Brooke Laizure’s entrance into the roofing world was unplanned. During a summer break from college, she decided to tag along with her dad, a sales manager for a general contractor, to make some extra money. Little did she know that temporary girl Friday job would change the trajectory of her life.
A natural fit
Like so many people her age, Laizure loves to travel and hates being corralled in an office. And, riding around with her dad to jobsites that summer was more fun than work.
She never considered the construction industry as a career but found it interesting and exciting—and strangely easy. She realized she had a natural gift for the way things are built and soaked up a wealth of product knowledge. She opened Whirlwind Roofing and Construction with her dad six months later.
Whirlwind of expertise
Laizure is passionate about education and has gleaned a long list of impressive accreditations. For instance, her company is a Fortified-Wise designated roofing company, has preferred contractor certifications through several shingle manufacturers, and is a Native American owned and Women-owned business.
Most impressive is her Xactimate Level 3 certification - the complicated software insurance companies use to settle storm damage claims. She is only one of two roofing contractors in the State of Oklahoma with this elite status allowing her to use industry knowledge and the insurance company’s own tools to make sure her customers are getting everything they deserve to replace or repair their property.
In the beginning, everyone she met naturally assumed that the men in her company were the decision makers. She used to take it personally but now takes it in stride.
She says, “Eventually the truth of who owns the company comes out and the reactions are priceless. A quick conversation with me after the shock wears off solidifies my industry knowledge and experience. Honestly, it’s a great ice breaker.”
Laizure says being a 30-year old in the roofing industry has also been a challenge.
She says, “The industry is filled with contractors that have been in the business 20, 30 or more years. They have the benefit of years of experience and all the advantages that comes with it. These things take time and millennials like me can be impatient.”
On the flip side, millennials embrace technology. Instead of falling back on the traditional approach of ‘that’s the way we have always done it,’ she says millennials are challenged by finding a better, more efficient way of doing things. Using technology such as aerial measurement software, drones and virtual meetings allows her to work smarter and not harder.
A softer touch
“I love helping our customers, especially women and elderly homeowners. Women trust other women and are less threatening in a sales situation. Plus, I’ve found that being a family-owned company appeals to our customers,” she says.
Laizure’s dad and business partner, Dave Laizure, is her biggest supporter.
He says, “I am so proud of Brooke. She cares so much about our customers. She shows up at dawn and watches to make sure every shingle is being installed correctly. She grabs lunch for the crew, takes documentation photos all day, and is the last one to leave at night after making sure every piece of trash is picked up. What other roofing contractor does that?”
A man’s world (for now)
Women comprise 50 percent of the population but are only 3.9 percent of the construction workforce.
Laizure says her industry needs to do a better job of promoting construction as a career option for women. There is a misconception that you must climb on a roof to work for a roofing company. There are many options in this field, from sales and estimating, distribution, supplier sales, manufacturers rep or business owner.
She says, “I think education and networking is critical for women in the industry. I am a founding member of National Women in Roofing (NWiR) and the vice-chair of the Oklahoma Council. I love meeting other local women in the roofing industry to talk about their businesses.”
Building a future
One of Laizure’s passions is encouraging high school students to pursue professional careers in the skilled trades. Through National Women in Roofing, she participates in Build My Future, a one-day construction career day for high school students that offers interactive, hands-on exhibits from organizations in the skilled trades.
“I love watching kids that have never held a hammer learn how to shingle a roof. But I really enjoy talking to them about all the amazing career opportunities open to them, including being an entrepreneur,” she says.
For her, Laizure is excited about the future of Whirlwind Roofing and Construction. She just celebrated her fourth year in business and is working on (of course) more certifications to better serve her customers.
She says, “As a woman in the roofing industry, I know I must be better and know more than my male counterparts to prove myself as an expert. This can either push you forward or push you out of the industry. For me, it’s a good push.”
To reach Whirlwind, call 918.366.3341 or go online at WhirlWindRoofing.com.