Sealing the deal

(First published in the April 19, 2018 issue of City Pages)

Charles Rose is just a junior in high school but already a successful business owner


Charles Rose, in front of his asphalt sealing machine at his Action Asphalt Maintenance shop in Rib Mountain.

You might have seen Charles Rose’s company at work last summer. Action Asphalt Maintenance sealed around 100 driveways, plus parking lots for multiple businesses around the Wausau area. Rose is poised to expand the business this season with new equipment.

He’s 17 years old now. He was 15 when he launched the company. And on Tuesday, April 17 in Milwaukee, Rose was given the Wisconsin 2018 Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Because of the seasonal nature of the business, Action Asphalt is, in one regard, the perfect type of business for Rose to run. The sealing season occurs in the summer months, which leaves plenty of time the rest of the year to focus on his school work at Wausau EGL Academy, the engineering charter school at Wausau East High.

The summer of 2017 was his first full season running the company, staffed by himself and a few crew members (high school buddies who help him out). They did 650,000 square feet of sealing, and used 8,200 gallons of sealer. This year his goal is to do 1.5 million square feet. Rose bought a new sealer machine and a high tech line drawer, which uses lasers to create the yellow stripes that tell cars where to park.

How did a high school student get into this line of work? It seems odd at first, until you hear Rose talk passionately about the technicalities of asphalt and sealing and pavement, delving deep into the specifics of mixtures, and finally stopping himself with a charming apology for geeking out over his line of work.

Rose started by helping a family friend line a parking lot, and the more he helped that friend, it dawned on him: “I thought, why can’t I start doing this?” Rose says. “So here we are today. It’s turned into this big thing.”

The entrepreneurial spirit started early with Charles, says his mother Tami Rose. As a child, when most children were setting up lemonade stands, Charles built a small neighborhood enterprise selling pancakes via a makeshift pancake stand.

For his 16th birthday present, he asked to attend a conference in Nashville related to asphalt. Shortly after that, he and his mother bought an asphalt sealing machine in Missouri—the machine that now sits in their small shop in Rib Mountain.

Charles even has dedicated himself to being eco-friendly. Many sealers use a tar base that’s bad for the environment, and is even banned in Milwaukee and Madison. He uses a mixture with polymers that’s a little more challenging to work with, but less toxic.

For Charles, the business presents a challenge, and he’s been able to use some of his work in his studies at the EGL Academy, where he’s in his junior year. “For me, it’s not even really about the money, though that’s nice,” Charles says. “I just really like the challenge of doing a good job, and seeing how big I can grow the company.”

In the future, he says he might expand the company into one that does paving as well as sealing. But for now, how’s his own company working out as a summer job? “It teaches you a lot of life skills too, problem solving,” Rose says. “It’s cool to start your business young.”

The Young Entrepreneur of the Year award is a program of Junior Achievement of Wisconsin, the Department of Public Instruction, and the professional services firm EY (Ernest & Young). The award comes with a $1,000 scholarship. This is the second consecutive year that a student in Marathon County has received the top honor. The 2017 recipient was D.C. Everest High School’s Laney Hughes, for her custom embroidery business Shallocat.

For information about Rose’s company, go to