Meet the CEO, Letitia Hanke
CEO / President of ARS Roofing, Gutters and Waterproofing
A small-town girl from Hidden Valley Lake (Lake County, California), Letitia Hanke grew up dreaming of a music career. Blessed from childhood with a lovely singing voice and having learned to play trumpet and piano as a schoolgirl, she attended Sonoma State University envisioning a future in the performing arts.
However, as a starving student working for tips as a guest singer, she quickly saw the need for a “real job” that would provide a reliable income. The opportunity that came her way was as a receptionist for a roofing company. A stellar employee, she was soon promoted to office manager and, two years later, to general manager. The owner trained her in every aspect of the business. For four years, she worked up on the roof with the other technicians, learning every detail of the profession. After becoming a field supervisor, she studied for the notoriously difficult contractor’s license exam, which, unlike many, she passed on her first try.
With her own roofing and gutter contractor’s license in hand, and 10 years of experience in all facets of the business, including eight years as general manager, Letitia was ready when her boss announced his retirement. In 2004, she started her own roofing company, Alternative Roofing Solutions (ARS Roofing, Gutters and Waterproofing). She now employs over 20 full-time workers year-round. Rain or shine, winter and summer, weekends and holidays, they’re always ready to handle an emergency. “It’s crazy but we love it,” laughs Letitia, who lives in Santa Rosa with her husband and son.
What Drives Letitia’s Vision
When she founded ARS Roofing, Letitia’s most immediate motivation was to provide for her family. That, she explains, “starts with my son Emil, born in 2002, who wants to be a structural engineer. When he gets to college, I want him to be able to focus on his studies without struggling to work two or three jobs as I did. Since he was little, he’s always built things with Legos and various things around the house. Instead of building the item shown on the Lego box, he’d build his own creations.
Since age 6, Emil has also been exploring music, one of my lifelong interests. I heard him playing on the piano one day and asked him what instrument he’d like to learn. He now plays guitar and has often performed at Camp Fame, a performing arts day camp in Michigan. Music and the performing arts are very important to our vision at ARS, and we support programs in this area any way we can through the nonprofit LIME Foundation, which I founded as a way of helping our community and which I named for Emil, since LIME is E-M-I-L in reverse.
ARS Roofing donates up to 5% of every job to The LIME Foundation, which, among other things, helps ease the burden our schools face in an era of budget cuts. The Foundation’s help to schools’ music and performing arts programs, in particular, is very important to me, personally, which is why I call it the Turner Arts Initiative – Turner is my maiden name. And the reason I’m passionate about this initiative is that after years of being bullied in school, I took up music as a way to boost my self-esteem.
I started learning the trumpet at 7 and was playing with the middle school band by age 8. By the time I was 10, while still in middle school, I was performing with the high school marching band. At 12 I taught myself to play piano and sing, and I’ve loved performing ever since.
Music not only kept me out of trouble, it helped me excel in academics too. Both of those successes helped end the bullying. I was able to skip the 11th grade and graduate a year early. That’s why I feel that if supporting schools helps a child explore music or excel in learning, then ARS Roofing is happy to do it. My hope is to create a positive, optimistic and encouraging atmosphere for kids – especially kids who have been bullied.
The LIME Foundation also supports a vocational training/construction apprenticeship program (the NextGen Trades Academy) and provides free construction services to low-income families and the elderly. This creates a double benefit for the community. It helps prepare people in disadvantaged communities for fulfilling careers while at the same time providing important services to people who otherwise couldn’t afford them.
The Foundation also runs bowling and nutritional programs for the elderly in an effort to address America’s obesity epidemic through light exercise and healthy eating. Heart disease, diabetes and obesity run in my family, and I really want to break the chain and do something about it.