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When your peers refer to you as The Maestro, you know your career has had an impact. Erasmo 'Mitos' Fuentes—a teacher, roofer, business owner, and GAF CARE trainer—leads by example, and he represents all that is possible when you work hard and aim high.
Fuentes' roofing success journey began when he immigrated to the US from Mexico about 30 years ago. From humble beginnings as a laborer, Fuentes has become a fixture in the GAF roofing community.
The Start of Something Great
As an elementary school teacher in Mexico, Fuentes also worked in the US wherever he could to pick up some extra money. One day, a chance meeting altered the course of his career.
"I heard about a Korean roofing company in Maryland that needed a roofing laborer, so I volunteered to help. I had no idea what I was in for," recalls Fuentes.
"I was passing shingles, tools, and wood to the installers. They didn't have a ladder hoist, so I brought all the roofing bundles on my back. I didn't understand English well and didn't know any Korean, so we used signs: You go there; clean around the house and put all the trash in the container. It was a lot of work and that first day was horrible, but I liked it."
Soon after that first day as a laborer, Fuentes moved to Atlanta and began seeking work in the roofing industry.
"Even though the work was pretty hard, it was very well-paying, and I was impressed at how fast the roofers were working with hand-nails and nail guns. I wanted to do the same thing," he explains. "I asked 10 different roofing companies for a job, and I was the only Hispanic each time, but that didn't scare me. I really wanted to do it."
Bigger Dreams, Bigger Challenges
Eventually, Fuentes moved into sales and then became an installer and a roofing foreman. He got married and started his own business, taking on roofing projects and subcontracting roofing repairs for bigger companies.
"It was a gold mine, and I knew this was going to be great for my business. The repairs would become cash flow," recalls Fuentes, who then began researching installation requirements.
"Until then, I hadn't followed any specific installation techniques. I just used a combination of what I'd learned plus a little logic. I didn't have any formal roofing instruction at all. And that's when I really started to fall in love with this industry."
A Date with Destiny
While purchasing roofing materials one day, Fuentes met a GAF representative whose expertise opened new doors for him.
"He explained the differences between shingles without dismissing any other brands or promoting GAF; he was just there to help me," says Fuentes. "And from that day forward, I never forgot Brent Maddux's name. He became my mentor, and because of the trust he inspired in me, GAF became my favorite brand and I became GAF-certified."
Fuentes says his GAF mentor was available whenever he needed assistance, arriving on job sites to help Fuentes explain different aspects of roofing systems and products to his customers. He invested in Fuentes as he grew his business and his roofing success with GAF.
Giving Back to the GAF Community with CARE
After about a dozen years running his own roofing company, Fuentes heard through a distributor that GAF needed someone to teach courses in Spanish to roofing contractors for GAF's Center for the Advancement of Roofing Excellence (CARE).
"The distributor knew about me teaching my people about chimneys, valleys, and walls," says Fuentes. "This was a way to combine my passion for teaching and roofing, so I followed my heart and my instinct."
GAF CARE courses offer hands-on training programs for roofers, taught by roofing industry experts like Fuentes. More than 230,000 professionals in the USA, Canada, and Mexico have attended hands-on CARE classes and learned how to boost their estimating, selling, installation, and roofing system maintenance skills. The courses also count toward becoming a GAF-Factory Certified Contractor.* In addition, CARE produces virtual training and Facebook live streams called "Real Talk" for roofers, covering the latest industry best practices and trends in both English and Spanish.
For people just entering the field, the new GAF Roofing Academy includes professional classroom and on-the-roof training designed to build the skills necessary to launch a roofing career.
Looking to the Future
Now, Fuentes is dedicated to giving back to the roofing community that helped him grow so much.
"I love to teach and help people in the same situation I was in," says Fuentes. "I let them know it's possible to be successful and do anything you want in the roofing industry." Fuentes also shares tips and tricks through his alter-ego 'Mitos the Roofer' via his TikTok channel. And he encourages roofers at all levels of their careers to keep learning.
"There's always someone who wants to help you, so pay attention, accept their advice, and try one new thing every day," he says. "We're in a new roofing era, so listen to ideas from the younger generation; they bring innovation to roofing, and they're the future of our industry.
For Fuentes' part, he doesn't plan to stop teaching or roofing any time soon.
"I want to continue teaching one roofer a day, every day, to make this industry better."
*Contractors enrolled in GAF certification programs are not employees or agents of GAF, and GAF does not control or otherwise supervise these independent businesses. Contractors may receive benefits, such as loyalty rewards points and discounts on marketing tools from GAF for participating in the program and offering GAF enhanced warranties, which require the use of a minimum amount of GAF products.