I get asked quite often- how in the world, did I, a GIRL, get into roofing??? Was my dad a roofer? Noooo….. I was just following my big brother around like I did my entire childhood. Scott is 5 years older than me and we both happened to be attending Iowa State University at the same time (1994? I think?). He was a construction engineering major, making his money on the weekends by being a waiter at Pizza Hut. One of his peers recommended he think about starting a roofing crew in the summers, and thus, Roofer Chicks was born. I went to work with him during his second summer. Since I was a girl, I started on the ground crew, picking up trash and throwing it in the dumpster. It was general knowledge that girls shouldn’t really be on the roof. Then a day came where we had a terrible customer. He was all up in everyone’s face, yelling and carrying on. Honestly, we were children, and it was pretty intimidating. The roof was over 2 stories and super steep. Between the screaming guy and the roof attributes, only one worker wanted to get on the roof- and you really needed two. I saw it as an opportunity to get away from the customer, and I volunteered to get on the roof. I didn’t know what I was doing – I just handed Jud (the other guy up there) shingles and tools as he asked for them. Kind of like an assistant in surgery. “Scalpel!”
The next summer, I was the foreman of the crew, and the summer after that I pretty much ran the operations side of the roofing company, because my brother was taking summer classes to graduate. And then we graduated. He graduated with his construction engineering degree. I graduated at the top of my class (not sure if I was 1st or 2nd because I skipped graduation) with a BS in Transportation and Logistics (business degree) and a BA in German. Yeah, German. Super useful. Although now I live in New Braunfels, so I can whip out my German at Wurstfest. While everyone else is orders a “beer” I actually order a “Bier.” Anyway, back to 1998. I went to work for Caterpillar over in Illinois and Scott went to go build maximum security prisons with Taylor Ball in Missouri. After a management training program at CAT, I ended up at the parts distribution warehouse in Morton, Illinois. I worked in a couple of different areas and ended up on the “Emergency Floor,” where we bragged we could get any part anywhere in the world in 24 hours. And we could – if you had enough money! I was young and was in charge of men and women more than double my age. It was immediately following the strike (remember that strike? It was huge). So I had the long term employees at $19/hr, the new hires at $8/hr (strike negotiations went poorly), transfer workers from other facilities making as much as $23 and hour – and the worst – the “scabs.” You weren’t allowed to actually say scab, it’s a bad word, but a scab is a line crosser. The tension between all these parties could be crazy. Add to that I was 4 hours away from home, young, single, and incredibly lonely. While I liked it at first, I worked my way into misery and actually started job searching. Scott called me and said, “Hey! I just went down to Austin, Texas, with my friend, and it’s amazing! It’s beautiful and it’s booming. Want to go start a construction company?”
In 2000, Feller Builders was born in Austin, Texas. And wouldn’t you know it, as soon as we got going the bottom fell out of the market for the dot commers. Austin had a pretty major recession. We also tried to use our Iowa business model in Texas (employees versus subcontractors). Our tools got stolen quite a few times – it was terrible. Almost bankruptcy. In 2002 I decided I couldn’t do it anymore and went to work for Airborne Express, which then got bought out by DHL Express. I ran the Austin airport location, where I was responsible for 60 drivers, multiple daily aircraft, and the Dell returns facility. I loooooved this job. It demanded about 14 hours a day, but I thrived. We went from one of the worst facilities in the nation to #3 under my management. I worked there until I had my daughter, Hannah, in 2008. As soon as I returned from maternity leave, they gave me the boot. While I was devastated, it allowed me to stay home with my daughter for several months, which is something I wouldn’t trade for anything. At the end of 2008, I went to work for Coca Cola.
At first, Coca Cola was amazing. I supervised 8 drivers that filled vending machines in the San Antonio market. I ended up going through a divorce in 2010, and it was only made possible by the wonderful support I received from my management at Coke. But then it all changed. I got a different supervisor, who micro-managed and I became increasingly disenchanted. I was working 12 hour shifts with a 45 minute commute on both sides of it. I was seeing my daughter awake about 30-60 minutes a day. Then, in 2012, we lost a lot of drivers to the oil fields, and we were told as supervisors we were required to get our CDL so that we could start running routes. That same morning I was told that I was going to go on a route ride with one of my drivers, and his truck broke down so we were at the maintenance shop. Instead of getting off at 5 pm like usual, I saw that I wasn’t going to get off until 7 or 8 pm.
