The pandemic has had devastating effects on many in our community, in many different ways. One, perhaps positive result though has been how it has served as a motivating factor for many people to make changes in their lives and careers. To be fair, some of these changes have been forced on people…employers going out of business, temporarily closing, eliminating positions, or employees simply having to leave work to support family needs.
But others have been influenced to actively make changes…leaving less desirable roles or even toxic workplaces, taking a leap of faith to finally pursue a dream, or changing entire career paths just for something new.
No matter which side of the line you may find yourself on, it doesn’t make the situation any less scary or intimidating.
If you are in such a situation or have been wrestling with making a change in your life, not necessarily even work or career-focused, then I think you may find Leah’s story a source of inspiration.
Personally, I’ve made dramatic career changes, shifting from one industry and career to another, so I appreciate how monumental the effort is. But my story is nothing compared to Leah’s!
Leah Link was hired even before officially graduating from university. She went from graduation right into her new job. A job that then spanned the next…wait for it…26 years! And not just the same job, but the same employer.
Leah taught high school Spanish for 26 years.
Being a lifelong learner herself, throughout her tenure, she spent a few years via nightschool getting two master’s degrees as well as additional certifications, in addition to all of the regular continuing education and training that comes with the job.
Of course, being a teacher is about so much more than just classroom instruction. Like many teachers, she sponsored or was involved with multiple clubs, committees, and events, many of which extended into whatever “after hours” were left.
“I was pouring myself into it,” she said. “And it was hours and hours and hours of after school and on the weekends. Just no time for me and no time for family.”
One of the greatest challenges any of us will ever face is doing something we love, but recognizing that we need not just a break, but a full change from it. For Leah, that moment came even before the pandemic hit.
Life Is What Happens When You Are Making Other Plans
So with stepping away from teaching and no specific direction forward…life decided to provide direction. Leah and her boyfriend David found that their house needed a new roof. Leah did what anyone would do, she went online and started reaching out to local roofing companies to get quotes.
She also started talking to people she knew and got a referral from the gentleman who handles their lawn. Looking at these various estimates, Leah was blown away at the differences between them. This led to conversations between her and David, himself a licensed plumber who has also been involved in various construction projects.
They talked about licensed professions in Illinois and how roofing was one of those special fields, even among licensed trades, that “not everyone does or can do.” Seeing an interest, David encouraged Leah to look into taking some classes, telling her, “Listen, you can do anything you want. You were a teacher your whole life. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to be a teacher again. This is your time.”
If nothing else, she figured that she’d learn something new, which is always exciting, and just maybe find a new career. Leah decided to go for it, and she was hooked. After three months of intense study and education, then testing, she added “licensed roofer” to her list of credentials.
Leah wanted to start off by first giving back, so the first job for Leah’s Roofing was for the Village of Island Lake with a charitable donation of re-roofing the dugouts at the baseball/softball fields.
How well do you know your roof? Spend some time looking at your roof. Too often, people don’t realize they have roofing trouble until they see signs of it inside their house. So periodically walk around your house, looking up at your roof, which most of us so rarely do, and see what you notice outside.
Do you have ice forming on your roof? Do you have any areas where shingles look like they’re buckling a little bit? Are shingles missing? Inside, do you see any water on the surface of your ceiling near your attic? Do you have any sort of attic insulation? Do you have proper venting?
If you find you have a problem or even think something might be an issue, get a licensed roofer out to take a look.Leah’s Tips for Homeowners
Playing to Your Strengths
Leah may be a licensed roofer now, but she also has little desire to spend any more time up on a roof than needed. Her role is spent mostly with feet planted firmly on the ground handling marketing, sales, scheduling, customer service, and educating customers on different materials and products. Although Leah has her feet firmly planted on the ground, she does use technology to create an experience for the homeowner that they normally may not have. Using a drone, she captures aerial views as well as still shots showing the before, during, and after of each job.
After decades as a teacher, communicating with students, parents, administrators, and other teachers, she has developed an extremely valuable skillset. She is able to communicate clearly with her customers, but also clearly and quickly with her crews on the job. She’s able to take on all of the front-end, direct customer contact while freeing her crews up to focus on their strengths.
As for the physical, on the roof work, for that, she turns to her well-trained and experienced crews, some members of which have 15 or more years of experience. And this is where her extensive fluency in Spanish has paid off.
Paid off though in different ways than you might expect, leading to some unexpected and wonderful results.
Leah has been helping some of her crew members pursue advanced training and certifications by helping them overcome some of the language barriers that have hindered them for years.
“At the very foundation, the Hispanic population is a big part of the roofing industry,” Leah says. “I felt drawn to this industry because of the people that really serve the industry. Now I am helping others that have been in this trade for years, but have struggled at times with the language barrier. Being able to communicate in both languages makes a big difference. Now, I am utilizing the skills I acquired over time, in school, studying abroad, etc., but in a way that also helps my crew members as well as the homeowners.”
Guess you can take the educator out of the classroom, but you can’t take the teacher out of the roofer.
Shattering Glass Ceilings By Raising the Roof
Leah isn’t alone as a female roofing company owner, but it is still a predominantly male-dominated industry. She acknowledged that it hasn’t been without challenges, but also nothing she’s been unable to overcome.
She attributes some of that to having a thick skin and being self-confident. But more importantly, it’s that she is doing this for herself, building this business from the ground up, and it is hers. And that is a powerful tool for overcoming challenges.
At the end of the day, when you meet with customers or walk into vendors’ booths and hand them your card and show them you’ve done your homework, that you mean business, you gain a lot of acceptance and earn a lot of respect.
And for those who can’t see past that, she’s not going to lose any sleep over it. As she says, “There’s somebody else out there.”
Her Company, Her Rules
Starting your own business can be extremely exciting and liberating, but also incredibly scary and intimidating. But one thing that can help you power through the moments of doubt is that you get to shape it with your vision, deciding what’s important to you, how you want to spend your days, and position the business.
Leah says, “I’m just trying to do something every day to set myself apart. And again, besides the obvious, that’s it. It’s very simple, honest, accurate, good customer service, quality, workmanship, cleanliness. It’s very simple. We can help with anything from a roof repair to complete tear-off and replacement. Additionally, we work with soffits, fascia, gutters, siding, skylights, and more.”
Perhaps it’s because Leah experienced all of this firsthand so recently herself, or perhaps it’s the teacher in her. Either way, in talking with her, you sense a strong foundation of responsibility and accountability there.
You believe it when she says that she’ll return your email or your call, that she’ll be there on-site if you want to meet, that she’ll bring every sample book she has if you want, and answer every question you have, however long it takes for you to feel comfortable.
As a homeowner who has replaced a roof, I know how intimidating the experience can be. It is certainly one of the costlier investments in your home, and in many cases, may outlive your own ownership of a home. Having to replace or reroof a roof is nothing anyone wants to undergo, but at least having another roofing provider to choose from is always welcomed. Be sure to check out Leah’s Roofing to learn more.
ABC Supply (in Wauconda but also Crystal Lake), Aldi, El Norteno, Los 2 Primos, Ruby’s Beauty Salon, Tacos El Norte, and a huge shout out to the Village Hall of Island Lake, who has been extremely supportive.Some of Leah’s favorite places in McHenry County.
Leah’s Roofing Sweepstakes
We are connecting with the winner to arrange awarding prizes and will post on the sweepstakes page. Thanks for all who entered and stay tuned as well be announcing our next sweepstakes in a few days!