Building a Niche
Three years ago Mies branched out on her own. Mies Roofing, located in Flat Rock, Mich., has crews ranging from two to 15, depending on the workload. Mies does mostly shingles along with some single-ply, but her forte is specialty roofing — imitation slate, regular slate, cedar shakes — “Stuff that no one else will do,” she says.
Last year, Mies, an Owens Corning Preferred Contractor, attended a technical presentation to learn about a new product: Owens Corning MiraVista® Slate. The product is made with real ground slate reinforced with fiberglass and is cast in molds made from actual slate to look more like authentic stone. The slate comes in four colors, allowing it to be mixed for a multicolor effect. It is available in either a traditional 13-inch-wide piece or a 5- and 8-inch combo piece, which breaks up the roof and provides a more natural look.
Shortly after the presentation on MiraVista Slate, Jeff Jacobs, the local Owens Corning sales representative, contacted Mies to see if she was available for a high-profile project – a $1.7 million show home in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., an upscale suburb of Detroit. The 4,120-square-foot custom home was built by BRG Development Co. and designed by Scholz Design Inc.
“The Dourdan Place community in Bloomfield Hills consists of 18 exclusive homes anchored by a 1918 Tuscan-style home designed by Albert Kahn, the internationally renowned architect,” says Louis Beaudet, principal, BRG Development Co. “Borrowing from the slate roof used on the Kahn home, we incorporated the MiraVista Slate shingle into the showcase home because it was the only product line that showcased the classic look of hand-chiseled slate with the newest design and materials.”
The original roofing contractor on the show home had backed out of the project and it just so happened that Mies had another job delayed. With a full crew and nothing to do, she decided to go for it.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Work on the show home took two weeks – and presented just about every challenge imaginable. “It had a steep slope, was high up, cut up and had round windows,” says Mies. “Installing MiraVista is like laying a tile floor on a roof. It involves a lot of cutting and fitting.”
Mies had to learn as she went. “It just takes some time and a little bit of roofing experience,” she jokes. Then she admits, “It takes a bit of finesse to put on.”
While working on the home, Mies had several requests to estimate other roofs – some from well-to-do homeowners who drove up with their blueprints. As a result, she completed eight other MiraVista jobs from this project alone. In addition, because of her experience and skill, Mies has been called to act as a consultant for Owens Corning. She now instructs other contractors who are starting out with MiraVista. Her consulting jobs have her traveling mostly in Michigan, but sometimes also to Ohio and Canada.
All of this for a woman who “started out small and wanted to stay small.” Mies explains that she began her roofing career doing repair jobs. In the process, she made contacts with insurance companies and then started doing full-roof jobs. Then she “got trucks and trailers,” and now today she has an expanded role with Owens Corning.
To what does Mies attribute her success? “I do high-quality work,” she says. “And I do what I say I’m going to do. I have integrity.”
She even had an extra push to succeed in her chosen path from all those who told her she’d never make it because she was a woman. But it turns out that in 70 percent of the homes she works on, Mies has found that it is the woman who makes the ultimate decision. Perhaps women trust her more, “But they also see my work,” she says. “And I clean up – down to the last nail in the bushes.”
And don’t forget the manufacturer. “I’m impressed with Owens Corning because they stand behind their products and their contractors,” says Mies. She notes that while she was working on the show home, Owens Corning sent a technical crew to the site.
And the company helps out homeowners as well. Mies was recently called to fix a botched MiraVista job. Though not the fault of the product, Owens Corning footed the bill for a tear-off and reroof. “They didn’t have to do it, but they did,” says Mies.
Perhaps most importantly, Mies sees herself as an advocate for women and elderly customers. While there are many good roofers in the world, there are of course, the unscrupulous few who take advantage of unsuspecting consumers, and she tries to protect people from this. “If I can’t do the job, I help them find someone who can.”