I called my brother in tears. “Is this all that life is? Do you just work and work and work and die?” I was in hysterics. He had been trying to get me to go back into the roofing business with him. I moaned about how terrible that had been. And then he said the magic words: “I promise I’ll pay you. Every two weeks.” And he did. Well, except once, but that’s okay. So in 2012 we started completely over with Roofer Chicks and Remodeling, which was originally owned by Scott and his wife Stacie. I did not want to be an owner – I just wanted to be paid. We doubled year over year the first four years, and in 2014 they offered me some ownership in the company.
Once I was kidding and told my brother it would be funny to put “Roofer Chick” in my back window. We laughed and thought maybe that would be cool. But the more I thought about that, the less a good idea it seemed. I am not an attention seeking person, and I couldn’t have everyone staring at me all the time. I never told him my misgivings. I came home from vacation one week and was mortified to find “Roofer Chick” on my back window. My brother was so pleased! I had to act like I was, as well. So funny. In time I got used to it and I guess I became attention seeking too, maybe.
As often happens in family businesses, we got a little sideways in 2016. Honestly, looking back now, I can see that we have two completely different ways of how to manage a company. Neither of us is wrong in our approach, but the approaches were like oil and water. And we are all head strong (imagine that). In July of 2016, Roofer Chicks, “the Home of the Roofer Chick” was born.
I was scared to death. I had never wanted to own a roofing company – or any company, for that matter! I never wanted to be an entrepreneur. It was completely overwhelming and gave me more anxiety than you can shake a stick at. It was right in the wake of the 2016 hailstorm – I started with well over a million dollars in business on the books, but only one part time employee, pretty bad installation crews, and 1.5 trucks. I was officing out of a 10×10 office space that mostly was just a space with no one in it (so I could have a pin on Google’s map).
Running a roofing company has been the biggest, most difficult thing I have ever done. It’s very rewarding, but there are also a lot of sleepless nights. I love, love, love being up on rooftops. I love how you can see the whole world (especially out in Canyon Lake) and it’s so quiet. I believe in God, and I can feel His presence on the top of the roof so many times. I also love my customers – I love meeting new people and giving them an amazing customer service experience that one doesn’t generally get in the contracting world. AND I love empowering other women to succeed. As a single mom, I never once felt “trapped,” because I have a good career. It grieves me to see other women feel “trapped” when there’s such an obvious way out. Roofing has one of the lowest barriers to entry in the trades, and women are good at it because of their general attention to detail, cleanliness and customer interaction skills. In 2020, while the rest of the world was spinning with Corona and terrible politics, we started our first all female roofing crew. It’s scary, but dang, it’s also pretty darn cool.
If you are wondering at all how my brother and I get along now, we get along very well. Scott and his wife Stacie own Kanga Roof in Round Rock. They are a great sounding board for me when I need help or ideas, and I’d like to think I offer the same to them. If you live in the Austin area, you should definitely call them!
Now for the super impressive credentials, which I know you’ve been dying to hear about. That’s likely the only reason you’ve read this far: We are a GAF Master Elite contractor in both residential and commercial – which is pretty darn cool. You should research it! It’s a pretty small niche in the roofing world, but basically, we use the best shingle there is and offer the best aftermarket warranties in the business. We are also RCAT members (Roofing Contractor Association of Texas), which means we are licensed in a state that doesn’t require licensing. We have our Tile Roofing Industry (TRI) certification for concrete and clay tile roofing. We offer standing seam (generally Berridge or McElroy brands). We also install flat roofing products, such as modified bitumen and TPO. Basically, if it’s a roof, we can do it. We have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
If you’re looking for a quality roofing project with a company you can trust, you’re going to love us!!!!!! We’re not the cheapest, but we are definitely the best, if I can say so myself.
“There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey.” John Ruskin
Ami Feller, Owner