CEO of Santa Rosa’s ARS Roofing and Gutters wins North Bay Influential Women Awards

Letitia Hanke is a 2022 winner of North Bay Business Journal’s Influential Women Awards. Here’s her story.

I started out as a musician while still in college, but I was pretty broke as the gigs weren’t paying the bills.

In my junior year, I applied for a receptionist position at a roofing company. Over eight years, I worked my way up to manager. After my boss trained me to do actual roofing work and I had acquired a great deal of hands-on experience, I got my own contractor’s license in 2004 when he retired.

As a Black female roofer in a predominantly white male industry, I found it very challenging and difficult at first. However, I persevered and built a multimillion-dollar company.

Thanks to our success, I felt it was important to give back, so I started The LIME Foundation, which I named after my son Emil (LIME is his name spelled backwards). As one of just eight Black students in a school of about 800 kids in a very small town (in Lake County), I had been severely bullied when I was growing up.

Overcoming that bullying made me who I am today, but it wasn’t until my son experienced that same kind of bullying here in Sonoma County that I realized I had to try to do something positive in response. LIME advocates for our underrepresented and disadvantaged youth through music and the arts, together with providing construction training. Working with young people through LIME has been my greatest joy.

Is there a major accomplishment that you would like to share?

Building a roofing company on my own as a Black female has been one of my biggest accomplishments. Women comprise less than 1% of the U.S. roofing industry, and you can’t even find statistics for Black women roofers, so I’m proud to still be here and thriving 18 years later.

What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?

Just go for it … what do you have to lose? Many times, we let fear stop us from achieving our potential. When I was a kid, I was told I would never amount to anything in life because I’m Black. Had I listened to those bullies, who knows where I’d be today. I’ve spent every day of my life proving those bullies wrong and thanks to that, I’ve been able to help so many other young people that have gone through similar experiences. That’s why I say, JUST GO FOR I

What have you learned about your leadership and how will it change the way you lead going forward?

The way I lead comes straight from my passion to help others. Although I’ve learned that I can’t help everybody, it will never stop me from trying

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