Roofing isn’t the most glamorous of trades: it’s either too hot or too cold most of the time and it’s physically demanding work at heights where dirt and grime are constant factors.
So, perhaps it’s a surprise to find an all-female roofing company prospering in the Edmonton area and growing with plans to shift to the United States.
Robyn’e Garton launched Pink Belts Roofing Company in 2010 and it’s just kept growing.
“We’ve had 700 per cent growth,” says Garton who is based out of St. Albert in northwest Edmonton and services the region.
“And now I’d like to move into the United States, along Hurricane Alley, I think there’s lots of opportunity there for businesses without all the taxes and issues we face here in Canada.”
After working as a property manager and dealing with contractors on a daily basis she got the idea to start her first roofing company, Roof Surgeon, in 2010 which is still running.
“I figured if I started off with roofing, everything else would fall into place,” she says.
“So now were doing flooring, tile, painting, pretty much everything.”
Since then she’s surged ahead.
“On my journey I met a lot of women in the trades with their Red Seal, scaffolders, roofers, plumbers and electricians but they were always the first to get laid off an economic downturn,” says Garton, 47.
“There’s a discrimination factor there because they’re women. I started thinking about that and then decided I’d branch out and form an all-women roofing company — and it kinda went through the roof.”
She said roofing is a quick study and most of those coming out of the trade schools end up in flat roof and she targeted residential roofing to start.
“We do some commercial roofing now, as long as it’s pitched, we still don’t do flat roofing,” she says.
She has a core crew of 10 to 15 and hopes she can get most of them back but is pretty confident she can add when needed.
“I’m actually trying to get them to start their own businesses because I’m at the age now where I don’t want employees, I really want to help other women get into business,” she says.
Roofing is a hard business, she says, and it’s the heat in the middle of summer which is the hardest part on the job.
“It does become unbearable,” she says but says there’s also some push back in the industry.
There are millions of women out there, I just want to help them get into this business
— Robyn’e Garton
Pink Belts Roofing Company
“When I started Pink Belts I was the laughing stock. People thought I wouldn’t last a year. You just put up with it. You have to have a thick skin in this business. I’ve had death threats, hate mail, my tires tampered with. All that tells me is that I’m shaking up the industry which is what I’m supposed to do.”
She’s also working to ensure PPE is made for women and is on track to develop a tool belt which fits women better since most are designed for men.
“There are millions of women out there, I just want to help them get into this business if they want,” she says.
“And I think we can do that in the U.S. by setting up businesses with them because a lot of them are tired of working in the service sector.”
Despite it being a male-dominated field in Alberta, Garton says there’s a big upside.
“I think being an all-woman construction company and roofing company is an advantage,” she says.
“In residential it’s usually the woman who makes the decision and they trust us. They know they aren’t going to get gouged or taken advantage of by a rotten contractor. There’s a lot out there. In fact, that’s another area of business for me, I’ve been working with a lawyer on the mediation and litigation side. This is a passion for me.”