News | June 28, 2022

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Alumna blows roof off male-dominated construction field

Legendary boxer Mike Tyson once famously opined, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Well, Hannah Vogel had a plan. She would graduate from FGCU in May 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in legal studies. She would go to law school. She would become a lawyer and follow in the footsteps of many family members, including uncle James Vogel and grandfather Dick Vogel, who opened Vogel Law Firm in Naples, and cousin Jamie Vogel.

And then she got punched in the mouth. It was a haymaker that hit a lot of people in March 2020. Coronavirus. She hadn’t been accepted by any law school, and even if she had been, she questioned whether she wanted to attend online.

photo shows FGCU alumna
“In the beginning, it was difficult for me, especially when I was trying to build the company early on when I literally would knock on doors, introduce myself and offer free roof inspections to get business,” Hannah Vogel says. Photo submitted.

“From a young age, I was thinking about becoming a lawyer because a lot of my family members are in law,” she says. “But I did have a feeling I would have a nontraditional job and would end up doing something completely different. I felt like I would have my own business like my dad (Joel) did. He started Midwest Reprographics and specialized in doing the blueprints for different local construction projects such as RSW, Naples Bay Resort and Ave Maria.”

“He’d take me to work sometimes and show me how the business worked. I think he kind of wanted me to own my own business. He didn’t go to college. He still wanted me to, but he always taught me, ‘This is an option, too.’ ”

So if she was to start her own business, what would it be? She consulted good friend James Hartney, a structural engineer who has his own engineering company, National Catastrophe Engineering, LLC, and has produced engineering reports for attorneys involved in cases where roofs were in litigation for storm damage.

“He said, ‘Look at it like this: What is a need?’” she says. “He asked me, ‘What about roofing? Florida residents need roofers, and it’s a profitable industry.’”

Vogel was intrigued and captivated, and just three months after graduating from FGCU, Vogel and Hartney opened Vogel Construction Group with licenses for general contracting and roofing.

And nearly two years later, Vogel Construction Group has done almost 100 re-roofs, including a project that didn’t make any money. Through the Wounded Warriors of Collier County, Vogel’s company built a new roof for Bravo House, which provides long-term supportive housing for senior veterans in Collier County who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Vogel donated the $10,000 worth of labor in addition to used roofing materials acquired with a grant from a Naples Home Depot through the Home Depot Foundation.

“That was really a big moment for us,” she says. “We were in a spot financially where we could do that and had resources. I was born in Naples, and Southwest Florida is a special place. That felt like success to me more than all the other roofs we’ve put on – just being able to give back to the community I was born in. All these gentlemen were older, and some didn’t have any family left. Some are on a fixed income of $500 a month. That doesn’t get you anywhere these days.”

Vogel feels that while women have come a long way in the STEM fields – along with law and medicine – they find roofing and construction are not known for being female-friendly industries.

“In the beginning, it was difficult for me, especially when I was trying to build the company early on when I literally would knock on doors, introduce myself and offer free roof inspections to get business,” she says. “I think people were a little taken aback. But now, two years in, I have knowledge and experience. People are pleasantly surprised instead of confused like they were in beginning.”

Says Hartney, “She has turned the current industry landscape into a strength. Hannah’s ability to network, connect with customers and stay organized are skills not often found in the construction industry. In an industry typically characterized as masculine, Hannah navigates with poise and finesse. Hannah is organized, creative and dedicated. Her skills have allowed us to better serve our community, grow and take on more rewarding projects.”

Vogel doesn’t know of a single woman in Florida who owns a construction/roofing business, but she is drawing strength from conversations on Facebook with female-focused construction groups. Her research also made her aware of HER Roofing, a 100% woman-owned company founded by Jana Zavala, a founding member of National Women in Roofing, a 501(c)(6) volunteer-based organization supporting and advancing the careers of women roofing professionals.

“It’s nice to communicate with other women, not only in roofing but in construction in general,” Vogel says.

The March 2020 punch in the mouth didn’t feel good, but it has turned out to be an unexpected blessing.