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Entrepreneur pivots to roofing while overcoming major tragedy

Hannah Vogel’s path toward owning a roofing company hasn’t been easy. But she persevered. Now she wants other women to see the possibilities in the field too.


Hannah Vogel attributes the firm’s small size and customer-focused approach for its success.
Hannah Vogel attributes the firm’s small size and customer-focused approach for its success.
Photo by Stefania Pifferi
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Hannah Vogel always intended to go to law school after graduating from Florida Gulf Coast University. After all, several of her relatives run Vogel Law Office in Naples. “I thought that was the path that I kind of had to take,” she says. 

But once she obtained her undergraduate degree in legal studies in the spring of 2020, she started to think differently. The pandemic had just emerged, and she began to question whether she wanted to go to law school, especially if she’d have to attend virtually. 

A conversation with friend James Hartney set her on a different path. Hartney was a structural engineer who often encountered roofing companies while creating engineering reports for insurance firms. He saw opportunity in the roofing field, especially in areas like business operations and organizational principles, which he mentioned to Vogel.

Since he preferred to concentrate on the technical side of things rather than the interpersonal aspects of running a business, he asked Vogel if she would be interested in handling functions like marketing and client relations for him if he ventured into the roofing business. Her family had experience starting their own businesses, so she knew she could tap into their entrepreneurial expertise. 

“My dad opened Midwest Reprographics, a local blueprint company,” she says. “And my grandpa was a developer who had come down here in the 1960s. He opened Vogel Law Office and practiced as an attorney, but he also opened Midwest Title.”

The latter business, she says, pioneered a new model of title insurance in Naples, where her grandfather hired lay people to do the work previously done by lawyers. That, in turn, provided better-paying jobs to people, primarily women. “Throughout the years, my grandpa provided a lot of career opportunities for women in fields like law and real estate that were primarily dominated by men at that time,” Vogel says. 

When it came to the nitty gritty of roofing, she began researching and reading books about the industry. She’s also taken courses through the State of Florida (“Florida has some great classes when preparing to get your roofing license”) and received plenty of first-hand instruction.

“With roofing, you have to get both in-the-field and outside-the-field experience,” says Vogel, 27. “James taught me a lot, and I would be at every job with him asking questions and seeing how things were supposed to be done. …You need to have the field experience so you can visualize the process and also see how to correct things if a job ever goes south or a mistake is made.

“And the book work is just as important as the field work,” she continues. “As a roofer, you need to not only know about the actual roofing process, but you have to know about current Florida building code, regulations and laws that pertain to roofing.”

Hannah Vogel decided to not become a lawyer, like some relatives, and instead get into construction and roofing.
Courtesy image

Vogel and Hartney eventually became equal partners in the Naples-based endeavor, which they called Vogel Construction Group. They grew the business together for a couple years.

Then, in 2022, Hartney was tragically killed in a car accident.

“It was right before Hurricane Ian,” says Vogel. “It was really hard. … We were friends, but also we were business partners. I talked to him every single day for almost three years, so it was a huge life-changing event for me.”

She wasn’t sure she even wanted to continue the business they had built together. But then she started thinking about two salespeople who had been involved with the endeavor since the beginning. “Our motto was always that we want to bring in good quality people,” she says. “The two guys had been with us since the beginning. They relied on this company; they stuck around during the slow times and the busy times. And so it kind of changes things, once you have people relying on you.”

She decided to continue on, narrowing the focus of the business and renaming it Vogel Roofing. “It was really challenging,” she says. “I had to learn a lot of what James was doing, because I was used to splitting the work with someone else. So it was a huge learning curve.”


Build trust

Vogel Roofing had four full-time employees and ended 2023 with revenue in the seven figures. Hurricane-related business not surprisingly added to the company’s bottom line, but Vogel also thinks the firm’s small size and customer-focused approach have contributed to its success.

“James and I always spoke about this in the beginning: We’re sending people into other people’s homes, and to me that is huge,” says Vogel. “That’s a huge trust thing. … So we’re very selective when we bring people on the team, because we are like a family company. We’re a little family.”

The company uses the same three crews for its projects to ensure quality work and consistency. Three project managers oversee the work while it’s being done. 

Getting a roof repaired or replaced can sometimes be a chaotic and confusing experience for customers. Vogel wants to keep her clients informed and aware of everything that’s going on. “You’re literally ripping people’s roofs off,” she says. “I try to make homeowners feel comfortable, safe, and cared about.”

The company has completed 120 roofs since its original founding, and clients appreciate working with a roofer interested in relationships.

Maya Ismailova is one of the satisfied customers who recommends Vogel Roofing to others. A sales associate for Coldwell Banker in Naples, Ismailova first had the company work on her own roof after meeting Vogel at a Naples networking event. She got quotes from several local companies, but Vogel Roofing responded quickly with a reasonable quote for the work. “I really enjoyed working with [the company],” says Ismailova. “Hannah is young, but she’s so mature and is working for long-term relationships. It’s not just do a one-time roof and she’s done. She’s doing amazing customer service. And I’m in customer service, so I know how it works.”

Ismailova admits to being a little skeptical at first of a young woman in a traditionally male-dominated field. “But she’s better than those older guys,” she says. The real estate agent has now recommended the company to her buyers and sellers. “Any of my clients asking me for a roofing company, she’s number one,” she says.


Women at work

Vogel has pushed her way past any questions she might have faced due to her gender. “I really had to work hard in the beginning to show people that I knew what I was talking about, that I could, you know, walk the walk, too,” she says.

She thinks her track record and the success of her company over the past several years helps quash any doubts people might have. 

There have been struggles along the way, but now Vogel wants to focus on empowering other women in the construction industry and business in general. “That’s my biggest goal right now,” she says. “I’m not only trying to get women to start their own businesses, but I really want them to know that the construction industry is an option for us.

“In high school and college, no one ever told me about the construction industry. I had such a different perception of it. And I didn’t even realize it was as profitable as it is and accessible. … We need people to go out and fix roofs, electrical, plumbing, all of these things. It’s never going to go away. So I’m a big advocate for the trades but also women in the trades.”



Vogel was recently invited to join the board of National Women in Roofing’s Southwest Florida Council. Through her involvement with that organization, she hopes to show girls and women that there are potential career paths in construction. The Harness & Heels Facebook group for women in roofing has also served as a valuable resource for her. 

Her biggest piece of advice for women looking to get into roofing or other construction-related fields? “Have a good support system and really lean on other women in the industry,” she says. “The success I’ve found is because of other women, not just because of me.”

Entrepreneurship isn’t easy; it takes a lot of perseverance. “In the beginning when mistakes or something bad happened, I would get very deterred and fixated on the little things,” she says. “But I read something like, being an entrepreneur is like, how many times can you get smacked in the face and basically knocked down, and how many times will you be willing to get up? I always try to tell people the first year, even two years, is really, really challenging. And you just have to keep your faith, be optimistic, and keep learning and growing. … Just keep going. Don’t give up.”

 

author

Beth Luberecki

Nokomis-based freelance writer Beth Luberecki, a Business Observer contributor, writes about business, travel and lifestyle topics for a variety of Florida and national publications. Her work has appeared in publications and on websites including Washington Post’s Express, USA Today, Florida Trend, FamilyVacationist.com and SmarterTravel.com. Learn more about her at BethLuberecki.com.

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