Roofer Chic is a brand-new Grand Island business, but owner Lindsay Blackwell is definitely not new to the roofing and home exterior business.
Blackwell has been in the business for 15 years, literally learning about the job from both inside and out. She started working in the roofing industry in 2004, shortly after the city of Hastings got hit by a major hailstorm. Her opportunity came at a propitious moment.
“At the time I got into it, I was a young, single mom with two kids. I was waiting tables, making $2.13 an hour plus tips. It was actually just an opportunity that fell into my lap,” Blackwell said.
The roofing company who hired her had a Grand Island office, but its ownership was out-of-town.
Blackwell began by doing “office stuff,” which included handling all the paperwork for the customers with hail-damaged roofs in Hastings and for her new employer. She worked her way up, becoming the office manager in 2009. That was also the year Blackwell took and passed the 2006 version of the International Building Code test.
“Starting in January 2010. the company that I worked for at the time, its license was in my name,” she said. “Whoever had the credentials for the test, the license had to be in their name.”
That was the start of continuing education for Blackwell, who said the latest version of the International Building Code is for 2018. Consequently, she is studying to pass that version of the code so she will continue to keep her credentials up and current as the owner-operator of Roofer Chic, which opened just this past July.
As for her previous experience, she said the end of 2009 was when her responsibilities expanded from handling all the office paperwork to also going to job sites.
“That’s when I started getting up on roofs and meeting with customers,” Blackwell said. Her expanded duties also included going over insurance paperwork with customers and performing inspections on the shingling work being done by the work crews. Another new duty involved coordinating the materials and labor orders for each job.
Blackwell said she played dual roles as office manager and salesperson through 2013. “After 2013, I went straight sales. Now, I’m doing all the office paperwork again because I have my own company.”
She decided to open her own firm, not just because of the extensive experience she has gained over the years, but because “I really enjoy people. I don’t like to just sit in an office, I like to be out and about, not cooped up.”
“You get to meet different people,” said Blackwell, who noted each customer has his or her own ideas about how they want their house to look after the work is completed. “I don’t live there. I don’t pull up and see the house every day like they do, so I like to make sure they’re happy with the final outcome.”
Roofer Chic is not a full description of all the services offered by her company, she said. In addition to roofing, the firm also does gutters, siding and windows.
“In our business, if you do roofing, you pretty much do everything on the exterior of the home, except the plumbing and electrical,” she said.
Blackwell acknowledged that some people find it surprising to find a roofing company that is owned by a woman.
“When I go to talk to people, they’re like, ‘Oh, does your husband own the company?’ No, I own it myself. It’s funny; a lot of people don’t expect women in such a business,” she said. “I just enjoy it, when I can take someone’s house from ‘old’ and turn it into something nice, new and fresh.”
She noted that whenever a homeowner gets new roofing, siding, gutters and windows, “you can totally transform the house.”
In addition to staying current with the International Building Code, Blackwell said, she likes to stay current with all aspects of the exterior home business.
She said she has taken numerous ventilation classes because she knows it is important to maintain proper ventilation whenever a new roof is put on a home.
“I’m not just putting a new roof on,” Blackwell said. “I’m putting a new roofing system on.”
She said Roofer Chic offers a lifetime workman’s guarantee for its shingling work. When her crew does its job properly, the roof will last for 15 to 20 years.
“Although, we do live in Nebraska and hail seems to like our area,” Blackwell added.
Before she opened her own business, she recalls doing a roof for one man’s house in 2011 and then having to reshingle it in 2012 because of hail damage.
“Not only did I do his house, I did (roofs) on the whole block,” Blackwell said.
She said her boyfriend, a farmer who also does home exterior work as part of her company, has a mother who owns a house in Omaha. That home got a new roof in 2017 and is now getting a new roof from Roofer Chic this fall because of hail damage.
“It seems like Omaha gets hit at least every other year,” Blackwell said. “It’s crazy.”
Because of the frequency of hail damage in Nebraska, it is important to know how to deal with insurance companies, she said.
“When I go and meet with a homeowner, I like to educate them,” Blackwell said. “I’m not just going to sign a contract and repair the damage.
“I’m going to build a relationship with my clients so they understand everything that is going on. I like to keep them informed so they understand the rules. That way, there’s no questions. It’s very important to keep that communication with your clients.”
Blackwell said she always gives her customers an information packet so they know what they need to do if they have storm damage to their home.
She said when customers get paperwork from their insurance company, they will often encounter terminology they do not completely understand. So she gives them written information that helps explain the general process and the basic terminology they may encounter from their insurance company.
Blackwell said that when it comes time to put on the roof, she will continue to talk to customers so she knows whether they will continue to be at home while the work is being done, whether they have small children living in the home and whether they have pets at home. It will be loud and noisy while the roof is being put on, so she likes to know where everyone will be while the job is underway.
She said she tells customers when the materials will arrive and she also tries to provide one or two days’ advance notice of when the crew will show up. That allows people to plan ahead and get their vehicles out of the garage or driveway so they are not blocked in, because “it’s not always easy to move that trailer once we get it set.”
Blackwell said that whenever she has a roofing job going on, she will climb onto the roof at least once — and most often twice — to take pictures and to make sure that the installation is being done properly.
She said roofing work will create some mess, which her crew will clean up. Until that cleanup is complete, homeowners need to check for any nails that may have fallen in their driveway or their lawn.
Blackwell said she likes to provide quality shingles, so she prefers to use TamKo or CertainTeed shingles. She visited a CertainTeed manufacturing plant this past January or February, and that allowed her to see how the company turns its raw materials into shingles.
CertainTeed has specifications about how its shingles should be installed, she said. So she took an online course in July and after passing the test, she was certified as a master shingles applicator by CertainTeed.
Blackwell said she plans to own and operate Roofer Chic for the long haul. She has joined the Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce.
She noted that she has an existing client base, with her previous customers in possession of her business cellphone number, (308) 390-3366, so they can continue to contact her. As far as marketing to new customers, she is happy to provide potential new clients with references from past customers upon request.
Blackwell said Roofer Chic will be local so she can personally meet and work with her customers, although for a roofing company, “local” is defined as within a 150-mile radius of Grand Island, which encompasses communities such as Hastings, Kearney and Lincoln, to name just a few.