It’s the promise of the American dream. You can create your own business and pursue your passion in the land of opportunity. But with big dreams can come big questions. Is it possible to survive and grow a business as a young entrepreneur?
The dream is alive and well and available to anyone with the passion to embrace the journey of entrepreneurship. Even when life throws you a curveball or two.
I arrived in America as a young girl when my parents left Albania to escape a civil war. I was excited to be in a country where anything was possible. Immediately, I immersed myself in the language and the culture, soaking up as much education as I possibly could.
I grew up with dreams of pursuing a career in law so that I could be an advocate for those without privilege and resources. But I soon learned that life doesn’t always go as expected.
Sometimes When Opportunity Knocks, It’s Not the Opportunity You Expected
In my senior year of high school, as I planned my path for a law degree, I discovered that I was pregnant with my first child. I knew in my heart that while I was still going to continue my education, even through motherhood, a career in law would not be possible while nurturing a young child.
Instead, I changed course. Without missing a beat, I pursued a business degree while balancing parenthood at a young age. Looking for a job at a time of an economic recession was difficult, but I had a family to support and I needed a good steady income.
When scouring the job listings, I found a job as a “roofing foreman” that paid a decent salary. Upon reviewing the high level responsibilities, I realized that while I had never been a foreman before, I was completely capable of performing the tasks – and performing them well.
Even though I lacked the specific industry experience and had never seen a female roofer, I applied anyway and showcased my business management experience during the interview. While the hiring manager was somewhat surprised to have a foreman applicant who wore lipstick, he recognized that I had the core skills to perform the job, and he hired me.
I had taken a leap and it changed my life. If I had hesitated to apply because this was typically a man’s industry or because I didn’t have specific industry experience, I would have missed out on the incredible entrepreneurial path that I’m on today.
Educate, Educate, Educate
In my newfound position in roofing, I became hungry to learn everything about it. I followed the team around, asking questions and taking notes. I researched everything, even calling the manufacturers and distributors, asking for materials and seeking out training on my own.
This wasn’t the career that I dreamed of as a little girl, but here I was. And I started to fall in love with an industry that I had never, ever considered. An opportunity presented itself, and I took it.
As I continued my business management education, I realized all the ways that this traditional roofing industry hadn’t changed in years. What if I could change everything that was frustrating about the world of construction?
I realized there was a better way to bring quality service and a seamless customer experience. And I realized I could be the one to do it.
Despite being a young woman and very recent college graduate, I took the plunge to create my own roofing company, Golden Group Roofing. And I haven’t looked back since.
Don’t Try to Be Your Competitors – Be Your Authentic Self
It’s tempting to watch your competitors and feel compelled to copy them, especially when you are just starting out. But don’t mute your own voice – because that’s what makes you different and stand out from the others.
I knew from the beginning that maybe some people weren’t used to seeing a woman or a young millennial running a roofing company. Most customers were familiar with seeing older males in the roofing and construction industry, and were accustomed to the old way of doing things.
I confess that it was scary to embark on an entrepreneurial journey that was outside of the norm, but I knew that the only way I could move forward was to be true to myself and find the clients that would embrace what we had to offer.
Since then, I’ve brought a new way of roofing to the industry that is completely streamlined and customer-focused.
Gone are the days where we send a roofer to climb up on your roof to give a “ballpark estimate.” My company uses satellite technology and cutting edge tools to give customers a complete plan and detailed price quote down to the penny – all conveniently done virtually with no in-person interaction necessary.
We completely removed the “sales pitch” and instead presented homeowners with a comprehensive plan of information and let them review to decide on their own.
We also revolutionized how customers start the project. Other roofing companies had traditionally required large deposits before beginning the project, which can be overwhelming for homeowners to pay a significant sum of money before a contractor even steps foot on their property. Instead, my roofing company doesn’t require any payment until the job has been completed to the full satisfaction of the company.
The result? Consumers were ready to change the way they make buying decisions and appreciated the quality experience – especially when it comes to a large necessary investment that protects their own home. With our innovation and focus on customer experience, my Golden Group Roofing company has grown to one of the top roofing companies in Massachusetts.
You Can Always Find Clients With a Little Hustle
It’s easier to get new clients when you already have a well-known reputation and word-of-mouth referrals. Like all entrepreneurs, I was worried that I wouldn’t find any clients willing to give me a chance, especially since I was so young and didn’t fit the traditional demographic.
In the beginning, it’s all about the hustle to make connections and let people know about everything you have to offer. You need to make every cold call, show up at every event, meet every potential partner, and send every email.
At first, you won’t know which channel is going to reach your ideal client. So don’t be afraid to spread the word far and wide. Embrace your community, both in person and online. You’ll meet connections and prospects as you go along.
While you absolutely have to create and produce an excellent product or service, don’t forget to spend a few hours a week on your marketing. That includes digital marketing! Have a great web presence and deliver real value with your digital content. Be intentional about building your brand personality both online and in person.
Over time, you’ll learn where to find your ideal clients and create more opportunities to connect and engage. Be sure to show up every week in several different channels, and be visible and genuine on all of them.
With every aspect of your business, you will be listening, learning and adjusting. And your marketing efforts are no different.
Every month, I ask my employees to sit down with me and give me feedback on how I’m doing as a leader. At first, it made them uncomfortable – because normally bosses don’t want to hear real feedback. But I told them that I can never improve if I don’t know what my strengths and weaknesses are. Because if I really grow this business, they can grow with me.
If you really want to continually improve and be the best at what you do, seek out real feedback from customers, partners, and employees and constantly evaluate your results. From the very beginning, I had to continually adapt my strategy if I wanted this business to survive and thrive. And it’s become a habit that has vaulted me to success.
Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back
In my story, the odds were stacked against me. I started off as an immigrant, became a mother at 19 years old, raised a young family during a recession, and started a career in a male-dominated industry with very little industry knowledge.
I realized you can either embrace obstacles or you can remove them, but you can never let them stop you from being who you are.
I wasn’t without my naysayers. Family and friends doubted that I could make it as a young woman leading male roofers in a traditional and slow to change industry. I didn’t have the advantage of twenty years of existing experience in the roofing industry – I had to seek out the training myself. Several people in the roofing industry told me that our new methods of detailed proposal and “consulting” process would never work.
And I had plenty of moments where I wondered to myself – is this going to work? Are we going to make it?
But I knew that we were revolutionizing the industry and creating a better product for consumers. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that it’s okay to take that big leap.
Don’t let fear hinder your growth – the world needs new perspectives and new creations. By staying focused on innovation and providing the best possible products and service to our customers, we’ve turned an unlikely story into the American dream.