right paint. By using Duration Exterior Latex, he says he can offer paint jobs that last multiple years even in the hot, muggy conditions of southern Mississippi. Providing the best and longest-lasting finish on every single job is important to Aaron as he carries on the legacy of his hardworking father and mother.
"When I finish a home," he says, "I want to make sure it's right, because our family name is on it."